Why some fitspo images are incredibly misleading

Written by Sophie Kay | 13 January, 2016

UK personal trainer and blogger Sophie Kay gives her take on why fitness isn’t necessarily connected with a certain body type, and the danger of some 'fitspo' campaigns on social media.

Let’s take a little poll – how many of you have a certain image of a personal trainer or someone who is ‘fit’ in your minds? Yep, thought so, quite a few of you. Well, as a personal trainer and fitness blogger I see a lot of pressure in the industry to look and act a certain way that can be stressful and damaging. When I started on my fitness journey I turned to Instagram for inspiration, like a lot of other young women. I followed a host of young women who had those enviably flat stomachs, long tanned legs and sweat-free faces and aspired to be exactly like them.

Two years later I’ve come to the slow realisation that fitness isn’t necessarily connected with a certain aesthetic or figure. Plus, some of what is posted online as ‘fitspo’ can be incredibly misleading.

Take selfies for example – the ubiquitous currency of young men and women today. If those ‘before and after’ shots show what seems like an impossible improvement that’s because it is not a fair comparison. I have seen before and after shots feature two different people, heavy Photoshop and other clever tricks.

My own now infamous ‘before and after’ photo shows how easy it is to fake an improvement without any tech wizardry whatsoever. All I did in the three minutes between the two photos being taken was to turn off the overhead light, put on some more flattering underwear, twist my body slightly to the side to show off my best angle, flex and, of course, add a filter.

That said, there are plenty of real progress shots out there and some amazing transformations. However those women and men will be the first to tell you it took time, hard work and commitment. There are no quick fixes when it comes to fitness.

There’s also no reason why fit and healthy people need to look a certain way. I’ve been sizes lighter than I am now and unable to do half of the things I can do today – like squat more than 100 per cent of my body weight and complete a 40 mile cycle race.

And no, I don’t have a six-pack. Having a six-pack just means your body fat percentage is low enough to be able to see your abdominal muscles. Also, the shape of your abs is totally dependent on your genetics. Some people can get a six-pack, some can’t.

For the majority of people the lifestyle they would have to live to achieve and maintain this type of definition isn’t achievable. Also, ladies, having such a low body fat percentage might stop your periods. Surely that can’t be good for you...

The last myth I want to dispel is that exercise is easy, full of sunshine and smiles and leaves you with a flawless face.

Exercise is not easy. And if it is easy then you’re not pushing yourself. And if you’re not pushing yourself then you won’t make any progress. Even if your goal is just to clear your head you need to put in a bit of effort to achieve that.

The real side of fitness is early mornings, freezing hands and ears in winter, ridiculous sports bra tans in summer, stinging sweat in your eyes, not bothering to wash your hair because you’re only going to get sweaty again tomorrow, permanent hand callouses, blistered feet and stiff muscles. But all of this adds up to feeling alive, proud and on top of the world.

Sophie Kay

Sophie Kay is a personal trainer and fitness blogger based in London, England. After being a sporty and active teenager, five years in an office job led to her piling on the pounds and growing increasingly unhappy.

Sophie got fit again and fell in love with the power of transformation and body confidence that she became a personal trainer to help other people to fall in love with their bodies.