The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible “Fitspiration” Photos

SadMuscleman

A fitness expert talks about six images that do more harm than good.

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The Reembody blog, up to this point, has been a thoughtful exploration of human movement, a subject about which I am extremely passionate.

Today, however, I’m mad and I’m going to tell you why.

I have been planning a blog post for a while on fitness misinformation and it was originally going to be the same kind of thoughtful deconstruction found in my other installments. But then I read this and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever found in my newsfeed. So beautiful, in fact, that the rest of the health and fitness propaganda floating around Facebook like turds in a pool started to really, really piss me off.

So thoughtful deconstruction has been postponed for another day. Instead, we’re going to take a good look at a few of those turds and get pissed off together because, when someone preys upon your insecurities in an effort to manipulate or even harm you, “fuck straight off” is a totally appropriate response.

Join me now, as we stare in shocked incredulity at the worst of the worst:

#1. Your Body is the Enemy

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What They Think They’re Saying:

“Don’t give up! You may think you’ve given all you have, but you have so much more! You can make it if you just grit your teeth and push!”

Why It’s Bullshit:

Getting mad at your own limbs sounds less like the behavior of an Olympian and more like the crazy-eyed hobo who lives behind my building’s dumpster.

It is absolutely true that, if your muscles finally reach the point of failure, an emotional response like fear or anger triggers the release of adrenaline, which can keep you going. It’s called the fight or flight response and it’s been attributed to everything from moms lifting cars off kids to soldiers who refuse to lay down and die.

It’s also not something to fuck around with.

Pushing your body’s limits just because you want bigger biceps is sort of like setting your house on fire because you’re cold.

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Central heating is for quitters! FITNESS!!

Routinely stressing your body’s physical capacity is called overtraining, and it’s a massive problem in the fitness industry. It is linked to everything from joint degeneration, ligament tears and bone spurs to depression and—no joke—post traumatic stress disorder.

The fight or flight response only kicks during moments of impending danger precisely because the response itself is potentially dangerous. It’s a calculated risk on the part of your own biochemistry: turn it up to 11 and risk the joint damage or become food for a cave bear. When invoking that kind of biochemical gambit becomes less of a do-or-die, last-ditch effort to survive and more of a “Tuesday-at-the-gym-is-chest-day” scenario, you’re inviting in a whole mess of future problems.

[Addendum: It has come to my attention that the guy in the first picture is Rich Froning, a 3-time CrossFit champion and a generally respected athlete. It’s not clear whether the text is directly attributed to him. I mean no personal offense to Rich but I stand by my observation that the text is silly. You can line up respected athletes all day long saying that they “get angry when [they’re] tired” and I will still say it’s silly.]

#2. You Should be Ashamed

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What They Think They’re Saying:

“Aren’t you tired of not being as pretty as you deserve? Well all it takes is perseverance to be everything you’ve ever wanted to be!”

Why It’s Bullshit:

First of all, speaking as the father of a little girl, fuck whoever made this.

This is an expertly lit, no doubt digitally enhanced image of a girl in her mid-twenties presented here as the definition of what a woman is allowed to be proud of; “until you are proud” seems to mean “until you have six pack abs, perky, squeezable breasts and the terrible burden of finding size 0 jeans with a 34 inch inseam”. If there were a male equivalent of this photo, it would have to be Iron Man to really capture the shocking lack of realism. It’s the “don’t stop” part, however, that earns this photo its place on my shit list. The message here is that it’s excusable, nay, it is advisable that the ladies in the audience disregard whatever else they were doing, you know, like having some self-esteem, and do whatever it takes to be fuckable. If it was explicit that “don’t stop” meant “hire a professional lighting crew and a makeup artist and maybe a wizard” it would be one thing, but it’s not. “Don’t stop” just ends up meaning “nope, you’re not up to these heinously unrealistic standards yet; keep running, fatty!”

Oh, and speaking of not stopping…

#3. Fitness as Socially Acceptable Neurosis

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What They Think They’re Saying:

“Commitment is important! People who lack the ability to commit will always try to bring you down.”

Why It’s Bullshit:

So there’s this thing called anorexia nervosa. It’s kind of a big deal. As a matter of fact, it and other eating disorders collectively have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, killing 5%-10% of those afflicted within 10 years and a bone-chilling 18%-20% within 20 years. Oh, and it affects between 1% and 5% of women in the US so, like I was saying, kind of a big deal.

But with better public education and awareness, it’s getting harder and harder to starve to death without anyone noticing and, as it turns out, not wanting to be noticed is a key factor in the anorexic’s psychological profile. As a result, with the kind of nuance and ingenuity that is horrifyingly common among the mentally ill, exercise anorexia, or hypergymnasia was born.

It works just like anorexia and is caused by the same factors, only instead of restricting calories going in, hypergymnasiacs dramatically increase the calories going out. The benefit—if you can look at it from the self-abusive perspective of the afflicted—is that, instead of frequent, attention-grabbing trips to the bathroom, all they have to do is go exercise a lot! Oh man, easy! People LOVE exercise! Friends and family will just think they’re getting in shape, taking care of themselves, self-improving. The culturally accepted language associated with working out is moderately self-abusive anyway, so all the self-deprecation won’t raise any red flags and obsessing over exercise will blend right in to the normal cultural fabric of fitness.

And if someone does start to question the wisdom of a 10k run after CrossFit and two hot yoga classes? Well, the hypergymnasiac can just high five their fellow gym-goers and say, “I’m not obsessed, you’re just lazy!” And to a soundtrack of enthusiastic support, go right back to killing themselves.

