Social Media. *sigh*
In today’s world, it can be extremely difficult to know what’s real and what’s not. How do those fitness peeps look so dang flawless all the time?
The reality is, THEY DON’T.
With today’s digital photoshop tools, we can easily alter a photo to make us look more appealing.
Here’s a crappy self example:
Comparing the two photos of me above, it’s pretty clear that my arm sure looks bigger in the “Before” photo, right?
What if I told you the “After” photo was taken just 3 seconds after the first…
In the before photo my arm clearly looks bigger. And while flexing obviously helps, the angle, lighting, filters, and the ability to take as many photos as I’d like to find the “perfect” one that’s social media worthy, also comes into play.
Then we have the after photo… not flexed, no filters, no specific angle, and just a “one and done” snap.
I purposely chose the before photo as my more appealing of the two to show you how simple alterations can make one appear more flattering.
Can you see how these variables can be misleading and make a difference on the appearance we portray?
These Fitspo (Fitness inspirational people we idolize for motivation) posts may motivate some, but they may also discourage others. Leading them to believe that they’ll never look like that, so they just give up.
So the question is, can we stay sane with social media in the fitness space?
I’m going to lay down a few tips on how to stay sane on social media while still following your favorite “fitspo” by putting a few things into perspective for you.
Every time you see a social media post of you’re favorite Fitspo, take these factors into consideration:
1] Almost everyone on social media posts only their best possible looks.
They post when they are at their leanest and/or best possible shape. The reality is, they are almost never in that shape all the time. They just present the majority of their media content when they are in that shape. Some will even go so far as creating a massive portfolio of photos when they are in shape and use these photos throughout the year, even when they don’t currently look like that. It’s almost impossible for a man to hold 5-6% body fat year round, or a woman a woman to have veins coming out of abs, unless they have some “assistance” with drugs (more on this later). So it’s important to understand that many of these individuals not only don’t look like that all the time, they only look like that for a very short time out of the year.
2] These are most likely professional photos.
Most of these Fitspo people you follow are not only having these photos taken when they’re in peak condition, but they have a professional photographer taken them. They strategically schedule photo shoots when they are at their prime physique.
And in these professional photoshoots, they have all the bells and whistles… the perfect lighting, the spray tans, makeup artists, the highest quality cameras, and professionals to capture the best angles.
Not to mention using short-term “peaking” strategies where these models will diet down using unhealthy protocols such as carb depletion, water loading and cutting, and salt manipulation that has them appearing dryer and leaner than normal.
Some will take thousands of photos, only to choose a select few of these thousand that look the best to share to the public. And we can’t fail to mention the power photoshop has to make these people look like the perfect human.
Do you have all of these gadgets when you’re taking photos? I’m going to go on a limb here and say no.
So remember this, these are professional, unrealistic, and even photoshopped (some, not all) pictures you’re comparing yourself to.
3] “Why does she get to have abs and eat junk food all the the time?”
And here you are, avoiding your favorite dessert to look barely “normal?”
Seems a bit unfair, huh?
Many of our Fitspo’s show an illusion of a “balanced” lifestyle. They want to show that they are humans too. As humans, we like to share about things we love. And because almost all of us love junk food, a lot of these Fitspo’s who have incredible physiques will post pictures of junk food which seems like all the time.
Now this can be tough to swallow (no pun intended) when you are dieting over there eating your small portions, bland foods, and slaving away at the gym. And you may very well be making progress.
But you still don’t look like them.
Meanwhile, you check their Instagram feed, and they’ve got abs, they’ve got veins, and they’ve got a whole damn pizza in front of them.
How is it that you are over here suffering, you don’t look like them, and they’re having the time of their life eating all the foods you’ve been restricting, and they look like freakin Greek Gods and Goddesses?
That can ware on you, real quick.
You followed them for motivation, not discouragement.
The truth is, they do NOT eat like this all the time. They may only eat this dessert just ONCE a week or two on their “cheat meal” – though they display this as #balance.
95% of the foods they eat are “clean” foods. The boring chicken, rice and broccoli. But no one wants to see that, right?
“Show me the FUN stuff!”
I’m guilty of this too. Why? It simply gets more likes, comments, and engagement with my audience. Your Fitspo’s know this too. So they milk it out to get more followers, create more engagement, and make more money (yes, Fitspo’s make money based on how many followers they have).
Okay, back on track here… your Fitspo’s aren’t always what they post to be. They don’t eat these highly processed, deep fried, chocolate dipped goodies all of the time, despite what they portray.
Realize that the pancake stacks, donut gluttony, and burger and fries feasts are most likely rare occasions for them. Most of their food choices come from whole, nutrient dense foods full of protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.
4] It’s their JOB to look this way.
Almost all of the fitness people you are following on social media- is their CAREER to look good. That’s what they do for a living.
You’re being foolish to think these are just regular people like you, that have all of your strengths and none of your weaknesses. And you’re setting them as the standard? Sheesh.
Understand that it’s their JOB to look this way.
They have the time to go to the gym 2-3 times per day.
They have the time to prep all their meals ahead of time (or have someone do it for them).
They have the time to get enough high quality sleep.
They have the time to focus their daily efforts primarily on how their body looks.
That actress that’s so thin?
She probably has 2 personal trainers showing her what to do, a personal chef cooking her food, a nutritionist spoon feeding her the proper portions to keep her that way, and the time to spend hours per day dedicated to her fitness.
