4 Ways Instagram Is Ruining Fitness
1 – The Cheapening of Expertise
Here’s something you experience as a personal trainer quite frequently: Someone close to you, let’s say your mum, mentions she’d like to lose a bit of weight. You, a person who works in the fitness industry, is qualified to prescribe exercise and nutrition advice, has a decade of experience doing so, give her a bit of advice. This advice is immediately ignored.
Cut to two weeks later, your mum shows you a magazine article where some reality TV cretin turned self-professed weight loss expert advocates a two week fast where you eat nothing but pot pourri. Your mum thinks this looks great. She’s gonna give it a go.
Why does this happen? Partly it’s proximity bias. Your mum is just too close to you to take you seriously. After all, what do you know, you little shit? She used to change your nappies. Go tidy your room.
But it’s also a result of the slow death of the expert. Instagram feeds into a wider trend where we value celebrity over actual expertise. The fact is, being hot and having a million followers has zero correlation to knowing what you’re talking about.
Seeking education about fitness and nutrition is good, but don’t get suckered in by someone based on the size of their insta following.
2 – Insanely Unrealistic Standards
You think you’re on Instagram for inspiration. I bet that’s what you’d say if I asked you why you follow so many inhumanly shredded fitness models. But if you’re honest with yourself, I bet it does the opposite. It certainly doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.
Instagram is not reality. It’s angles, lighting, filters. It’s dieting for 12 weeks for a photo shoot where you wear a bunch of different outfits and then space the pictures out over a year to make it look like you’re always shredded. It’s clenbuterol, anavar, growth hormone and the rest. It’s people with the best genetics using every trick at their disposal.
It’s also full of people whose entire sense of themselves is tied up in how they look. So no wonder they’re happy to give up having a normal social life to stay home and cook salmon and broccoli.
You must realise that you’re only competing with yourself. Trying to be like someone else, without taking into account their situation and priorities, is a fast route to unhappiness.
3 – No Filter For Quality
The best thing about the internet is that it’s an open forum where anyone can express themselves. The worst thing about the internet, on the other hand, is that it’s an open forum where anyone can express themselves.
Just as democracy can be great or saddle you with an insane president who’s probably going to get us all nuked; the internet can yield amazing voices you’d never have heard elsewhere in the media… Or it can be a cesspit of unqualified scam artists and deranged idiots.
Instagram is no different. The plethora of so-called experts who’s only qualifications are their own pert buttocks doling out terrible advice is enough to leave you confused and dispirited.
Our advice? Develop a filter. No, not the kind that makes you look more tanned and gets rid of eye bags. We mean a filter for bullshit.
This is a huge subject, but if someone is claiming their methods are revolutionary and using scare tactics such as claiming specific foods will make you sick, those are two huge red flags.
4 – Good Food/Bad Food Madness
Saying “bad food” is like saying “bad exercise”. A bench press is a great exercise for certain people with certain goals, a bad one for others. Without context, words like good or bad are meaningless. But that’s not what instagram thinks. Fitness Insta has a very clear idea of what constitutes “good” or “clean” or “paleo”, and you better believe it involves avocados.
As for the “bad foods”, they’re reserved for “cheat days”, when you’ve been “good” all week. The narrative of good food vs bad food is as ill-conceived, pointless and aggravating as the film Batman vs Superman. You can eat good foods and still be in a massive calorie surplus, hence all these “paleo” douchebags who never seem to be able to get lean. Likewise, you can eat out every meal and still be in a calorie deficit, which will lead to weight loss.
You need to understand principles, rather than reductively label foods good or bad. And the principles aren’t that complex. Based on your weight, what is your calorie goal, what’s your protein target, and how much carbs and fat does that leave you to play with? If you answer those questions, anything that fits the plan will get you results.
Instagram can be fun, but let’s ditch the good food/bad food fairy tales. And if you’re following a ton of fitness models, don’t do it to learn, do it to look at them half naked like a normal person.
Contact Evolve today to book a personal trainer near you.
Words by Zack Cahill