Exercise and Anxiety: Social Media and the rise of the super fit.

Social media is a double edged sword for me. I use it every day, and I post quite a lot. I blog (obviously) and a lot of what I blog about and read about and the people I follow are food/fitness professionals making their living through their food and fitness guides. I don’t do that; I am an amateur. While they can be inspirational, and I have learnt a lot through following different people, sometimes they make me anxious and insecure, depressed that I am sitting on the sofa eating mayo that somebody else made, and I forgot to check whether my cashew cheese was grown by organic virgins and whisked under the light of the new moon. Not all fitness/food blogs are like this, but enough that I think they can have a negative impact, if you are that way inclined.

So this is why I sometimes want to punch social media in the face:

  1. Motivational quotes: see my blog on positive mental attitude for a deeper exploration of why positive mental attitude quotes actually really piss me off. But basically when related to exercise I think they can set up more barriers than they break down.
    1. You choose your life. Actually, a lot of the time you don’t. I don’t choose when school decides it is parents’ evening (and when it is supposed to finish at 7 but I am still talking to parents at 8.45), when a student has a melt- down, when my dad died. Seriously! So I didn’t get my work out in today, or yesterday and it won’t fucking happen tomorrow because life. Whoopdedo for the amazing X who chose to turn her life around by doing 20 minutes of HIIT every day and now her life is amazing and as a by-product of changing her body shape she has also become a millionaire with the self-confidence to scale Everest.
    2. If you want it, you will make time. So humans can create time now? Seriously? I read a motivational post about exercises you can add to your daily run to work- see you can fit in some HIIT into your cardio which will make it super effective. My daily run to work? WTAF? How many assumptions in that sentence?
      1. You run to work every day?
      2. You can run to work every day? Well, I can’t. There are no shower facilities where I work, so turning up a hot sweaty beetroot coloured mess and then spending all day worrying if I am going to be nicknamed Miss Smelly by students is not happening. I tried. It didn’t really work. What if you live too far away? You have to drop children off at nursery? You work two jobs?
      3. A lot of these posts come from people who work in the fitness industry. If you work in a gym then forgive me for pointing it out, but of course it is easy to fit a workout into your break. You are ALREADY THERE. When I belonged to the gym, it took at least 20 minutes to get there. Do I have time to get there and do a quick lunch work out? No I do not. Also I am expected to be available throughout my lunch hour, so no go.
    3. They make you feel rubbish about yourself, so why even try? This one explains itself I think.
  2. Photos of fit people looking fit. There is a wealth of articles on this, but basically look at the lighting, the pose, the breathing in, the outtakes you don’t see, the camera angle. However, we often don’t think about those things because look at that person! Look at those abs, muscles, flex. Of course these people have put the hours in, but try it yourself. Flex your leg muscles, point your toes. Oh look, your leg looks different. High heels work on a similar principle- they force you to tense your muscles so your legs give the appearance of being slimmer and more toned. Sometimes these photos might be inspirational, but too often they look unobtainable. Learning theory suggests that we can learn through vicarious reinforcement- seeing someone else achieve what we would like to, however, there are also factors that affect this. If we can’t identify with someone then we are unlikely to see them as a role model. This means posting pictures of your muscular self in a bikini can make it pretty difficult for someone to identify with you. I’ve also noticed that where client journeys are posted, the client looked pretty healthy in the first place, so this means someone who is struggling with even starting to exercise or change their eating patterns can be put off even more
  3. Money: not only do you need time to invest in health and fitness on a regular basis, you also need money. You know which food is cheap? All the food that is verboten- processed white bread, value ham, margarine, biscuits, turkey twizzlers. How guilt inducing must it be to be told that if you feed your children any of the above, you don’t love them enough to care about their health? FUCK OFF! I shop at Aldi and sometimes Asda, very occasionally Waitrose when I am feeling flush. But, as someone living on their own in London, my rent forbids that I can buy grass fed organic beef massaged by Argentinian virgins until it contains extra nutrients. I can buy cheap ass coconut oil from the world foods aisle (it’s cheaper than the coconut oil in the oil aisle because that is made for wanky pricks, rather than normal people who have been using this superfood forever), and I can buy fresh fruit and veg- seriously the Aldi weekly offers are great. Exercise gear! Of course you can go running, you just need some trainers. Well, what if you can’t afford them? Yoga classes? Gym membership? Dumbells? Resistance bands? This might not be something that plagues everybody, but it can be a barrier, and to be made anxious about the fact you can’t afford the time/money to provide home- made protein balls for your kids is something I haven’t got time for.This also goes for kitchen equipment. I’m feeling it. I lost custody of the magimix in my recent breakup. Foolishly I hadn’t thought to ask my parents to spunk £200+ on a mayonnaise maker. Doh! Although I am not entirely to blame- I don’t have parents. Too dark? Maybe. Anyway, I don’t have £200+ knocking about to splurge, nor do I have the £150+ for an insta-pot, or £100 for a decent set of knives. I have one sharp knife in my kitchen, and my diy magimix consists of a bowl and a wooden spoon. So, how many recipes on the fitness food blogs that I follow can I actually make? If I wrote a cook book, it would be about how to make stuff with one knife and a pan. It wouldn’t contain a two page list of what the ‘basic kitchen’ needs. Nor would the recipes contain references to oddly expensive substitutes to make them inaccessible to many.

So, I am occasionally left feeling anxious, but more often angry when I read posts full of assumptions about other people’s lives and how much choice we have available to us. I decided yesterday, if you want to be a bit more active- go for a walk. It might not be 5 rounds of HIIT in a gym in a £50 pair of yoga tights and designer sports bra, but you can do it in clothes you already own, and it is definitely more active than sitting on the sofa. If you’ve got time of course.

Disclaimer: I know this says more about me than the people I am angry with.


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