Social Media and Fitness, a bad combination.
When I first started going to the gym around 13 years ago at the age of 16, things were a little different. You see, when you first started wanting to make a change in your life either to, get a bit fitter, reduce a little body fat, build some muscle tissue etc, all you would need to do is go down to your local gym, book an induction, get shown how to use the machines, maybe pay a little extra to get a training programme to follow when you were there and you were on your way! This is exactly what I done. I remember being excited to get in there and start using all these weird and wonderful machines that were on offer that were going to lead me towards achieving my fitness goals. It was an exciting time. While you were there, you might see someone who you’d like to look like and maybe even get chatting to them to ask some advice on the best methods for getting yourself to a similar standard. It was all quite social. Going to the gym wasn’t a chore or a vanity contest, it was just a group of like-minded people looking to improve and help each other.
Fast-forward a decade and things are a little bit different. While the rise of social media has brought so much good to people’s lives there’s also the negative aspect that has been brought about particularly in the industry I work in, Health and Fitness. Firstly, the “health” part doesn’t seem to be particularly important anymore. The definition of this word in this context has been misconstrued to mean looking a certain way rather than living and feeling a certain way. While you might look at someone and think “Wow they look really good”, if they’re lifestyle is training every single day and eating minimal calories in order to stay lean year-round because of the pressures they see and feel from social media is that really what you would describe as being a “healthy” individual? Now you might be reading this thinking “Isn’t it a bit hypocritical of someone who has competed in natural bodybuilding shows to be criticising the idea of doing too much and looking a certain way?” and you’d be right. You see the thing is, in my own personal circumstances, I came from a competitive background of playing football for several years before I seriously got into training and missed the competitive aspect of my football days. I wanted to somehow channel this into my own training and test how disciplined I could truly be and this was my way of doing it. Reasonable enough I think? Regardless of my own personal reasons, the person I alluded to earlier that is training every day and consuming low amounts of calories to stay lean may absolutely love their way of life and doesn’t see it as a chore at all. That’s great for them but I believe they are in the minority and the rest of the people who are living this type of lifestyle are doing so because they feel they must because of external pressures like social media.
Think about the next time you’re in a gym I want you to look around. How many people have their heads down playing on their mobile phone? Probably a lot, right? Is this the actions of people who are doing something they truly love? Texting, emailing and making plans for when they FINALLY get to leave the gym!? Think about the last time you were at a concert or show you were really enjoying, were you engrossed in your mobile phone throughout it making plans for when it was finally over? I’m guessing the answer is no. Don’t get me wrong, there are days where your own personal discipline makes you get out the house, grab your kit or running shoes and you just get it done even though you’re not necessarily feeling up to it. I commend you for that. As a PT this is one of the crucial factors I’m looking for from my clients because motivation is such a fleeting emotion we can’t rely on it if we really want to achieve our goals. However, it shouldn’t be a chore every single day. The key to success is falling in love with the process then the results become inevitable. But because people are constantly seeing these “perfect people” on social media who have the “perfect body” people are being pressured into trying to achieve the same unrealistic results and therefore getting even more frustrated and disheartened in what is quite frankly, a horrible feedback loop. Rather than pursuing it for themselves they are being pressured into it because it is what social media is portraying what people “should” look like and they are taking things to the extremes with both training and diet to achieve this.
I heard a saying once…”Trying to have the same body, figure, physique as someone else is like trying to have the same face as them”. I think this is particularly powerful because it’s true yet how many people have you heard say “I want her legs, bum, arms etc etc”? Maybe you’ve even said that yourself at some point? The thing is though, it’s impossible to look EXACTLY like someone else whether that’s their face or an aspect of their figure or physique. There is only ONE of you in this world and your efforts need to be focussed towards being the best possible version of you there can be. That doesn’t mean being as lean, toned, muscular as possible, rather being in a place where your happy in your own skin. You can wear the dress without cringing, go for the Italian meal without worrying about the calorie content, feel confident in yourself in any situation. Social Media has caused us to lose sight of why we started in the first place. On the outside it looks like we’re taking positive action but in a lot of cases this is motivated by NEGATIVE intrinsic factors like the influence of what we see, hear, read and watch on social media. My remedy to this is to take stock of why you got into it in the first place. Remember your own personal reasons and let that fuel your motivational fire. When you go to the gym or a run whatever it is you like to do, don’t worry about who else you see and how far ahead of you, you perceive them to be. Just focus on yourself and what you’re doing. This is your journey, not someone else’s. Becoming the best version of yourself is the biggest achievement you could ever make not looking as like someone else as possible you saw on the internet who took the perfect photo, at the perfect angle, with the perfect filter. Life isn’t perfect, and neither are you, but that’s OK.
Author: Scott McBride