The fitness industry is a booming $160 billion market. With this much money at stake, it’s no surprise that social media platforms are saturated with fitness celebrities and “fitfluencers.” These influencers have enormous power to shape our body image and perceptions of what it means to be fit and healthy.
However, the line between healthy and unhealthy can often be blurred. Many of these influencers are sponsored by diet pills, meal replacement shakes, and other weight-loss products, which can send mixed messages about being healthy and achieving a “bikini body.”
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 35-40% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. At least 5% of women have anorexia nervosa, and up to 24% of women engage in binge eating disorder at some point in their lives.
The body image issues that are pushed by the fitness industry are a huge part of the reason why these statistics are so high. Fitness influencers are often incredibly fit and have very low body fat percentages. They are not a realistic portrayal of what “healthy” looks like. When people strive to achieve a body type that is not realistic or healthy, they are more likely to develop an eating disorder.
The fitness industry also frequently promotes the idea that thinness is equivalent to health and attractiveness. This can be incredibly damaging to people who are not naturally thin. It can lead to feelings of mental health issues such as depression and self-hatred and frustration when they are unable to achieve the “perfect” body.
So, how do we separate the healthy from the unhealthy when it comes to fitness influencers? Here are a few tips:
1. Check their sources.
Do your research before following any fitness influencer. Check out their sources to see if they’re credible. Are they citing scientific studies or just sharing personal anecdotes? What is their track record? Do they have experience in the health and fitness industry? Are they qualified to give nutrition and fitness advice?
2. Watch out for fads and gimmicks.
Fitness influencers often promote fad diets and gimmicky workout regimes. Be wary of any claims that seem too good to be true. These extreme diets and exercises can be dangerous and lead to yo-yo dieting.
3. Look for healthy lifestyle advice.
Instead of looking for quick fixes, try to find fitness influencers who promote healthy lifestyle habits. These include nutritious eating, regular exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep and endorse these healthy habits themselves.