So, no, obsession is not the same as dedication and creating a vocabulary that makes it easier for the mentally ill to cloak their illness in normalcy is not doing anyone any favors.

#4. Disregarding Your Limits

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What They Think They’re Saying:

“Do what you have to do to get the job done. Don’t be afraid to show your struggle, only be afraid to fail.”

Why It’s Bullshit:

I can’t believe I have to write this next sentence but here goes: crawling on the floor weeping while you puke all over yourself is not healthy.

Your body has limits. Those limits are there so that daily function—up to and including heavy manual labor—requires a relatively small amount of physical stress and sacrifice. This means that, if you get into a spontaneous bar fight with a group of neo-Nazis and must defeat them to protect the beautiful tattooed bartender with the dark secret—I’m not the only one who has that fantasy, right?—well, it means that you’re not going into action with a bunch of used-up joints. Your back may look like a gunnysack full of angry pythons, but that won’t mean squat (ha!) when you herniate a disk.

The trick is to know your limits. Pain is helpful in this regard. Of course, there’s pain and there’s pain, but part of being healthy is knowing the difference. Training so hard as to induce vomiting and uncontrollable sobbing is to slowly undermine the basic human judgement of what constitutes challenge versus what causes injury; It’s a fundamental component of self-control. Toddlers learn it when they figure out that they don’t need to cry over skinned knees but that a broken arm is a big deal.

Basically what I’m saying is: don’t let your training routine reduce your level of self awareness to what it was when you still wore footy pajamas.

#5 Strong is the New Buzzword for Manipulating Women’s Body Image

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What They Think They’re Saying:

“Beauty used to be about getting thin but not anymore, ladies! We’re not after waifish waistlines, we’re after strength!”

Why It’s Bullshit:

Quick! What do all three of the women pictured above have in common? If you said, “they’re all skinny”, you’re exactly right!

The fitness industry—from gyms to clothing manufacturers—collectively produces more propaganda than North Korea, a lot of it just as crazy. This particular class of ads is almost comically absurd because what’s written on the picture directly contradicts the picture. It would be like if Oscar Meyer produced an ad saying “vegetables are awesome, eat those instead of hot dogs!” printed over images of freckled Normal Rockwell kids happily stuffing their faces with hot dogs. It shows just how little credit advertisers give the public: they assume that if they tell you what you’re looking at you wont actually see what you’re looking at.

“But Kevin”, you might argue, “the women in those images have great muscle tone! They’re totally strong!” They certainly are. So is she:

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Kristin Rhodes, folks . . .

And you’re not going to find her in a Nike ad, even though she’s a stone-cold badass who probably deadlifts the combined body weight of those other three ladies as a goddamn warmup.

Now, before I get bombarded with angry comments from skinny people, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being skinny. I’m also not suggesting that being skinny and strong are mutually exclusive. I’m only pointing out that strength only sells when it’s sexy and, make no mistake, advertisers want very badly to make you feel like you are currently failing at both.

Strong isn’t really replacing skinny; being skinny is no longer enough. Now, ladies, you need to be skinny and ripped. It’s an additional layer of self-loathing  (perfectly suited for hypergymnasiacs), just in case people had started to get desensitized to the omnipresent and psychologically crippling display of corpse-thin women in the media.

And what’s with the Playboy cover poses? The one on the bottom is basically a picture of an ass. The young lady on the top right is either confused about how to wear pants or the ad was meant to double as a promotion for whoever did her impressively thorough bikini wax. According to these photos, all this notable strength that is the new standard of beauty is only useful for the exact same thing being skinny was: sex appeal. Not adventure or longevity, or even ability; Nope, just for sexy times.

So I guess “strong is the new skinny” is, in fact, a totally accurate statement, just not so much in an inspiring way as in “the gears of modern culture crushing young women’s dreams” kinda way.

#6 Fitness Assault!

972317_545184485541956_806468334_nWhat They Think They’re Saying:

“The part of you that wants to give up is the weak, lazy part; dominate it with the strong, committed part and work your way to success!”

Why It’s Bullshit:

Please tell me I’m not the only person made terribly uncomfortable by this. I mean, doesn’t that strike anyone else as a little, well, rapey? I think it’s safe to say that, if your inner monologue during a workout even slightly resembles the script from a poorly translated hentai comic (no I will not include a link) there might have been a little mix up somewhere regarding this whole exercise thing.

If your body or your mind says “it hurts” or “I need to stop”—and I’m going to be as clear as I can about this—FOR FUCK’S SAKE STOP. It isn’t even a joint health thing at this point, it’s just creepy.

I get that lots and lots of people enter a gym wanting to change: weight, BMI, strength, performance, whatever. Change is cool. Change is healthy. The desire to change stems from the admirable ability to introspect and see that, currently, we are limited in ways that we want not to be. If that desire to change, however, becomes a desire to change at all costs, you will be sorely disappointed with what you end up paying. Work out, have fun, get tired, fail occasionally, wake up sore and set your next goal. Whatever you do, just don’t do it like these poor suckers.

You might also like: How to Have Flat Abs, Better Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps

This article originally ran at Reembody.me.

About Kevin Moore

Kevin Moore is a Pilates instructor and movement therapist based out of Hong Kong. He also lectures for the Evidence-Based Fitness Academy as a Barefoot Training Specialist (BTS) Master Trainer. You can read his blog and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more.

