Experts say ‘fitspiration’ could be harmful, not healthy

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Sometimes you need a little motivation to get off the couch and into the gym. Now you see #fitspiration all over the internet to do just that. That’s the point of the internet term for photos and slogans intended to inspire people to meet their fitness goals.

You can’t ignore it; thousands of photos are posted and pinned every day on social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram. But News 4 is learning there’s a huge difference between healthy inspiration and unhealthy ideals.

Fitness enthusiast and gym owner Amy Bueme has her own following on social media. She owns Catalyst Fitness and says she is asked to share recipes and small workouts online to motivate people to stay in shape.

“If I can put some positive energy out there, it just makes me feel really really good,” she says.

Bueme is part of the social media movement called Fitspiration. “Fitbies” as they are also called, are showing up everywhere.

Bueme says, “I work full time, I’m a mom of four and I still make time to make sure I feel good about myself.”

Just type “fitspiration” into any internet search engine and thousands of images and fitness- related slogans will appear. But now there’s a new movement from psychologists to stop this from flooding the minds of young adults and women.

“It undermines peoples’ sense of themselves, and it makes them feel worse about themselves rather then better,” says Family Therapist, PHD, LMFT, Dr. Kathleen Calabrese. She says “fitspo” makes those with body issues feel ashamed of their struggle. “When social media touts the ease of losing weight and presents images that are completely unrealistic, it just reinforces the sense of shame and humiliation that people feel who are struggling,” she says.

That’s because many of the “fitspo” images actually look a lot like “thinspiration.” If you’re unaware of that term, do a quick search. You’ll immediately find thousands of photos of heart-breakingly thin young women, and some men too.

Personal trainer and gym owner Joe Fox says this can intimidate anyone, and also do more harm than good.

He says, “Do you constantly need everything you look at to be some barely dressed woman with a perfect body?”

“There’s a lot of bad information out there. Whether it be on nutrition, whether it be on supplements or whether it be on exercises that are in fact bad for you because they will cause injuries.” It’s now being called into question by a study out of Australia. Flinders University Researchers say the overly sexualized, appearance-based messages may be harmful for women’s psychological well-being.

Fox says, “So the economic reality of it is sex sells and people are trying to take advantage of that.”

Dr. Calabrese says, “The people that are being presented as icons of perfection- they spend most of their lives working out and looking beautiful because they have an image to protect and its a part of their business. Everyday people don’t have that luxury.”

Bueme herself has been down that road where she compares herself to other women. She says every body is different- and everyone has a different story. “You don’t know everyone’s journey and you don’t know where that person was on the treadmill next to you [was] a year ago.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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