Why innocent "Thinspiration" is still damaging to women

As many of you know, I have a Pinterest account. I love using it to get new recipes and ideas for home improvement projects that I will actually probably never even start, much less complete. But if I have chicken thawed and no idea what I want to do with it, Pinterest usually helps me find something delicious and new to try with it.
In fact, this reckless recipe searching has resulted in only one real culinary near-disaster, which I managed to salvage. So I think overall, it has been a success.
I really enjoy the comedy offerings Pinterest has. Depending on if you follow people with a similar sense of humor, you’ll often come upon fun little tidbits like this or this. Or, if you want to laugh until you pee a little (what? I didn’t say I did…), then try this:
Really, The Oatmeal is the best. Tell your kids.

Now in my occasional use of this image-heavy service to find workout ideas, I’ve encountered some fitness inspiration and similar motivational images – both surprising and expected. I’ve been running for exactly ten years this month, but sometimes when I need a change I get great workout ideas like this one on Pinterest. However, I’ve come across some almost disturbing “body inspiration” shrines in my searching, and I want to talk about it today.
It would be troubling enough if some of these “thinspiration”-esque images were being pinned and repinned mostly by teenage girls who often lack the perspective to properly digest influences that bombard them with increasing fervor these days. But in reality, Pinterest is used primarily by women age 25-44. So basically…women old enough to start separating the fantasy of Photoshop from the reality of back-of-the-thigh fat deposits. 
I think fitness inspiration is one thing – images of actuality (not posing), strong women, real bodies, strength painted over a normal, flawed canvas. I can get behind the idea of promoting health, strength, enpowerment, etc. But I find this “thinspiration” to be a little…um…stupid. And remember, I used to have disordered eating and exercise issues – so consider the source.

See this? This is stupid. Here’s why: No amount of gym visits will get you this exact body. How do I know this, you might ask? Well, my eating disorder never resulted in this physique for me, for one thing. 

I’ve been 5’8″ or above since the end of middle school; I am now 5’9″ barefoot. The average “healthy weight” for that height runs anywhere from 135 pounds upwards to 165 or so. BUT, in the time since I reached that height, I have run the gamut from a sort of too-thin 128 pounds (middle of my sophomore year of college) to 170+ pounds (basically most of high school, hence why my nickname was “Wide Load”) to 196.4 pounds the very day I walked into the hospital to deliver Russ. As I’ve said in the Roonis section of this blog, I actually liked the heavier version of myself probably the most. 

But even at my lightest weight, I never resembled this chick. Really, I just resembled a smaller version of my natural body habitus. But I certainly didn’t look like this, which is fine with me. Could it be the lack of this girl’s good genes, excessive spray-tan, false eyelashes, “Are They or Aren’t They?” extensions, “Is It or Isn’t It Underwear Bikini,” or just general inadequacy on my part? Hint: I don’t think it’s the last one in that series. Now is this chick a bonafide hottie? Well yes, I would say most people would probably think so. She’s very pretty. I’m not sure if everything on her is – ahem – real, but I don’t really care. That’s her business.


But I still think it’s damaging to women to hold themselves up to this bar. To look at this image – which is more than likely retouched in some way – and compare themselves to it. The best fitness inspiration one can have is to simply try to be a healthier, more capable version of who they are.


And then there’s the aspect of simple biology. It isn’t healthy for a woman to have 8-10% body fat for the long term, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either selling you something or is too engulfed in their own disorder issue to know better.


It’s important for people to realize the rigorous process fitness and figure athletes go through to get their bodies to look like this. We’re talking months of intense training and dieting, weeks of carb cutting, days of removing all traces of sodium from their diet, a final 2-3 days stretch of decreasing their water intake, multiple coats of Jantana (for that subtle orange glow), a healthy coat of baby oil…I could go on and on, but there’s a lot that goes into coaxing one’s body into looking this way. On her normal days, even this girl in the picture doesn’t look like this girl in the picture. So again…perspective.

Now, this is one of the things that really bothered me – 

Yay, you have abs. Great. Congrats to you. What bothers me about this pic isn’t really the pic at all – it’s the words of the original pinner below it:

“You give meaning to my life. You’re my thinspiration…”

(And yes, I realize it’s a very un-clever play on lyrics from the worst band ever, Chicago. Ugh…Chicago.)
Now read that again. You give meaning to my life

Homie say WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!
Ladies.
Laaaaadies.
We can’t do this. 
We can’t give our bodies more value than our souls. Than our minds. Our emotions. The body is important for a variety of duh-obvious reasons, but it’s simply not that important. 
Ever heard the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” (Also gloriously remade by the late, great Johnny Cash)?
You are an empire of dirt. So am I. For awhile, the dirt has a form, a function. And then we return to the dirt. Do not give this dirt too much credence.

The best thing you can do for your body is treat it like it’s the thing keeping you here while you need to be here. Try to eat healthy food when you can, but have a hamburger sometimes, for Pete’s sake. Life is just too short. I can almost guarantee you that you won’t be lying on your death bed and wishing you’d counted more calories or done more to get your “dream body.” Throw out the idea of the dream body. It’s stupid. You have a body. Thank God for it and do the best you can with what you’ve got.

3 thoughts on “Why innocent "Thinspiration" is still damaging to women

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am so tired of seeing these “thinspiration” pics on Pinterest, too. And anyway, I think a more accurate name for them would be “starvationspiration”. Seriously, how have our perceptions become so skewed that we think this is “normal” or all that matters? I'm aware that people always have been and always will be extremely concerned about body image, but right now (unlike most other eras) there is a huge emphasis on scary-skinny frames. *Sigh*. Oh well, I suppose we'll just have to be the somewhat unpopular rebels who believe being real-healthy is more important than being considered lingerie-model-hot. ~Mary Beth

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  2. Mary Beth, I think you bring up a great point. The “ideal” is unrealistic, and our current societal expectations are unyielding in their demand for more of the unrealistic and less of the authentic. It's pervasive in our culture, right down to children. The real tragedy is that kids are soaking up these messages and there is no telling how much more extreme these current views could get before we reach a pivotal point. I certainly don't want to excuse the obesity problem in this country, but I think both extremes are damaging and dangerous. And yes – unpopular is fine by me! I ate a chocolate muffin tonight, oh nooooo! 😀

    Rebecca, thanks so much for reading and commenting. Love all this positive support and readership! 🙂

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