Is Fitspo Just As Dangerous As Thinspo?

There's a very thin line between thinspo and fitspo. | Source: Tumblr

There’s a very thin line between thinspo and fitspo. | Source: Tumblr

We all know that thinspothin inspiration–is a controversial internet phenomenon in which girls are inspired to lose weight by looking at photos of skinny women with thigh gaps. Bones are beautiful, starvation becomes a weight loss technique and eating disorders often come with the territory.

But a movement built around aspirating to become fit and healthy shouldn’t be compared to something so destructive, right?

Wrong, unfortunately.

I know I’m not alone in this, but whenever I see fitspo–fitness inspiration–slogans and imagery on Tumblr, Facebook or other social media networks, I start to feel really uncomfortable.

It’s not inherently bad to be inspired to have a healthier lifestyle. For anyone who has struggled with weight or health issues, developing better eating habits and an exercise routine and having a community online to motivate you can be really amazing. So I am not of the belief that fitspo is simply thinspo with abs.

But, for the most part, fitspo seems to be thinspo with abs. And it really gives me the creeps.

Here are my top three problems with fitspo:

1) It claims to be about health when in reality it still subscribes to the idea that healthy looks a certain way.


I wasn’t aware that having a balanced diet and exercising were the same as striving for defined abs and a crop top “acceptable” body. But if you look at the fitspo tag on Tumblr, you’ll be inundated with flat stomachs and razor sharp hip bones with the occasional sports bra thrown in. In this way, I think that fitspo is even more dangerous than thinspo because it operates under the guise of health despite the fact many elements of it can be so destructive.

2) It’s more shaming than motivational


Food that isn’t fruit or yogurt becomes the enemy, and not feeling like doing a ton of squats becomes a weakness. We’re human beings, not robots. Sometimes, despite how great our diets are or how much we exercise, we feel like having a brownie. There’s nothing wrong with eating a brownie. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure or that you have no self-control, it means that you want a brownie.


3) It’s obsessivefitspo-inspiration-obsession

Working out and watching what you put into your body aren’t inherently bad, but let’s not pretend that this behavior can’t become unhealthy and obsessive. When you start hating yourself for indulging in a few french fries or skipping a day of intense squats, how is that healthy behavior? How healthy is fitspo if you end up losing your love handles and losing your mind at the same time?

If there are aspects of fitspo that make people feel confident, healthy and strong, then more power to them. But it’s hard to focus on the positives when the community’s motivational slogans–“keep going” and “you can do it”–feel contrived. They’re lost among spray tanned tummies and thigh gaps.


What do you think of fitspo? Have you ever participated in the fitspo community? Tell us in the comments!

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  • LiveLoveEat

    I agree. It was fitspo, not thinspo, that made my anorexia worse. For 8-10 months, I worked out and ate healthy, with the occasional treat. I wanted to be muscular, not stick skinny.

    Then it became obsessive.

    I exercised everyday with no rest days, and didn’t let one morsel of unhealthy food pass my lips. I counted calories and restricted to 2,000 calories a day–because i thought that was what healthy, active people ate. My weight plummeted in under a month and soon I was in the underweight/so freaking close to being hospitalized zone (only 103 lbs, but ten pounds makes all the difference when you’re as skinny as i am). I managed to gain to a healthy weight (I keep losing though and trying to gain it back, I’m 5’6 and around 112-116 lbs (I’m not allowed to know). And recovery is a b****.

    Moral of my little story is, fitspo is just as bad as thinspo, maybe even more so because it’s disguised as healthy. You can tell an thinspo anorexic what they’re doing is wrong, and they might believe you after a while. But tell a fitspo anorexic what they’re doing is wrong? They’ll have a hard time believing you. I’m still struggling with how my behaviour was “wrong.”

  • Joey

    I personally like both fitspo and thinspo.

    At 5″2 and 108lbs, I feel that I am chubby, and want to lose the fat. That is my choice. If I want to use fitspo and thinspo to get to my goals, then that is also my choice.

