#Fitspo is the latest internet hashtag that you don’t want to be following. While the hashtag, short for “fitspiration”, is used to promote exercise and healthy habits, using #fitspo could be a sign of risky eating and exercise behaviors.
A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that almost a fifth (17.5%) of women who posted fitspiration images on Instagram were at risk for diagnosis of a clinical eating disorder such as bulimia, anorexia, and compulsive exercise habits. Study participants who were fitspo-posters were also more likely to have feelings of depression or shame when they missed a workout.
Comparatively, only 4.3% of women who posted travel images were found to have disordered eating or compulsive exercise tendencies.
There are more than 38 million uses of the #fitspo hashtag on Instagram. Many fitspiration images consist of pictures of women exercising overlain with inspirational quotations such as, “Strong beats skinny every time,” or “Pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever.”
While these posts have positive intentions, researchers believe the repeated representation of only one body type have women chasing after unattainable standards. Researchers are also concerned by the promotion of extreme exercise habits used in fitspiration posts. One post reads, “Crawling is acceptable, puking is acceptable, tears are acceptable, pain is acceptable. Quitting is unacceptable.”
Researchers point out that while fitspiration posts are intended to support healthy living, more recent posts have emphasized the importance of appearance rather than the health benefits of diet and exercise.
Study authors Grace Holland and Marika Tiggemann hope to further study the connection between viewing images that promotes obsession of body image and disordered eating on a larger scale. They conclude, “As both Instagram and fitspiration are growing contemporary trends, the findings provide a valuable first step toward clarifying their potential clinical impact.”
Top Photo: cuncon, CC-BY
Jane Snyder is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer and photojournalist based out of Athens, Georgia.