Time to fess up. Is your fridge covered in magazine pics of chicks in bikinis? Assuming they are there for ‘fitspiration’ or god forbid, ‘thinspiration’, and not just for perving on, are they actually helping you to achieve your goals or are they just making you feel even more shit about yourself?
If the answer is “Yes! These images are helping me achieve my health and fitness goals, while I maintain a positive personal body image and enjoy abundant self esteem”, then good on you. Keep up the fantastic work. If you look at the picture on the fridge and waves of depressive disappointment wash over you, and you find yourself either reaching for a tub of ice cream (no bowl necessary), or conversely nothing at all, then you might want to rethink your inspiration. With the new year now freshly upon us, many people are knee deep in resolutions, a shit tonne of which involve diet and exercise. Pinterest boards have been created or added to with gusto, fridge magnet sales have skyrocketed (I assume?), gyms are at capacity, and Lorna Jane is doing Pilates on her new solid gold reformer, as she wipes her sweat away with hundred dollar bills. Women are doing actual active stuff in their activewear, activewear, as exercise becomes the new Netflix.
Inspiring images and visual motivators can be awesome in helping you achieve your goals, provided you pick the right ones. I’ve devised a list of considerations that can help you become more rational and realistic about your #fitspo, so you can be properly inspired and motivated by other amazing women. The internet is now full of women of all shapes and sizes ready to inspire you on your health and fitness journey, if that’s what you need for motivation.
So what should you consider?
- AGE. If your fitspo is all of 19 and you’re about to celebrate your 40th, you might want to reset your goals. Think about how your body has naturally changed and what it has been through in those 20 years, and look for inspiration closer to your vintage. There are plenty of amazing women in every age bracket to aspire to. I love swimwear and follow an amazing new Australian brand, Farron Swim. The images from their first campaign featured this stunning woman looking insanely perfect in their designs, so I figured I might as well follow her too… for inspiration. I then found out she was 16, 23 years younger than me. Her Instagram feed was mostly her and her school friends mucking about in their uniforms, doing whatever 16 year old goofy chicks do. I chose not to follow and also gave myself a massive break for not looking anything like her. I still love the bikinis, but acknowledge that they would look very different on me.
- BODY SHAPE. My goal as a teenager was to have legs like Naomi Campbell – I’m a 5 1/2 foot white woman with average leg length – NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN! You can’t change your skeleton, or choose where your fat deposits and you can’t spot reduce. Know your shape and start to love it, because there’s little you can do (short of surgery and maybe extreme physical training) to change it.
- HEIGHT. There is a huge difference between the Minogues and Taylor Swift. Give yourself a break and be realistic about where you fit on that scale. Height can be deceptive in photographs, and muscle tone can vary greatly depending on your vertical measurements, including torso, neck and limb length.
- DIET. Does your fitspo have a personal chef, restricted diet, time for ideal food shopping, meal preparation and cooking? Don’t beat yourself up if you’re trying your best with the whole nutrition thing when you have to do it all yourself with a limited budget and even less time.
- EXERCISE. I was working out at the gym one day and there was a crazy woman bouncing around in there doing lots of jumpy, excitable exercises. She was Kate Hudson, and she was a machine. My knees saw her doing things that made them terrified beyond belief. Even with a personal trainer, I don’t think my body could ever work that hard. People who are photographed in small outfits for a living, are generally working out and pushing themselves a whole lot harder than the rest of us. Also, a shit load of them are actual athletes. Keep that in mind.
- WORK. If you have a desk job and your fitspo is a professional dancer, you might want to ease up on the pressure you’re putting yourself under to achieve her body. If you can only fit one hour long fitness class into your day and she is pumping out three or four, then the comparison is somewhat insane.
- GENETICS. Are you her identical twin? Nope? Well get over it. Genetics play a massive part in how we look physically and how our bodies respond to diet and exercise. You know this.
- PHOTOSHOP. Yep, even ‘perfect’ people have their images photoshopped and airbrushed. We know this because it makes headlines and breaks the internet when the opposite occurs. How silly is it then, to aspire to an image that isn’t real? If you love the woman in the pictures, find alternative photos and videos of her that haven’t been altered. The most inspirational ones are those who are willing to share their true selves anyway.