How about that bodybuilder?
He looks like that thanks I the combinations of blessed genetics, possibly steroids, and years and year of hard work, discipline, and dedication.
And you’re trying to compete with them?
If you’re a basketball player – do you watch videos of you’re favorite player, let’s say Michael Jordan, and think “Ugh, this guy is so much better than me. Why am I not that good?”
Of course you’re not that good.
He is a professional. His entire life is designed to make him the best he can be at his sport. He eats, breaths, and sleeps basketball. Every single day.
If you’re entire life was designed to be the best at a certain sport, would you be better than you are now? Of course you would be.
But guess what? That’s not real life for most of us. And that’s completely okay. We have our own life, our own commitments, priorities, responsibilities, etc. OUTSIDE of the gym.
So while these people can certainly inspire you, remember that the time, effort, and sacrifice they put into their physiques is not practical or realistic for the general population.
5] Genetics matter.
In the fitness industry, having a physique that is aesthetically pleasing is the goal. In the case of aesthetics, genetics matter. And almost all of the people you follow for fitness inspiration have phenomenal genetics. They were “blessed” from the get go for their genetic potential. Of course, I’m not saying they don’t work damn hard for their bodies, because they do.
I personally would love to look like Frank Zane (a former professional bodybuilder). Unfortunately from a genetic standpoint, it’s impossible. Our body type is different. I am much taller, have different muscle insertions and attachments, and have much wider hips than him (thanks mom and dad).
Of course there are things I can do to work around this… for me I focus on building bigger shoulders and develop a wider back to give the illusion of a smaller waist. But I can’t change the width of my hip bones.
Another thing that may sound discouraging, but I’m just being honest here… you can be doing everything right:
Eating the right foods
Hit your proper macronutrient goals
Optimizing your meal timing
Following the perfect training plan
Periodizing your training
And there is someone out there that is going to put in half the work but look twice as good as you.
Some of the guys I see when they take their shirt off used to make me just want to quite all together and focus on becoming a professional ping pong player.
Some people are just going to be genetically predispositioned to have a bit more muscle, be a bit faster, be a bit better looking, be a bit [insert what ever it is here that drives you].
But it doesn’t get me down anymore.
You know why?
Because sure, I can’t control my muscle insertions, how tall I am, how my hips are set, etc.
But I can control my attitude, my consistency, my nutrition, and my OWN progress.
What I’m getting at here is every body is different and unique in their own way. We all have our very own proportions, strengths, differences, and so on. Again, we can look to these people as inspiration, but understand you may not physically be able to look the way they do- but you certainly can make great improvements in body composition to improve YOUR physique!
Compare yourself with your previous self.
Stay in your own lane.
Focus on your own work.
It’s You Vs. You
6] They may be “juicing.”
And I’m not talking about juicing veggies here…
Illegal supplementation is worth bringing up, because it’s more commonly used in the health and fitness industry than we think or know about (a bit ironic).
Let me start by saying that I am definitely NOT an expert on steroid use. I’ve personally never used steroids or any related drugs for the purpose of building muscle, improving performance or any similar benefit. I’ve never considered using them, nor would I consider doing so in the future. That’s just me.
As for whether or not anyone else uses steroid for these purposes… I honestly could care less. It’s your body, your decision. I just hope those who do use them, do their research and understand what they are actually doing to their body, especially for long-term health.
It does matter to me when these muscle building, fat burning and performance enhancing effects are hidden, lied about, downplayed, or used deceptively in a way that negatively affects the people who don’t actually use steroids.
The fact is, steroid use alters physiques.
And they work incredibly well.
This 10 week study (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199607043350101)
resulted in a group who were given steroids (600mg of testosterone cypinate per week) and did NOT workout at all and were able to build about 7 pounds of pure muscle, in 10 weeks. By doing nothing.
The study also shows that the guys who, despite using identical workout routines and diets, received steroids gained over 3 TIMES as much muscle as the natural guys in the same time period. The average difference was 13lbs gained (steroid group) to just 4lbs gained (natural group).
That’s pretty nuts.
So while this may not be the case for the Fitspo you’re aspiring to be, it’s worth bringing to attention because it is very well possible.
At the end of the day, comparing your self-esteem to these fitness celebrities is a fight you can’t win.
Every ounce of energy spent on comparing yourself to others is energy wasted that you could have applied to your own effort at improving yourself.
Focus on your own work.
If you’re going to compare, compare yourself to the person you were yesterday, and aim to be 1% better today.
This is YOUR JOURNEY.
Life is a balance, not just about looking a certain way.
Once you understand that these people look the way they do because of what they do, and you look the way you do because of what you do, and you can get over the jealously- you can go back to valuing individuals on Instagram for what they’re (hopefully) posting about:
Education on nutrition
Knowledge on training
Wisdom for motivation
Toned physiques for inspiration
When you can go back to these things, and stop the jealousy, comparing, and judgment- you’re going to have a much better time on social media.
Social media can be an amazing tool, but when you’re feeling not-so-hot about yourself, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Stop giving your jealously more value than its worth.
Let’s stop that negative thinking of wishing you had the body of that Instagram celebrity you’re following.
Stop giving your jealously more value than its worth.
Remember, this is about YOU, not them.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
– Oscar Wilde