    There is a time when the macho bullshit is useful, but routine training is not it. The most important thing to remember if you want to get good at a sport is, DON’T GET INJURED. I’ve watched loads of very good athletes be unable to stop training while injured, and ruining their bodies because of it.

    Having said that I have competed at a national level in my chosen sport. There were moments when everything was perfect, and I knew that I could give everything. It is an amazing feeling, even though I didn’t win :-)

  2. N.C. Harrison says:

    1. If I wanted people to tell me the insane crap that was on these posters… good grief, I would go back to football camp. Or to a CrossFit gym, come to think of it. Actually that’s why my CrossFit friends are not where I can see their feeds, usually. They ADORE these posters, and telling me that potatoes are the road to death, damnation and hell. My powerlifting workouts are great… go in, lift heavy things, go home. Very business like, very little religious devotion. I like to save that for, you know, the religious devotion.

    2. Kristen Rhodes! Never did I ever think I’d see her in a GMP article. Great day this is. She’s cooler than potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  3. Good work. Thank you.

  4. I love you for this article, Kevin Moore.

  5. Jennifer J. says:

    As someone who is making timid forays into the world of exercise in my forties, I have to thank you for this. I’m thinking of joining a gym, but have so far stuck with home-based workouts largely because I keep seeing these kinds of “inspirational” posts on my Facebook page. They make me think that everyone I encounter there is going to have 2% body fat and call me a loser if I stop lifting weights before my eyes bleed.

    • N.C. Harrison says:

      I haven’t lifted weights until my eyes bled but I have until my nose bled (matter of poundage not volume… it was not a wise day but it was, to my defense, in competition not just “hodey hum, let me burst some blood vessels today”) and let me say, without hesitation, that I am the crazy loser, not someone like you :) You are the kind of person that some creative soul should make REAL fitspiration posters for.

    • Jennifer,
      There’s absolutely nothing wrong with home-based training routine, as long as they get done.
      The only reason I occassionally go to a gym, is to join a spinning class on Days when the weather prohibits me from biking outside.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      As a 40something athlete myself I know how you feel. I have spent time in gyms, the outdoors and more recently in my garage (BishBox @the365effect)

      Your last sentence is the one that made me reply to you. Here’s the deal. If you care about what those others think when your “Entering the Gym” then you’re already buying into what they might say.

      The key for me has always been. Have a plan on what I want to achieve when I head into Fitness time. Plan it, DO IT and write down what I accomplished when I’m done. That’s it.

      Stop worrying about what others are thinking, saying or doing because that only takes you away from what it is that YOU’RE trying to achieve. Be Your Own Hero.

      I applaud your efforts and wish you well in your athlete’s journey.
      Best,
      Alan

  6. Outstanding article. Lucid. You’ve nailed it and thank you.

  7. Nope. Nope. I love GMP, but this is just Nope.

    1. If you quit when you get tired or out of breath, you’re going to find yourself quitting a lot. Pushing yourself is the whole point of fitness routines; you just need to be smart about it.

    2. That picture is not unrealistic. I have a female friend who enjoys Crossfit and Brazilian jiu jitsu. Her abs look just like that. (It’s a source of minor shame to me that, despite all my testosterone, mine don’t. NO, that’s not a problem. That’s something that will motivate me to improve myself rather than typing a comment that’s probably going to be moderated out of existence anyway.)

    3. Don’t make me laugh. Not only is it ridiculous to try to call a commitment to physical health some kind of disorder, those who seem to be very into it are not hooked by psychological problems, but because of the dopamine which floods their systems after every workout.

    4. Well, yeah.

    5. What’s wrong with strength? What THE FUCK is wrong with “Skinny is not sexy. Health is.”? Don’t we want people to be healthy? The women in those pictures are the picture of physical health. They will age slower and have fewer and less dangerous chronic conditions than their counterparts, especially the types who use words like “body-shaming” and tend to confuse “curves” and “rolls.”

    The author also seems to intentionally misrepresent the difference between standard balanced fitness routines and dead-lifting.

    6. “I mean, doesn’t that strike anyone else as a little, well, rapey?” Didn’t I say not to make me laugh?

    • Took the words right out of my head, Connor. Exactly my reaction. And your fifth point sums everything up nicely.

    • This, (too bad theres no upvote)
      Im super glad I read all the comments – Now I know im no alone.
      The ‘rapey’ comment also got me good. I mean the author brings up fighting neo-nazi’s and stopping our super powerful rape culture, of course everything else he says must be right.

    • I disagree. When you train you must listen to your body. There is a difference between feeling uncomfortable, and doing serious damage to your body. Those posters could easily encourage someone to cause serious permanent damage to their bodies, by pushing through real pain and into injury.

      # 1) Someone who just takes up running has weak joints. You need a long slow build up to grow the connective tissue that will allow you to push hard without injury. Stopping because you are out of breath is a brilliant way of avoiding injury during this period. Once you run regularly at your competitive distance, and know your body, then you can push through discomfort, while listening to pain.

      # 2 ) The health benefits come from not being obese, rather than being in “perfect physical condition.” Most women with a BMI in the normal range are receiving these health benefits.

      # 3 ) A friend of mine who is a very good amateur wrestler pointed out that the behaviour of wrestlers before weigh in fits the definition of anorexia exactly.

