The social media fitness craze; what’s more important, real life or Instagram likes?

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Scrolling through Instagram’s Explore is an act of boredom. Watching the carefully cultivated lives of other people, more often than not showcasing teeth whiteners, green juices, uncomfortably posed changing room shots or strangely mesmerising hair braiding tutorials, it is easy to be dragged into a repetitive cycle of apathetic scrolling.

But Instagram, perhaps more than Facebook and Twitter, has emphasised the ideology of being a fitness fanatic fuelled by protein shakes, squats and Gym Shark leggings.

Their steeled six packs and peachy bums have formed a new Insta rat pack of girls who are powerful, strong and ruthlessly in control.

Girls like Kayla Itsines, Jen Selter and Tammy Hembrow, who sport some 24 million global followers between them on Instagram alone.

This article has no intention of diminishing anyone’s individual social media achievements. But it is surely not unreasonable to attribute some of the body-based paranoia in the social media generation to the rise of a fitness obsession.

When bombarded constantly with images of the ‘perfect’ athletic figure, fuelled from organic quinoa, coconut water and a ketogenic diet, it is hard for the perpetually unexercised like myself to not feel a pang of desire.

The endless photographs of sculpted bodies, each tighter and more toned than the last, create a yearning for such an evocative lifestyle.

Maybe, I think, if I drank four litres of water a day, or could bother myself three miles to the nearest gym after a ten hour shift, I could look like that too. If I sacrificed my daily Wispa on my break, exchanged my jacket potato for a middle eastern grain dish, I could bounce through two hundred squats before my morning shower.

But realistically this simply isn’t the case; all these pictures are just evidence of our increasingly marketable obsession with perfection in our modern generation.

It’s all too easy to ignore the realities behind these images as well; most fitness accounts don’t post images of them shakily trying to get their camera angle when their arms hurt from a long session, and they certainly don’t post screenshots of their bank account after a successful upload.

We aren’t exposed to the deleted images, the ‘ugly’ outtakes, the days they can’t be bothered to wash their hair.

Ryan Meegan, a personal trainer with a substantial Instagram following (@meegz_fit), suffered with ‘body dysmorphia, anxiety, paranoia’ as he struggled with the constant pressures of maintaining an enviable physique. He said, “The problem I find is that a lot of young guys and people in general, I guess, compare their chapter one to someone else’s chapter 10”.

A brutal cycle of stretching to attain and falling constantly short perpetuates the cripplingly low self esteem Ryan felt control his decisions on health.

However, it is not all bad news. The ‘body-posi’ movement encourages self-love that extends beyond the body, promoting acceptance and tolerance above all else.

Visible health, seen through the fickle lens of long lean arms and glossily toned thighs, is not a necessity but a preference.

A body does not have to be inspirational, enviable, slim or even healthy to be a ‘good’ body. Let’s remember that our bodies are simply good by virtue of what they can do for us, they can take us places, allow us to witness the world and understand it and they enable us to interact with our friends and families. So let’s love them.


Words by: Eleanor Conway

Edited by: Abbie Smyth

Alice is your lifestyle editor.

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