    I feel as though the concept of fitspo and thinspo and their demographics have been lost in translation somewhere along the line; sure, it has it’s problematic points, and all the points the author made is completely legit, and on top of that fitspo often blatantly fat shames people. But, for those that are offended by the downsides of fitspo, then fitspo is not for you. Everything has its dark sides, but fitspo is there to inspire certain groups of people, and if that certain group of people is not you, then don’t view it. Simple as anything.

    I view it because that is my choice. If I am offended by it, then that is a result of my choice, and I should not blame the photos, the spray tans, the thigh gaps, and neither should anyone else. Don’t search tags that you don’t want to see and then complain about it. Use your time doing something you like, instead of criticizing other people.

    • Leo Quattro

      thinspo is banned in almost all website, it was just images created by pro-ana groups to promoto eating disorders. There’s a difference with being thin, with a BMI of 19 or more and being underweight with a BMI of 18 and less and hence sick, wasted.

      Now 10% of fitspo is people who really think a lean body with muscular tone and an healthy weight and exercise are the something to strive for. The other 90% if the same pro-ana people and their pro-ana images in disguise because they couldn’t use the ana or thinspo name anymore.

      There’s absolutely nothing healthy or mentally sane about legs so thin they llok like long tubes without shape and yuo have a 4 inches gap between them, there’s nothing healthy about ribs showing, arms that looks like pencils, hip bones that looks like they’re coming out from the flesh.

      People are literally killing themselves or at best ruining their body and health for decades because of following pro-ana photoshopped ideals.

      if you think you’re fat at 108 and 5’2 you need counseling and any person or relative not bringin you to some expert dealing with body dismorphia is doing you the worst disservice imaginable. You’re very few pounds away from eating disorder territory.

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  • Guen

    My “inspirational” goal right now is to build up to chest pressing 100% of my body weight. That comes over wearing short shorts or crop tops. I’d pick strength over clothes any day. And cake. The occasional cake always wins. So sorry motivational poster: cake VS shorts? Cake!

  • Justice

    Imagine being a celebrity and having someone use your photo as a thinspo or fitspo picture. I would be so upset, I am very anti body shaming and I would hate to be selected without my consent to be the poster girl for thigh gaps or worse. Some people are naturally skinny, some people work hard to be skinny, so people are naturally bigger, and none of that matters at all. Why are people so concerned about other peoples bodies in the first place? I’m not saying I’m a saint, in my more b*tchy times I have mentally insulted someone who was irritating me but I would never say it out loud. I have never understood why people feel the need to shame and embarass total strangers…

    • Grace

      That was such a wise and mature thing to say. I wish there were more people like you in the world.

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  • Callie

    I personally find fitspos to be motivating for those who want to lead a healthier lifestyle as they arent as extreme as thinspos (stumbled into one once – scariest site I’ve ever been on… Still freaked out to this day)

    I feel that fitspos are just wanting people to take notice of what they are eating and to become more active. It’s at the discretion of the viewer/reader to take these quotes, tips and inspirations to whatever level they please (to become like those in the pictures or just in a healthier place). In a way, how is it different to those who say we all need an hour of exercise and to have a healthy eating for a healthier lifestyle. Isn’t this what fitspos are wanting people to desire – a healthy lifestyle? So why critisise those for showing people that with time they too can have a healthier life? Not extremely bulked up, muscles showing and crop tops but to incorporate cleaner eating and regular exercise into their daily lives.

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  • Popcorn

    Um, no. If you’re thinner, that means that you’re probably healthier (except if you’re anorexic. That’s a different issue.) I think that we should saying this is obsessive just because someone wants to look in crop-tops and short-shorts. And yes, do you really need to eat that cupcake? We need to stop telling ourselves that we all have different body types and to love ourselves: these are just excuses for being over-weight.

    I’m not saying that losing weight and eating well (like well, not just “oh I eat salad => I’m healthy, when you put 2 lbs of dressing on it. Not healthy.) is easy. Because its not. I struggle with it too. But at least I’m honest with myself and think about whether or not what I’m doing is right for body.

    Denial is not the answer. Sure, it’s easier than admitting that you have to make a lifestyle change and lose 50 lbs, but that’s life. Life is hard.