      • GirlGlad4TheGMP says:

        I agree. Some fitspiration posters (I have one on my desktop) are actually quite inspiring, and some (like the ones above) are not. The inspiration should be encouraging you to take the steps to be healthier, but not to kill yourself over it. The one I have currently states “The only thing that stands between you and what you want out of life is the will to try and the faith to believe it’s possible.”
        I think that for ANYTHING in life, that’s a good message. That I may never have a Butt like the girl in the poster is not the issue (maybe I will, who knows), the point (I glean) from it is that to get to a better place, you need to do something honestly and wholeheartedly.
        Right now, I’m training hard. I am also being smart and listening to my body. Coming off of an unrelated injury I know what my limits are, and I know how much I can push against them without hurting myself. I think that’s where my issue with some of these posters comes in. Those times when I feel like I’m gonna puke, I don’t keep pushing…I’m not going to attempt to improve my body at the cost of my health.
        Remember, these fitspiration posters are not often designed by health professionals.

    • Conor,

      Never got the impression that the author of the article suggested “quitting” when you are out of breath. But there is a line between pushing yourself reasonably and pushing you to the point where you are no longer listening to your body. Getting in shape is about pushing yourself. It’s also about listening to what your body is saying to you. Lots of people at the gym end up with injuries, not because they quit because they got out of breath, but because they stopped listening to their bodies when their bodies where screaming for them to stop.

      Are there women that have 6 pack abs, where you can see their hip bones. Sure. Is the woman in the picture “healthy”. I don’t know. The idea that health is equated to 6 pack abs and hip bones or rib cages showing is unrealistic. That woman could have 6 pack abs and smoke a pack a day or chow down on french fries that are clogging up her arteries despite her fantastic 6 pack abs. I’ve met ALOT of young girls who work out, do their yoga, then go chow down on some totally unhealthy meal. They are young, they have great bodies, they work out, but they aren’t totally “healthy”.

      And dood for the women that do have 6 pack abs. It takes a lot of hard work. But A) the image is unrealistic because truly being “healthy” can not be determined alone by 6 pack abs or hip bones showing. B) I was once told by a gym instructor that when you see women with hip bones and rib cages showing, that they are actually below what their normal body weight should be. C) Most women will not ever have 6 pack abs because for most women, that would include extensive work outs or simply because women come in all different shapes and sizes. Plus, women naturally have more fat than men. So it is unrealistic to tell all women not to quit until they look like the image being captioned by the words. Or that they can only be proud once they look like a man’s Maxim/Playboy dream.

      Just because dopamaine floods your system after a work out, after sex, after whatever “high” of pleasure one is getting, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s healthy or good for you at all times. A commitment to “health” is great. A commitment to simply “physical” health seems to be less about being really healthy and more about the looks side. But I do think that a a commitment to anything, physical health included, can infact realistically be taken to the extreme. It’s something we rarely talk about though so I think the author was spot on on bringing that point up.

      …well we all seem to agree there.

      Again, the author doesn’t seem to be saying that strength is wrong. INFACT, you completely ignored his comparison to the ladies in the images vs Kristin Rhodes. Strength comes in all shapes and sizes. Not just pert little tight perfect bodies with come hither smiles. It also comes in different ages. I know many women in their 50s and older that work out and are strong and healthy but whose bodies don’t show the perfection our society generally wants. But some of them are in better shape then some 20 year olds who might socially look better on the outside.

      Yeah it actually does strike me as rapey. It didn’t make me laugh at all. There is a lot of self-abuse in our culture. And the fitness culture certainly has it’s hand in working out to sometimes the point of self-abuse.

      It seems to me that the author is actually trying to give a more balanced idea about what true health and fitness means then the standard stereotypes.

      I will share my own personal experience in my own journey to getting in shape. I have naturally been chubby my entire life. When I was at my thinest, I was working out my hardest. I was also skipping meals to maintain my weight on top of working out a lot. This ultimately wasn’t really that healthy for a lot of reasons. It wasn’t good for me emotionally, it wasn’t good for me physically (because I began getting injuries), and it wasn’t good for me spiritually. But when I was at my thinest, when I was working out too hard and not eating in a healthy way by skipping meals, I infact got compliments about how little I ate. ( I’m sure I would have also gotten compliments if I was one of those girls that could chow down on a big greasy meal as long as I still looked hot. )I got a lot of male attention. Men didn’t care if I was really healthy or not. They were just happy to see me look the social standard way that they perceived as being healthy. Now I’m a little chubbier, I eat much healthier and balanced, I am not working out so hard I’m injuring my body. But I am also not the ideal either and I get a lot less attention for it. So yes, sometimes it’s less about what is truly “healthy” for an individual and is more about forcing people who have different body types to fit into one unrealistic ideal.

      What we seem to not want to acknowledge that truly being healthy isn’t always about having 6-pack abs and perfect bodies. Nothing wrong with having 6-pack abs (obviously). Something is very wrong in assuming that “healthy” looks one way. I’ve seen too many girls with nice bodies eat crap, smoke and come to the gym looking as cute as can be. I’ve seen too many older women dedicated to healthy life styles that don’t have the ideal body but are way healthier then their younger counterparts. But they are thought to be less “healthy”. Ironic.

      • Nicely put. Thank you for sharing Erin.

        I was trapped in the mindset that “healthy” needed to look a certain way otherwise it off not count. It is taking a lot of conscious effort to undo the inaccurate and biased conception if what “healthy” is versus what it looks like.