- PREPARATION FOR THE SHOOT. Have you ever read or heard an interview by actors preparing themselves for the Oscars? Holy shitballs, that is some intensive physical maintenance. They have teams. Teams! The same goes for photo shoots, movies, public appearances and probably their much needed island holidays where they know they’re going to photographed the shit out of. Bikini shoots for example, are usually shot at stupid o’clock in the morning, so the model probably hasn’t even had a chance to eat her breakfast.
- SPORT OF CHOICE. Different forms of exercise yield different physical results. My body, when all I did was yoga and Pilates, was a shitload different to my ‘nothing but weights’ or my running body. Take inspiration from women who compete in your chosen sport, or who participate in the same physical activities. Not for the body goals, but for the motivation to improve your technique/speed/strength etc.
- PREGNANT? Has your fitspo been pregnant? Hormones, stretched skin, tits with a mind of their own. Very few women get off scot free after being pregnant. I am still trying to get my body functioning properly three years after having my twins via C-section. While I love the belly that housed my little terrors, the skin has been stretched to buggery and will never be as tight as it was before, no matter how many planks I do, but I still wear bikinis and flash it on social media occasionally (just for you Carolyn). Anyway, I started following JLo on Instagram for #fitspo, as she too has had twins and we kind of have a similar body shape. I don’t follow her anymore though, because ‘most of the above’. I’ve become my own inspiration, and just keep doing the best I can.
- MAKEUP, LIGHTING, ANGLES, ART. Unless your fitspo is standing in front of you, makeup free, you really can’t be sure how perfect and amazing they actually are. Body makeup, flattering lighting, strategic body positioning, great photography, filters, professional help out the arse. Photographs and videos are works of art. They are contrived and constructed to be pleasing to the eye and take us beyond the mediocre. We do it ourselves, for f*ck’s sake. Do you think you’re the only person in the world using a filter, while everyone else is actually perfect and hasn’t quite grasped that technology yet, you wizard?! Of course not, so wake up to your awesome self.
Sometimes we also use photographs of ourselves as inspiration, a shot from a time when we were at our physical peak and looked cracking in a swimsuit (or for those of you who enjoy binge drinking, you probably have a snap somewhere of yourself looking tops in the nuddy). Again, consider the circumstances under which that photo was taken. There’s no point sticking a picture of yourself on the fridge from your 2001 Thailand Contiki tour, when it’s now 15 years later and you’ve had three kids. Give yourself a motherf*cking break! If, however, you’ve just been slothing on the couch for the past year and you want to give yourself good motivational kick up the bum, then by all means stick up the most recent shot of yourself looking happy, healthy and hot! If you think it’s a realistic goal to reach for, then inspire yourself away. If it’s a photo of you doing something active or positive, and not just one of you seeing how far you can suck in your gut or stick your tits out, then even better.
I’ll admit, I’ve never stuck a fitspo picture on my fridge, but I have made a motivation board. I happen to find the Australian Women’s Health magazine really quite inspiring. I bought the very first issue years ago, and although some of the content ends up a little repetitive over the course of a few issues, it really does help me to look after myself and live the healthiest life possible. I don’t feel jealous or depressed when I look at the images of the women gracing the pages of this particular publication, because they’re not just standing there looking like perfect models, they’re actually doing stuff (admittedly under completely styled and staged conditions, but still). At the time I was trying to run. I had never been a runner, but I set myself a goal to run 10kms without stopping. To motivate myself to wake up early each morning to train, I stuck pictures to a cork board and made it the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. The images weren’t of perfect models posing seductively in bikinis, they were pictures from my magazines of women running, the sweatier the better. The physical goal of running was my motivation. What my body could do, not how my body would look. Sure, I ended up with pretty great legs and firm bum, but I was now a runner and I had achieved my goal. Mind you, I only ran the 10ks once, because f*ck that for the most boring torture ever (sorry, runners).
Anyway, that’s how fitspo worked for me. Do you use images to motivate and inspire you to achieve your health and fitness goals, and how does that work out for you? Have you made realistic new year’s resolutions or have you set yourself up with too many restrictions? The last resolution I made was to clean out the boot of my car, but I just kept shoving more crap into it until I couldn’t close it anymore. It stayed that way for five more years and marked the end of new year’s resolutions for me, but I am a bit shit like that.
LISTEN : THE BREEDERS New Year