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How Bad Really Are 'Fitspo' and 'Thinspo'?

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Scrolling through Twitter (as I do frequently) I'm seeing more and more tweets about "fitspo," "thinspo" and recently, "curvespo." When these tweets starting appearing a while ago, I assumed they were just some new passing fad, but on finding out a bit more, the reality is kind of worrying. The trends have been subject to extensive media coverage, because of the damaging effects they can have on young teenagers.

"Thinspo" is when people post photos of unhealthily skeletal girls or "motivational" quotes, which are meant to encourage you to lose as much weight as possible. Apparently when the trend first emerged, social media platforms tried to ban these images. However, there are just too many to control -- some of these accounts have thousands of followers. Many of the photos posted by "thinspo" accounts, showing super-skinny girls with supposedly desirable bodies, are horrifying because the models look so unhealthy, and in some cases actually sick. What's maybe worse is when the photos are of normal girls who have become anorexic and are encouraging others to do the same. There's this whole community of people who encourage others to harm themselves, where the ultimate goal appears to be achieving the perfect "thigh gap." I can see absolutely nothing good about "thinspo." To me, Twitter and Tumblr should be doing all they can to shut down the pro-anorexia accounts, which just harm people.

On the other hand, I can see how "fitspo" can have some benefits. It can, of course, become dangerous when advocating doing three-hour long extreme workouts to get "perfect abs," but in general, encouraging people to eat healthily and exercise is clearly a good thing, especially as there is so much obesity amongst teenagers nowadays. On "fitspo" Twitter or Tumblr accounts, people share their workout tips and photos of athletes, and people exercising which are meant to inspire you to lead a healthier lifestyle. Often people post photos of supposedly motivational slogans along the lines of "Stop being jealous of her body -- and do something about yours" and I guess if this encourages some girls to get off the couch and go for a run, that's a good thing.

What I find really worrying about "fitspo," however, is girls asking "fitspo" accounts they look up to for diet advice, when really this is something you should discuss with your doctor. I've seen people receive advice recommending they do two hours of workouts daily as well as drastically lowering their calorie intake each day. This isn't ideal -- I'd never trust advice I'd received from a random teenager over the Internet but I guess some people would, and this can lead to more eating disorders. While "fitspo" could be encouraging just to get you to start working out or to ditch the fast food in favor of fruit and vegetables, some people say it's just the deeply disturbing "thinspo" under disguise, and I can completely see where they're coming from. It's never a good idea to make young, impressionable girls think that having a skeletal frame is something they should strive for.

It's not only girls who are affected by these trends -- "fitspo" also encourages teenage boys to bulk up and become super muscly, sometimes advocating the use of steroids to enhance body shape. This can be equally damaging -- some boys, especially younger ones who don't know their physical limits -- could harm themselves by following a workout meant for a much bigger, adult man.

What seems to be the latest variation on the trends of "fitspo" and "thinspo" is "curvespo," where girls celebrate their body shape and the focus is on being healthy rather than skinny. I guess this is the right message to send out, but then again, some of these photos of "curvy" women are just size 0 with breast implants...