        • I’m still working on it myself Carissa! It’s hard not to beat myself up sometimes about the shape of my body. Sometimes I don’t even want to look in the mirror. I see those kind of pictures that were shared in the article all over the place about women and sometimes think, “I wish I was sexy like that. She’s very beautiful. That’s what I should look like if I was feminine enough.” And other times, I am so grateful to God that I got two legs that work that allow me to walk my dog and ride my bike daily and have access to healthy food. Because a lot of people don’t even have that. It’s a struggle though. I eat kale and fruit smoothies in the morning. I eat a lot of salad, I’ve cut out ice cream and I am still a bit chubby. When I go out to eat, I might have something more calorie ladden and people probably don’t think I work out like I do but I do! I’m just so sick of men assuming thin girls with 6 pack abs and sculpted bodies are always the most healthy ones. There are so many ways to take care of health and the shape of our bodies are not really accurate perceptions of how healthy we really are. And that instructor that told me that when you see a woman’s rib cage and hip bones that she was most likely below what her body weight should be, he was a man. So I never forgot that he said that. He would teach a power lifting class and he’d make sure to tell the class that periodically. I heard him say it several times. He was also one of the few instructors that told us to listen to our bodies while other instructors would tell us to keep adding weight.

      • Gayle Hurmuses says:

        Thank you Kevin for the article and Erin for this long comment. You are completely right and said everything I was wishing I had the time to say to Conor…who really needs to learn better critical reading and analysis skills.

  8. Good article. As a fitness pro, I enjoyed it and agree with your points.

  9. Nicholas Costo says:

    1. Most non-athletes are in no danger of injuring themselves by getting ‘angry’ as you characterize it. Non-athletes are far more at risk through performing an exercise with bad form, or without proper control – the risks of overtraining are non-existent, simply because a gym novice does not yet have the capacity to overtrain.

    As for athletes – given the specialization involved in athletic training, you’re really in no position to make a judgement call on what is or is not advisable.

    In general: If getting ‘angry’ (or simply summoning a sudden burst of emotion to induce energy) temporarily helps a person past the point of failure, and the person still performs with good control, speed, and form, then that is a good thing.

    2. Nothing about that ad states that you should be ashamed. It’s simply encouragement. Most people exercise with some specific goals in mind, and they should rightly take pride in reaching those goals. I do think people should take more pride in the process – the journey is always more important than the destination – but there is still value in not adopting a ‘good enough’ attitude. In a culture that so frequently enables low expectations, I don’t see the harm in pushing the individual to strive.

    There should be more diversity in the model choices. Though if you go to most gyms, you will see near-identical posters with women and men of different body types.

    3. Don’t conflate serious mental health issues with good faith efforts to improve oneself. The world is full of naysayers, and obsessed is too frequently thrown out to describe anyone with a modicum of dedication towards an activity.

    4. “The trick is to know your limits.”

    Of course, but there are many situations where you should continuously push your limits as well.

    5. The top three women are skinny, but they are in no way anorexic. They are in great shape, and provided they are complementing their training with a great diet, I don’t see what the issue is.

    “And you’re not going to find her in a Nike ad, even though she’s a stone-cold badass who probably deadlifts the combined body weight of those other three ladies as a goddamn warmup.”

    And?

    As an athlete, she trains herself for a very specific set of performance activities. I’m not sure why her athletic pursuits have moral value than the three other women you’re denigrating.

    I would also point out that it took all of two seconds and a Google search to find ads with Rhodes. It may not be a Nike ad, but if there’s a market for the activity, there will be an ad. Don’t mistake the fact that your priorities don’t align with the market’s as a problem with the market.

    “Not adventure or longevity, or even ability; Nope, just for sexy times.”

    The vast majority of people who regularly go to the gym do so because they want to increase their sex appeal. Most also want to improve their health, or increase their strength or athleticism, but arguing that people should suppress their desire to look good is a non-starter.

    6. That’s a whole lot of projection on your part.

    And again – if you stop exercising the moment it becomes uncomfortable and your mind tells you to stop, then you’re not going to have much to show for your efforts.

    • Non-athletes are at a greater risk of injuring themselves than athletes. Especially if they absorb the “push through pain” mentality.

    • I agree with everything Nicholas said.

      NONE OF THESE ARE ADS*. Why is the author getting indignant over people trying to “sell” with images of healthy and attractive women, when the reality is that most of these are user-generated pinterest posts created by people trying to motivate themselves to be better versions of themselves (with the only unhealthy thing about it being their misguided affinity for Impact font).

      *except maybe the [strong is the new sexy] one, which looks like it’s from a body building or fitness magazine, and let’s not even start with those.

  10. Thank you for this post. I was a dancer when I was young and healthy body perception was always a challenge. Not only because of those around me, but because of what I “thought” I was supposed to look like. I am now raising two children – one boy and one girl – and they both, although I NEVER bring up the words “skinny” or “fat”, are desperately aware of their own body image. In fact, my 11 year old son is obsessed with obtaining a six pack and my almost 9 year old daughter has already called herself “fat”. Like I said, I try so hard to portray a positive model for them and I try to not judge my own body negatively. It seems that there is no escaping the negative media. Thank you for this article.

  11. Thank you!
    I HATE these kinds of photos. They are disinformation.
    They are rarely posted by the person in the photo.
    It’s always a clueless attempting to get in shape.
    It’s people that think bacon every morning is ‘Clean Eating’ and attach 30 unrelated hashtags to every post to get attention.(fatkidgoespaleo is a prime example)

    I guarantee that the people in the photos do not have tumblr and facebook walls filled up with such terrible advice.

  12. If your inner monologue during a workout even slightly resembles the script from a poorly translated hentai comic, maybe you should give up the hentai comics and not the workout routine…?

    The desire to change stems from the admirable ability to introspect and see that, currently, we are limited in ways that we want not to be. If that desire to change, however, becomes a desire to change at all costs, you will be sorely disappointed with what you end up paying.

