The Online Image

{By Taylor Eckel}

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Lately I’ve taken to perusing Pinterest, Instagram, and a variety of fitness websites as a way to broaden my workout repertoire.

In addition to a plethora of motivational graphics, I’ve found some great exercises. However, I believe there is a darker side to many of the popular exercise and motivational graphics, and I often find myself in need of a healthy dose of reality.

You see, many online fitness resources communicate subtle falsehoods that breed discontentment and discouragement.

Let’s think about the images that accompany workout instructions and motivational sayings. Many of the models pictured in inspirational graphics are airbrushed. Many graphics and exercise instructions feature women whose full-time job is to workout. While there is nothing inherently wrong with working in the fitness industry, those of us who are not must remember that one intense hour in the gym most days of the week will most likely not yield the same results.

We set ourselves up for disappointment and discouragement when we create unrealistic expectations.

When it comes to managing expectations, I think it is important to take into account your natural body type. We are each genetically predisposed to carry weight in particular ways, and we each have a genetically-determined bone structure. Some girls will never have a gap between their thighs without becoming unhealthily thin. Others girls shed fat everywhere but around the tummy. Know the body type the Lord has given you, and celebrate it by learning how to flatter it with clothing and balance it by building muscle. (While it is impossible to target where you lose fat, it is fairly simple to increase muscle mass and strength in your target areas.)

While we’re on the subject of body types, have you noticed that most only fitness resources only picture a narrow range of fit, healthy body types? I take issue with this, because it is all too easy to uphold fitness models as the standard of health and excellence. Yes, there are fit, healthy women who are built like these models. But there are plenty of other fit, healthy women who do not look like fitness models, and never will. Because they are never portrayed, it is implied that a woman is only fit and/or healthy if she fits a certain physical stereotype.

A Final Caution— exercise discernment. I’ve definitely clicked links from Pinterest and found myself on websites I would otherwise not visit. Through Pinterest, I’ve found great exercises… on the websites of those raunchy magazines I avoid when I buy groceries. Know your weaknesses, and remember that it is better that you completely avoid the legitimately helpful exercise instructions than stumble over to the sinful areas of a website. Also realize that many trainers and fitness models wear very little clothing. If this is a sensitive issue for you, or makes you begrudge modesty, avoid them. You can find great workouts with decent or no graphics. (I highly recommend for great ab exercises demonstrated by a fully-clothed guy.)