A few weeks ago I managed to upset a popular blogger/tweeter who I was following on Instagram. It was unintentional and I made the mistake of thinking that if you post something in a public forum, then it is up for comment. The picture that this blogger had posted for ‘gymspiration’ or ‘fitspiration’ (or whatever fucking word is the buzz thing now) was of a very slim, tall woman in a bikini. Although on closer inspection she wasn’t just skinny. This woman, to my health profession eye, appeared emaciated. I could see the outline of her hip bones. I could see the contours of her femurs. Yes she had defined abdominals but then I could also see her ribs. And so I questioned why this picture was an inspiration to this individual.
I managed to upset the blogger, which I was sorry about. She stated that her Instagram page was her personal page and she could post what she posted to be an inspiration. Well all I can say is that if people find pictures like that ‘Inspirational’ then I feel sorry for them. You would likely have found the picture that had been posted on a ‘pro-ana’ site and yet the blogger couldn’t see any problem with the image.
This is no dig at girls who are skinny. I myself have been called skinny. But I know lots of women who are slim who do not have their bones sticking out through their skin. To me it is an increasing worry that people choose such images to derive inspiration from. To get to that state you would have to be eating an incredibly small amount and then working out constantly, a nice recipe for osteoporosis right there. These images seem to have crossed over from the ‘pro-ana’ sites and have crept in through the back door to become accepted in the fitness world.
The other problem I gave is that my children are being increasingly exposed to it. This week my 6 year old son came home and asked how to get a six pack. He wanted me to count how many muscles he had on his stomach. A boy at school, whose parents just happen to be CrossFitters and who post similar pictures all over social media, had told him that strong men have six packs. I was taken aback but also cross. A six year old child shouldn’t even be worried about muscle definition! And so in true Physiotherapist mother mode I got out my anatomy book and showed my son that we all have that muscle and it doesn’t have to be on show for you to be a strong, fit person.
The obsession with pictures of six packs on social media has always driven me mad. A six pack is not an indication of good health, function or strength. It just means you have eliminated enough body fat from your body to enable the contours of the rectus abdominus muscle to show. It tells me you can flex your trunk over your hips. Well done, would your six pack like a medal? I was a middle distance runner, a fairly decent teenage one, and I never had a six pack. But that didn’t stop me from flying round two laps of the track. And my lack of six pack certainly hasn’t prevented me from running marathons.
I find inspiration in the actions of others. I find inspiration from the elite athletes like Valerie Adams and Ultra Runners like Cat Simpson. I also draw inspiration from the many runners I follow on Twitter like Sarah and Rhiannon who had an amazing time running their first Ultra together and from Laura who recently ran her first marathon. I also draw inspiration from my patients who work hard at their rehab to enable them to get back to what they love doing. This to me is more than enough inspiration to bound out the door for a run. Whereas pictures of a shiny, photo shopped torso with a motivational quote beneath it to me are nothing more than toxic nonsense.