    And if your desire to change comes with an expectation that it will be at no cost at all, you will be sorely disappointed with what you end up getting as a result.

  13. I was very surprised to visit my yoga canter which took the exact opposite view of fitness. They absolutely insist that if you can bend to touch your toes and only reach your knees, then you stay ONLY there. Push just a tiny little bit but its very important to listen to your body. Even though I exercised a lot to lose the 12 kgs that I did, no other exercise felt as good as just those sessions of intently “listening to your body”. I hope yoga and others forms of exercise are taught that way more often.

  14. At picture number 4.. yes.. yes i had that same dream but it was against Assassins lol. This is very very uplifting i thought i was the only one noticing these images giving bad messages. I am trying my hardest to lose 2-5% body fat (currently at 15.6%) just to look Physique. All i could have done was share this post several times.

  15. I’ve got a feeling Kristin Rhodes didn’t build her strength simply by stopping whenever she got uncomfortable. You don’t reach that kind of excellence by not pushing your limits and experiencing some pain. Her body type isnt exactly a paen to the “fat fit” crowd either. She has built awesome muscle mass. She earned through eating a specific way and cranking out workouts that the vast majority of people who dislike these posters couldn’t hope to match. Her dedication to her sport probably would be seen as “unhealthy.”

    I’m a former NCAA athlete. I puked after runs more than a few times. I worked out even though I was sore. I pushed to finish a set when my muscles were “done.”

    • N.C. Harrison says:

      The point being, perhaps, or one of my points being, that she’ll never be featured on one of these posters even though she’s an outstanding athlete because she doesn’t fit the narrative of “people who are artistically wet and semi-naked.” Although she is in my opinion a good looking woman–dem legs–she is not what the culture at large, even the “strong is the new skinny,” people considers aesthetically pleasing. Which is okay; means more for me, maybe?

      Or maybe she is a bad example, in general, for the general public because she has also done unhealthy things to achieve in her sport. I know I am and Lord knows I have done dumb things in my time. Passing out from dehydration and then wrestling the next day, adjusting my stance to deadlift around a severe groin pull, busting blood vessels in my nose during a squat and then going for another 10 pounds heavier, pissing blood the morning after a football game and then going to practice Monday, playing most of two football games that A) I couldn’t feel my left arm during and B) I have no memory of… when you’re an athlete at a relatively high level you do things that the guy or gal looking to drop a few pounds shouldn’t have to.

  16. Thank you for writing this! I hate “fitspiration” photos. I hate them with every ounce of my being. They lie, they shame and they wreak havoc on the mental health of everyone who looks at them. A retouched, professionally lit photo is not the truth. YOU ARE. Take care of yourself. Take care of your heart, your lungs, your liver, your muscles and above all your brain, and your body will reward you with everything you’re really looking for. Health.

  17. Kevin, thank you so much for writing this article! As a lady who has gone through her own journey to balance my health with my body’s realistic capabilities, I am eternally thankful there are people like you out there in the health community.

  18. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    When doing weights, I’m careful not to play heavy metal or anything like that. I think the purpose is excess. (I also think it’s crazy for soldiers to play metal in their tanks – too much risk of blue on blue casualties.) I did about six years of aikido. It was good training for listening to your body. Discomfort is fine, just as it is when learning something, or even sometimes in personal relationships. But outrage directed against the body is wrong.

  19. apollo1234 says:

    I see/hear a lot of self- loathing and self-hatred in gyms from people with this attitude. These are the attitudes adopted by those who start and then drop physical fitness. Some of those tv models for fitness machine commercials bodies are so unattractive that I could count every sin muscle, tendon and ligament that I have to look away or turn the channel. The women have no breasts so that it looks like a man with no penis. GROSS!!!

    • …and there you go saying women with smaller breasts are gross while only noticing the (lack, to you) of “attractiveness” and not the unhealthy part. Great guy you are, I tell you.

  20. This is is one of the best health/fitness related articles I’ve read this year. The message I got is to try my best, listen to my body and accept my body. There is a difference between pushing myself and ignoring my alarm bells. Wish this could be passed around in the high schools.

  21. This is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. There seem to be some fitness junkies that are offended, but maybe because you’ve bought into the propaganda a little bit?

    Shaming a woman into exercising isn’t ok. Body building =/= healthy lifestyle. Pushing yourself to beyond your limits in every workout and then taking supplements just to speed up the results process isn’t healthy, and it is dangerous. In the same way that driving 120 mph on the freeway is dangerous even if it gets you where you want to go faster.

    Taking a more cautious, well designed workout regimen that doesn’t call you a failure for stopping before muscle failure, or doesn’t call you lazy for not going 6 days a week is every bit as healthy and a lot better for you in the long term even if you’ll get results at a slower pace. There’s a reason that Doctors don’t tell people to become body builders or fitness junkies.

    Let’s not confuse ourselves, most of the drive for fitness enthusiasm comes from people in their late 20’s and beyond because their metabolism slows down and they gain weight. This causes them to feel ashamed of their bodies and then hit the gym to look like they did when they were 20 or 21. Everything the author said about point #5 is spot on. As for people defending the message in post #3. It’s degrading people (calling them lazy) for not being obsessive. That’s like saying “A book worm is what stupid people call the well read” or “a philanthropist is what selfish materialists call people who have empathy”. Degrading other people’s moral character because they don’t hit the gym 6 days a week and leave/breathe/eat fitness is just plain sad.

