Published in the 2014 July/August Dalliance Magazine Issue, pictured below.
Read the magazine HERE or the article below.
Fad diets and breakthrough workouts have been at the forefront of women’s health for years, fuelling the fire to achieve photoshop perfection. The last eight years saw thinspiration, or “Thinspo”, become an online culture that permeated social media and networking sites encouraging pro-anorexia and unhealthy habits all in the name of attaining the unattainable – a photoshop thin body.
“Thinspo” and it’s pro-ana online counterparts have since been identified as damaging to young women’s body image and self esteem while supporting the practice of body-shaming. However, this perpetual cycle of mass media setting unrealistic standards for women has been reincarnated by “Fitspo”, or fitspiration. This online phenomenon comes in the form of apparently positive and inspiring messages to get up, go to the gym, eat healthy and become strong, arranged over images depicting lean and attractive young women with toned booties and washboard abs.
Dubbed the “healthy” older sister of thinspo, fitspo has since been criticised as again encouraging young women to achieve unattainable ‘fit’ bodies. The universal rise in interest among young men and women to compete in body-building or physique competitions has created a culture whereby these young and impressionable minds are led to believe that having a competition-ready body 365 days a year is the norm, when in fact this isn’t the case.
The fitspo fitness fad of lean, mean and muscle machine bodies is unsustainable and unhealthy for long periods of time, and may eventually result in continuous cycles of gaining weight and even stricter diets to get the “perfect” body back. Fitspo and thinspo have become a tool of self-flagellation for the already vulnerable and guilt-ridden individuals currently struggling with body image issue and eating disorders. In fact, the online culture of fitness and dieting has lead to a new form of eating disorder – Orthorexia.
Within Australia the National Eating Disorders Collaboration found that up to 20% of eating disorders among young women go undiagnosed, while disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa affect 2% and 4% of the female population respectively. Furthermore, up to 5% of women suffer from Eating Disorders No Otherwise Specified – which is where Orthorexia falls.
Orthorexia is a disorder where the individual bases their self worth on the level of “healthiness” in their lives, such as working out and eating correctly. While this sounds harmless, basing ones self worth on healthiness leads to an unhealthy obsession with meeting a set requirement of workouts and adhering to a strict diet which eventually begins to affect the individuals ability to interact within everyday social life. Dr Anthea Fursland, President of the Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders, told Womens Health and Fitness magazine that Orthorexia is the belief that you are eating healthy, but you are not being healthy at all. Dr Fursland explains that ‘Someone might think they want to eat healthily, so they’ll give up foods with fat in them. But a low-fat diet is healthy and having a diet with no fat is not healthy. Orthorexia can lead to all sorts of eating disorders’.
Considering the current digital environment we are all engaged with on a daily basis, it is easy to understand how young women, and men, fall prey to this new eating disorder, fuelled further by the online culture surrounding thinspiration and fitspiration. It breeds insecurity and body shaming among young women already subjected to the photoshop-perfected images of women daily by the mass media. The fact of the matter is, women of all shapes, sizes, heights and ages should be encouraged to live healthy, happy lives, not forced into believing this is only achievable through five times a week gym dedication and strict low-carb, high-protein diets.
Fitspo motivates us, but for all the wrong reasons. Just as the cultural shift towards favouring big booties and toned abs suggested a change in the perception of women’s bodies, Fitspo suggests we are favouring health over thinness, when in fact we are still reinforcing unrealistic ideals upon women. In her book Bossypants, Tina Fey encapsulates the situation we find ourselves in perfectly:
“I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”