As the fitness industry has grown, so too has the influencer culture around it. Fitness bloggers and Instagrammers are now celebrities in their own right, with millions of followers. And as with any celebrity culture, there is a lot of pressure to maintain an unrealistic and often unhealthy body image.
A recent YouGov poll showed that 79% of Brits sometimes feel pressure from the media to lose weight. Those who compare themselves to social media influencers (80%) are more than twice as likely to say advertising affects how they perceive their body image. And 55% say they would consider plastic surgery.
Micromanagement of mealtimes is perhaps a logical extension of this. Comparing yourself to fitness influencers means you’re more likely to count calories (57%) or limit eating food you enjoy to look good or stay thin (60%).
The fitness industry is not solely to blame for this problem. The broader societal obsession with appearance is also a factor. But the fitness industry does have a responsibility to help address this issue. And unfortunately, it is not doing a very good job.
Promoting unrealistic body ideals
The fitness industry’s most common way to perpetuate body image problems is by promoting unrealistic body ideals. These ideals often take the form of “bikini bodies” or “6-pack abs”. And they are typically portrayed as something that everyone should aspire to.
This sends the message that you are somehow defective if you don’t have a perfect body. It also encourages people to obsess over their appearance, which can lead to eating disorders and other health problems.
The bottom line is that the fitness industry has a responsibility to promote healthy body images and healthy diet and exercise regimes. It needs to promote realistic body ideals that everyone can achieve, and it needs to discourage extreme dieting and exercise.