  22. Richrd Williams says:

    In order to achieve extraordinary things…it is often required that one go through extraordinary measures.
    I think it’s irresponsible to attack someone else’s source of motivation to feel good about yourself.
    If a motivational saying it quote doesn’t resonate with you..don’t attack it with negativity.
    Move on.

  23. sillybopeep says:

    you shouldnt be posting images of things you dont agree with. i just scrolled through and didnt read a word you said. i only saw the message you hate.

  24. Theorema Egregium says:

    My gym has tons of those uplifting slogans on posters. One which I remember in particular went “Go to your limits. Then go further!”

    Personally I believe in the Buddhist principle of Ahimsa — nonviolence. It includes not being violent against yourself.

  25. I appreciate the spirit here, very much.

    I DON’T appreciate your using those who live on the street and/or who have mental health issues to get a laugh. //Getting mad at your own limbs sounds less like the behavior of an Olympian and more like the crazy-eyed hobo who lives behind my building’s dumpster.//

    People dealing with such afflictions are just as worthy of dignity and kindness as those you aim to support with this article.

  26. The thing is, I would probably agree with the author’s argument if I paid attention to advertising. I know a SHITLOAD of strong, capable women – Olympic Bronze Medallists in Tae Kwon Do, Gymnastic Instructors, and nurses who have dropped 50 kgs in a year. I can guarantee NONE of them pay any attention to advertising like this. They thoroughly research their exercise regimen then implement it wisely. Suggesting that the majority of women are idiots who get sucked in by flippant advertising is egregious.

  27. Brandy Williams says:

    I LOVE this article! You have quickly become one of my favorite contributors!

  28. Rob Light says:

    Fantastic!

    While reading this I was wondering if the Primal Blueprint would ever reach as high on the public’s radar as all this nonsense does… but I guess not, as Mark Sisson who wrote it doesn’t seem to be backed by a gargantuan multi-million dollar industry (this is me guessing here) – and it’s a shame, because as for the kind of lifestyle changes that people need to do to live healthier, longer lives… that seems to be the one to follow.

    I’ve read his book and it’s pretty good (he says exactly the same things as you’ve said here, particularly about these kinds of messages, although without the hilarious expletives)

    There’s a guy I work with who got diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago and he took up the primal lifestyle to see if that would help. He said it literally saved his life, and he doesn’t need any medication at all. It’s funny, because he’s also ridiculously healthy, happy, and in great shape.

    Maybe you could share your article and thoughts on “marksdailyapple.com” – I’m sure you’ll find a whole army of friends (and please excuse the use of the word ‘army’)

  29. I disagree with this article. These images are geared towards a certain segment of the population. Athletes, lifters or basically anyone who wants to push themselves harder.
    You can honesty just ignore the message within those images because if you are that offended by them then they probably aren’t for you.
    Does the author even lift?

    • I disagree. These images are totally geared towards people who are unfit and overweight, in a misguided attempt to shame them into being fit and healthy.

      People (particularly women) with strong self image and a sense of self worth don’t buy into these memes, but those who think they are inferior sure as hell do. And there is absolutely no evidence that shaming these people and making them feel worse about themselves, which is what these “you are inferior if you don’t do what these people do” memes do, will help them to feel better about themselves or treat their bodies with love and respect.

      • Another thing to consider is that if they are that unfit and take these memes to heart then they are already not “treating their bodies with love and respect” and obviously feel guilty about something. Everyone needs to stop taking offense to something that they don’t like. We do not live in a dictatorship and the internet is freedom. The minute you take that away those same people would be crying about being oppressed.

    • Common Sense says:

      Yes the author lifts, intellectually.
      Try it sometime. The brain is a muscle too.

  30. Personally, I’ve found that there’s a sweet spot with weight training. There should be moments during the workout that are difficult and unpleasant, but I should be able to leave the gym feeling good and energetic without shaking limbs. If I happen to go beyond that, I take note and try to figure out if I need to do less volume or take a deload week or do a bit more aerobic work or get more sleep or whatever.

  31. This would have been more impressive if, at the bottom of the article there hadn’t been a link that said “You might also like: how to have flat abs, better sex and rule the world in 8 easy steps.”

    • ‘And rule the world the world in 8 days’ I think you missed the sarcastic tone. Another very good article and definatly along the same lines as this one.

  32. One of the pics used in your article is of my friend….used with his permission?!!!

  33. These comments are comical. You wouldn’t put a fat person eating McDonald’s on a poster and have any of these slogans on them. Having a fit person on them is now all of a sudden a bad thing? I thought we were trying to get people to be fit and take care of themselves instead of sitting on the couch being lazy. Let’s keep it in perspective. I doubt very highly that someone is going to read these and say that I have to be crawling and puking for it to mean that I had a good workout. That is just stupid to take it literally.

    • ThePaleKing71 says:

      There’s a difference between a fit person, and an aesthetically pleasing, photo-shopped image that doesn’t have much basis in reality. Like the author said, you’re not going to see Kristin Rhodes on any “strong is the new skinny” memes.

  34. Aaron Claypool says:

    It’s so easy to get caught up in the image and mindset those kind of ads convey. With nearly 2/3 of Americans actually overweight or obese, it does feel like the message those ads produce ends up driving more people away from a fit lifestyle. It’s saying “if you’re not gonna look *this* good, don’t bother stepping up”.
    That’s not to blame the fitness industry. It’s just to say that those types of ads are meant to sell a product to a very limited group. They’re not meant to be sage advice.

