During this pandemic, there has been an emphasis on staying healthy and active at home. There is so much more information circulating about effective exercise routines that can be done without gym equipment. Because our health is a major concern, it’s important that we stay informed on how to stay fit without going overboard. If someone starts to display an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness and exercise, they can have a fitness obsession. This can be extremely dangerous for both our physical and mental states.
The way fitness obsession manifests can be different for both men and women. Men become more obsessed with bulking up while women aim to slim down. The cause of fitness obsession in women often stems from body image and eating disorders. They tend to have a distorted perception of their body in which they genuinely see themselves as “fat” when they look in the mirror, even if they are underweight. They become obsessed with being skinny and losing weight. This can be an extremely dangerous obsession because it is mostly done in secret and it can be detrimental to one’s health. They will keep obsessing over it even when their body tells them to stop. It’s important that people are aware of this topic so that they can identify the symptoms when they see it.
Social media has been found to exacerbate the symptoms of fitness obsession because users, especially younger users, can be easily influenced by what is posted on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. This all ties into how mental health issues are highly correlated with social media usage. Unlike television and magazines that depict images of models and celebrities, social media portrays “idealized” images of users. With photo filters, hashtags, and special features, users have the ability to edit and enhance their appearance to impress their classmates, friends, and communities. This can fuel fitness obsession for those who are unaware of the fact that these are unrealistic goals for the human body.
It’s important to note that those who post pictures of their bodies because they are proud of their progress are not doing anything wrong. Healthy fitness is definitely a topic that should be talked about on social media. When done right, influencers can help spread accurate information that can greatly improve our health. I have seen many models on social media teach healthy exercises and eating habits for the goal of being healthy rather than being skinny. When the goal, however, is to stay skinny and basically starve oneself, then it becomes toxic. We always need to identify the fine line between being healthy and going overboard. We must also listen to our bodies and identify a healthy weight, or set point, that makes us feel good and matches our lifestyle.
Kaminker, L. (1998). When Fitness Becomes an Obsession. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing Group
Norton, M. (2017). Fitspiration: Social media's fitness culture and its effect on body image. Digital Commons, 38(4), 1-30.