    And while I think that loving yourself is important, when you shove it in people’s faces being like “I love myself even though I’m not thin, loook! I’m defying hollywood’s definition of beauty!” it becomes repetitive and loses its meaning. Say it sparingly and then it has a great meaning that I agree with.

    And I’m not advocating anorexia. That’s another extreme that is equally wrong.

    • You can be thin and unhealthy without being anorexic. You can eat unhealthy foods, have high blood pressure, etc and be thin at the same time. So that assumption is really inaccurate.

      And why not embrace your body type? Should people who are overweight be ashamed of their bodies instead?

      • Caitlin Corsetti

        For real. I’m thin with high blood pressure AND high cholesterol. Being thin doesn’t automatically mean you have a healthy lifestyle.

        Everyone should embrace their body type. It’s good for your soul.

      • True story. After college I weighed 110lbs (5′ 6″) and my blood pressure was THROUGH THE ROOF. I also couldn’t run a mile. My diet was complete and utter crap up until that point. That’s when things started changing for me and now I’m all about eating healthy and lifting heavy. I find some fitspo to be inspiring and others fall into the category of fitspo that Ashley’s talking about in this post but everyone can chose what motivates them and ignore the rest.

    • heyalice

      You can still be healthy without being super thin. And it’s okay to drench that salad or eat a cheese burger once and a while, as long as in the end you are being healthy overall. “If you’re thinner, that means that you’re probably healthier” enforces a stereotype that has plagued social media. And having a different body type isn’t an excuse, it is just the way you are, we all have different body types and that is okay. Everyone deserves the right to feel comfortable in their body when they are healthy, tiny or not.

    • Emily

      I see what you’re saying.

      But just because I’m not skinny doesn’t mean that I’m not in shape and healthy. I personally weigh about 180 lbs, wear size 14 jeans, and I just ran 5 miles at the gym yesterday and did leg presses at about 350 lbs and consider cycle crunches and sit-ups fun. I know tiny girls who can barely run one mile, if that much. I also know people larger than me who can do physical activities I will never be able to.

      I know that I am at the body size and weight that I will probably be for my whole life. And, you know what, that’s cool. I am healthy, in shape, and have finally accepted my body. Yes, it is considered overweight. And my BMI says that I am obese, as inaccurate as that is. But you know what? I don’t care. After pushing myself and realizing that there is no getting skinnier, I decided that it’s better to just keep myself here and rock what I got.

      And, that cupcake and some soda isn’t going to kill me after I ran 5 miles.


    This is not journalism.

  • Spec Tater

    You do have a choice about HOW you CHOOSE to be “inspired”. Those who CHOOSE to be morbidly obese or CHOOSE to seek death by starvation CHOOSE different kinds of self-hate. Choose to like yourself and want to feel good! Strength and functional fitness take hard work, but the results feel great.

    There is no option for a painless life. There is, sometimes, the option to choose what your pain will buy you. Because others are stupid doesn’t mean you need to follow those lemmings over their chosen cliff.

  • lauren

    my friend run a fitspo page and hers didn’t have any of these kinds of pictures. her just says things like squat it out , or just do it. it depends some are truly about motivation and others are once again about just being skinny. I follow a lot of fitspo pages and they have actually helped me. have you heard of things called dream boards that truly let you see and remind your self of your dreams. im a person who gives up easily and seeing my dreams reminds me that I can do it and what I really want. also she picked like the worst fitspo pics ive ever seen

  • Savannah

    I completely agree. Fitspo has always made me feel way worse about myself, 100% more than thinspo ever has. It’s full of obsession and body-shaming. FYI, not everyone can look like those fitness models, no matter how hard we work out or how healthy we eat.

  • kay

    I hate the generalizing of a certain group of fitspo people become the “slogan” of fitspo. Not all fitspo’s are like this! Some focus on helping others with healthy eating and good workouts BUT DO NOT make you feel bad for having that slice of cake! Some focus on helping people loving themselves and becoming healthy… I hate this generalization of this shaming and such….

  • Niya

    I don’t think it seemed that bad. It definitely motivated me, but it didnt make me feel ashamed.

  • ThePandaQueen

    This reminds me of Letting Ana Go

  • christine

    Feel the same way