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Why You Should Consider Trashing Your Fitspiration Pictures

woman critiquing body in mirrorDo you obsess over “fitspiration” photos, featuring images of perfect fitness models sweating and yet somehow looking perfect? Do you hang these photos all over your mirror or vision board, wishing you could be them? Do you compare your stomach to the washboard abs in the pictures, only to be disgusted with yourself?

At one time, I did too. I totally understand the idea that these images may inspire us to work harder or exercise or eat right when we don’t feel like it, but when it becomes an obsession or a source of constant frustration, you might consider trashing these photos like I did.

You Can Never Compete With Carefully Crafted Perfection

The images you find online and in magazines feature models who yes, are in really great shape, but have also been carefully treated with flattering lighting and poses, tans, makeup, and even Photoshop retouching. They probably dieted down for their shoot to ridiculously low body fat percentages, and carefully reduced any water weight to make their muscles appear even more “cut” using professional tricks.

You then end up comparing your imperfect self that you see everyday in the mirror or in pictures to someone else’s perfectly calculated and masterfully created modeling portfolio. Just like you, these models have days where they are bloated, have pimples, and I’m sure many have stretch marks and cellulite that have been hidden.

You may also be a mid-thirties mom of three comparing yourself to a teenager (guilty!). While you may feel temporarily inspired to work harder, I promise you that it is a perfection that you will NEVER be able to reach, because it’s NOT YOU nor is it all that real.

Are you a busy mom? Here’s your guide to re-claiming your hotness.

External Gratification Won’t Last

What ends up happening is we decide that we aren’t good enough and must change our external appearance to look more like the models. We label it a goal, we think of it as positive thinking and inspiration, and off we go, killing ourselves to reach that level of fit.

We may make massive changes to our bodies, and find that gratification momentarily, but then we check ourselves against those fitspiration models again and dammit, it’s still not good enough. So we either kill ourselves some more, going to extremes to reach that “goal”, or we give up out of frustration.

The idea that we aren’t good enough unless we have that six pack or those perfect glutes (guilty!) ends up making us absolutely insane. Self-loathing follows, and long-term happiness and gratification are impossible to come by.

Look Within

If you start your physical transformation from a place of caring about yourself, loving yourself enough to treat your body well and stop abusing it, the changes are so much more likely to be permanent. You won’t be on this constant quest for something you can never find, but instead you’ll just be doing what feels truly good every single day.

You’ll jump off the endless cycle of Must Fix Self –> Work Hard To Fix Self –> Yay It’s Better But Not Perfect –> I Give Up –> I Hate Myself –> Repeat. Instead, you’ll fall into a daily routine of self-care, which will lead to a physical transformation that will be permanent and APPRECIATED by you.

To do this, stop judging yourself against pictures of perfection. If you need a visual for inspiration, use quotes or even photos of you at YOUR best. Start being thankful for what is looking back at you in the mirror, no matter how hard that is to do.

Start to appreciate all the things you can do, have accomplished, and the beauty and wonder of YOU. Tell yourself in the mirror every single day “I accept myself exactly as I am right now”.

Re-frame your perspective on low-quality junk foods as abuse to your body, not a reward or a comfort. Re-frame your perspective on exercise as a way to feel good, not a punishment. Re-frame healthy foods as preventative medicine and energy for your life. It’s a daily process that won’t always be perfect, but with daily practice will improve over time.

  • Kelty

    This hit the mark. Thank you for being so honest, direct and vulnerable. I believe this will encourage many women out there. It for sure encouraged me.

    • Deanna Schober

      I’m so glad Kelty!

  • lauramomct

    Thank you for this article. I recently had an epiphany that I allowed my two years living in TX to create a very unreal set of expectations regarding my physical appearance. I am an attractive 37yr old who has been active for many years. I started exercising to manage my moods and it was wonderful. I loved to exercise. I teach my kids to love fitness and good health. When we moved to TX from CT I was suddenly in a place where people attire was tank tops, shorts, and swimsuits much of the year. My athletic 5’8″ 140lb figure was OK but I wanted to look like a fitness model. I spent more time at the gym and less time outside in nature. I was more muscular and I worked out hard. I also felt frustrated that I wasn’t looking like I stepped out of a fitness magazine. I knew those photos were touched up and the model were younger and with out kids- but it didn’t matter.

    I moved back to CT and I stopped exercising. It no longer made me feel good, but rather frustrated. I haven’t gained any weight. My body composition is different- I am ‘fatter’ but I am finally starting to feel happier. I have decided to go back to my old routine and do what make me feel good at the gym and outside. I am already beautiful with out six pack abs and I am certainly not missing any magical part of life by not having a ‘perfect’ figure…in fact I was missing out on a lot more by wanting something that wasn’t realistic. Women should love who they are if they want to see real changes in their life and happiness.

    • Deanna Schober

      Living in TX myself I relate to this!! I’m so glad you had this epiphany and I hope more women (and men!) do too.

    • Nicolez

      I relate!
      My present goal is to be the BEST me. Healthy and fit me and I just need to stay consistent in this lifestyle.

  • Sheri

    Wow. Fellow DFW dweller here. This hit home SO hard. I quit a very good program due to this very thing, all unconscious at the time of course. I was making good progress but still didn’t look the way I wanted to and was super sore all the time. I got frustrated by the perception of massive pain and effort versus still not looking svelte, let go and now am facing starting over and once again feeling angry at myself and hopeless. Thank you for this eye opener. I never quite thought of it this way.

    • Deanna Schober

      I’m so glad to hear this Sheri. Good luck!

  • Gymbunny

    Thank you for this article. I do look through pictures of perfect female bodies on all different fitness sites and wish i could have a similar body. I work out hard and after three children my body’s not as bad as i feel. I’m not overweight and i need to try and think more positive about myself.

  • Sheea05

    The lazy call it an obsession, we call it inspiration and dedication to health.

    • Deanna Schober

      I think you missed the point. Being obsessed with an ideal to the point of mental anguish and unhappiness is completely separate from someone who is dedicated to health and fitness.
      I don’t need images of other women to inspire me to be fit and healthy, I’m capable of those things without also torturing myself, as I prove to myself everyday.

  • metalmancpa

    I posted this in an older blog entry (8 things that piss you off):

    A HUGE turn off for me in fitness are the countless pictures of entirely ripped males / females in marketing and motivational posters etc. I am 53 years old and not in competition for anything, whereas most of those pictures are people who compete for a living. I look past it and do my thing, but those pictures alone can indirectly set unrealistic goals (“I want to look like that”) which can easily derail ones efforts.

    I understand those people in those pictures worked hard to get where they are. But I venture a guess a majority of them get paid for their efforts. I’m just a CPA who does fitness. Sure I’d like to be “ripped”, but I’m not chasing a dream those pictures portray.

  • Geosomin

    This is a good reminder. Often this kind of beauty with a low body fat and felt isjust not possible to maintain in a normal like. It’s a real headgame to think you’re fat from just not being “perfect” or after a stint at that level when really you look pretty awesome, just not magazine awesome. It should be about health first and formost, both mental and physical

  • Vanessa

    Beautifully written…thank you.