#FITSPO and health trends: An unhealthy obsession?

If you’re like me, you start your day repeatedly scrolling through countable news feeds…Facebook then Instagram then Snapchat then Twitter, and then back to Facebook (and you know the drill) before you actually get up and seize the day. For most of us girls, these feeds will be flooded with posts by fashion bloggers, celebrities, delectable food accounts, and then contrastingly some #FITSPO.

Well at least that’s what my routine used to look like. Except a few months ago I decided I’d had enough of the thigh-gap images, the precisely arranged bowls of fruit and vegetables, and the abhorrently uninspiring “fit” quotes.

In essence, #FITSPO describes the inspirations to stay fit and lead a healthy lifestyle. This all sounds well and good – everyone can benefit from that little bit of motivation to go to the gym, or a reminder to fill our plates with more greens. But at its worst, #FITSPO is a degrading motto rooted in the shallow desire to be “skinny” and the fear of judgment. As a young female, I certainly feel the pressures of living up to certain expectations of how to look or what size I should fit into. As much as I tell myself, or others, that I couldn’t care less about what people think – I do, and I’m not stubborn to admit it because I know it is an insecurity that is within all of us. It’s human nature. However, some people may suffer from these insecurities worse than others, and become more vulnerable to trying diets and health trends in order to feel some form of accreditation for their body.

The need for accreditation comes at a time when such a health-conscious culture has never been so widely popular than ever before. Whether it be going paleo, eating carb-free, choosing veganism, doing juice detoxes, or buying into “superfoods”, it is undeniable that there has been a growing interest in eating healthy. Regardless to say that online #FITSPO has played a role in the spread of such health trends, as they constantly promote diets to aid weight loss and convince us against eating certain “unhealthy” foods.

At some point, even if just for a day, all of us have attempted to diet in some way, shape, or form. I wasn’t the strongest of individuals when it came to the influences of #FITSPO and I definitely gave in to some ridiculous health mantras in hindsight. Probably one of the most absurd trends of them all is teatoxing because, like juicing, it holds empty promises of having magical weight loss and flat tummy powers. I confess I once succumbed to the hype and convinced myself of its magical powers, back when I hadn’t realised the worthlessness of these fad products.

Teatoxing basically boils down to drinking cups of certain tea concoctions that supposedly stimulate weight loss by improving metabolism and detoxing your body from toxic nutrients – it kind of works like a diuretic. And boy does it drain you out. My days were spent going to the toilet more times than I could count, and not only was the teatox getting rid of so-called toxic nutrients, but also necessary ones. Margaret Wertheim, a registered dietician at a Wisconsin practice, points out that “while it might make you feel skinny temporarily, it is important to keep in mind that weight loss achieved through such methods is not fat loss”. In actuality, what I was losing was only water-weight, and this had the effect of making me feel dizzy and dehydrated throughout the day. So, I had wasted my time and money on a health trend that I was so naïve into thinking would benefit me, but eventually made me feel worse.

More importantly, it’s not about the time or money wasted on these fad diets, but about feeding your body based on its needs and not restricting yourself from certain foods. It is general knowledge that the way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is through a balanced diet. And yet, this has been seemingly neglected over the past years as there has been an unwavering obsession with unsubstantiated health trends that restrict the intake of whole nutritional groups.

I am in no way condemning the interest of being concerned with your health and feeding your body effectively, but when this turns into an obsession, it can take a toll on your quality of life. “There is a risk of progressing into pathological dieting”, explains a Philadelphia Eating Disorder examiner, “and as many as 25% of these people develop full blown eating disorders.”

Ultimately, we should be redirecting our focus back to the simplicity of maintaining a balanced diet. Everything can be eaten, if eaten in proportion. “As a nutritionist, I still eat pizza, cake, burgers—but I also eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats. It’s all about balance,” admits Keri Gans, a registered dietician/nutritionist and spokesperson. Eating too much of anything doesn’t promote a healthy lifestyle, and that’s something we are all aware of. At the same time, completely eliminating certain food groups is unadvisable, according to Gans, “especially carbs [as] these are our body’s fuel”. At the end of the day, if you start to Google any food (and let’s be honest we’re all guilty of Googling “Is insert food here bad for you?”), you will soon discover that almost any food is considered unhealthy according to one or another research.

If I have learned anything, it is not to control your eating habits based on current health trends or drastic diets. Rather, on finding the balance in your consumption and being knowledgeable about the foods you consume. So, I will not allow health trends in the name of #FITSPO to decide what I eat, I will make informed decisions based on the needs of my body, and so should you.

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