The above is a collection of images I pulled from Pinterest when I searched for "Fitspo". If you're unfamiliar, Fitspo is short for "Fitspiration", or images people post when they want to be inspired to get fit.
One of the things I think we all notice is that (a) there are no men, (b) that the women pictured have a lot of muscle tone, and are very slender, and (c) that the slogans plastered on top of them are largely comprised of a "can-do, you are bigger than your pain" attitude.
I've never been a big fan of Fitspo. Honestly, I saw it as just another off-shoot of its sicklier sister, Thinspo, an anorexic's inspiration board. And looking at these images, I can't say I disagree with my first assessment. Fitspo seems to be Thinspo dressed in cute gym shorts and popping some squats. These ladies are super thin, preternaturally shredded, and pretty darn flawless. And all that is fine, I guess, except for the messaging.
"You control what your body looks like." "Suck it up now, and you won't have to suck it in later." "It's always too early to quit."
These messages place the onus of responsibility to look flawless and ripped squarely on the person reading them, and on nothing else. Genetics, environment, lifestyle, current health, access to exercise equipment or fresh food -- none of this is taken into account. Your lack of willpower is what's preventing you from having that body, this messaging says, and nothing else. If you would just try harder, you could have the body you wanted.
This is dumb, and it's just not true.
I hate Fitspo because it espouses the idea that only one kind of body is acceptable -- a thin, toned body means a fit body. There are all kinds of fit bodies, and one kind of body may not be right for another person.
And why is that? Because everyone's body is different. There is no blueprint, no diet plan, no exercise regime that will work for everyone. It's just not the way it works. We are all so genetically and biologically unique that one framework won't work for all bodies. Trying to make your body something it isn't designed to be is a recipe for failure.
Also, you can only do the very difficult work of complete physical alchemy for so long before you fail. Willpower is a limited resource. You can deny yourself something you want for only so long before your willpower muscle has had it. Similarly, you can only do punishing workouts for so long before you burn out.
The lesson here, I think, is to stop comparing yourself to the artificial world of Fitspo/Thinspo. Your body is yours, and it is magnificent. It has its own rules, features, strengths, and an ideal fitness path that you need to discover. Start doing that work! Investigate what makes you feel amazing, and do more of that. I can bet that scripting your life based around what other people tell you to do isn't the best way to find your happy fitness and wellness place.
Consider crafting aspirational goals based on achievable things. When your goals are based around performance, rather than what you look like, you have a better shot at feeling good about those goals and actually achieving them.
The goal to look a certain way is fraught with peril. There will never be a "fit enough" or "skinny enough." There isn't enough willpower in the world to make that happen. So maybe it's time for all of us to focus on how we are all enough, already.
My goal is to get my first strict pull-up. What's yours going to be?