  35. I’ve written two book about this subject baseed on 10 years of extensive research and Kevin is absolutely correct in every aspect. I applaud him heartily for speaking out. Wish more people would see the stupidity behind what we’re told about health. One other point: in order to increase muscle size, you must tear those muscles. It is this that then causes the body to repair them stronger and bigger. Tearing them repeatedly is what you have to do to get the size of body builders. However you look at it, deliberately tearing your muscles can’t ever be a healthy option.

  36. wellokaythen says:

    Wow. Doesn’t anyone actually, you know, have FUN when they exercise? Seems like some part of it should be enjoyable.

    Isn’t it supposed to be fun on some level?

  37. Frustrated says:

    I wholeheartedly disagree with this article. Strong means different things for different people, just like fit means different things for people in different sports. To discount anyone’s form of motivation seems silly. Everyone needs motivation, it’s not going to be the same thing for everyone. Rather than anyone trashing someone else’s motivation, it would seem better to find alternate forms of motivation that DO motivate that person instead. Just my two cents.

  38. As an ex-competitive cross country skier with coaching qualifications, I know what its like to go past my limits, and I also know what its like to be truly healthy. Here’s what I hate about those images:

    1) Bulk Isn’t Health

    To feel healthy and in shape, you’ve gotta work on your cardio. Work on running 5 or 10 kms. Do free weights to get toned. Strictly anaerobic training won’t make you feel any better during your day to day, and isn’t something you can maintain your entire life. It will release more endorphins too.

    2) How to Train

    Unless you’re being competitive and judged, pushing past your limit is dangerous. Train TO your limit, then recover. You will still improve on your results, but won’t have to overcome injury. I’ve raced to the point where I can’t stand up after the finish line, a and I can’t distinguish a bus from a tree, but to do that each day in training would be absurd.

    3) BULK DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE HEALTHY!

  39. sanctifying.victory says:

    I saved all of the images to my iPad as inspiration.

    And you really need to get a sense of proportion. One minute with a real existential crisis would disabuse you of your silliness.

  40. @sanctifying.victory DITTO!

    When I went from obese chips chomper to working out for health, sport, entertainment, many former friends called me “obsessed”, “gym rat”, “spinach breath”. A few saw the changes in me & changed, too. The rest still content themselves into greater obesity, into heart disease. I like the photos, love anything motivating others toward fitness goals.

  41. Regarding number 5:

    “Quick! What do all three of the women pictured above have in common? If you said, “they’re all skinny”, you’re exactly right!”
    Totally wrong. Those girls may be slim, but definitely not skinny by any stretch.

  42. I usually really enjoy reading articles from this site, but America has an obesity problem and I was (and kind of still am) part of that problem. I lost 25lbs in late 2014 and I didnt do it by stopping when I got tired. I did it by exercising hard and pushing myself. There were some times where I had trouble walking the day after a workout because I was so sore because I didnt stop when things got “uncomfortable” . Everyone is being taught to love and accept themselves because they are special and theres no one else like them and thats fine. This huge obesity problem IS NOT FINE. It takes a toll on your health. I dont agree with about half of those pictures you posted, but people need to learn to push themselves past the point of being a little tired or they will never get anywhere. I personally found strength in hating and shaming myself and that was my driving force when I wanted to quit. I wanted to be proud of my body again. It was hard mentally and physically but with each pound lost I feel more proud of my body and my progress. With so many people overweight in America why are we shaming the fit/athletic people? Really?

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    she will have to let go of many crucial assignments including Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine.
    The 33-year-old singer heated the world by her attractive voice
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Trackbacks

  1. […] The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible “Fitspiration” Photos The Good Men Project So beautiful, in fact, that the rest of the health and fitness propaganda floating around Facebook like turds in a pool started to really, really piss me off.  […]

  2. […] The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible “Fitspiration” Photos So beautiful, in fact, that the rest of the get betterier and fitness propaganda floating around Facebook like turds in a pool started to really, really piss me off. So thoughtful deconstruction has been …. What do all three of the women pictured above have … Read more on The Good Men Project […]

  3. […] when I came across this great article by Kevin Moore on the ‘6 most shockingly irresponsible “fitspiration” photos’, it really hit a nerve. Moore looks at a few Pinterest type images that blend a catchy motivational […]

  4. […] But let’s shift the context for photo 2.  Slap that .jpeg on a gay-only or gay-friendly website, and similar comments might appear.  The Main Site isn’t an entrepôt for gay pornography (not primarily, anyway, though there are certainly some choice cutlets on display there); we can safely assume that the posters of these images knew the difference.  Photo 1, they’ve got to be thinking at least subconsciously, is for the “spank bank,” while photo 2 is merely intended as some grrreat fitspirtation. […]

  5. […] has been a lot of talk lately, on The Good Men Project and elsewhere, about the so-called “fitspiration” posters which […]

  6. […] over pinterest.  well, i pinned an article that make some astute observations about such images: “the 6 most shockingly irresponsible ‘fitspiration’ photos’” by kevin moore, published on the good men project on 2013년09월12일.  as i said about this post […]

  7. […] And: in the last couple of days Fb friends have posted on the new, “healthier” direction that we’re heading in for women’s fitness—“strong is the new sexy”. Have you heard? Being attractive now is not about being skinny, it’s about being super-fit. And, incidentally, being very skinny, and very hungry. (Kevin Moore, at the Good Men Project, has a nice take-down of the sinister subtext of this “fitspiration” aesthetic: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/brand-the-6-most-shockingly-irresponsible-fitspiration-ph…).  […]

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