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The Hidden Truth of Fitspiration and Disordered Eating Amongst Women in the US

Julia Rabbitt


Instagram has emerged as a leading social media application. Established in 2010 it has grown with over one billion users worldwide. The application allows users to share their photos with peers and strangers which can be inspiring and authentic or triggering and artificial. The toxicity of Instagram often stems through social comparisons, false realities depicted, and photo edits and body modifications, most commonly among women in their adolescents all the way into adulthood. Viewing modified photos leaves viewers frustrated and many report feelings of body dissatisfaction and urges to engage in disordered eating and compulsive exercise. Fitspiration is a hot spot for the development of these behaviors and attitudes. Today, our body ideal is the “athletic lean” or the “healthy skinny” (YouTube, “Women’s Ideal Body Types Throughout History”). This features a woman with a low body fat percentage and big breasts, a thigh gap, and a flat stomach. Fitspiration is a platform on Instagram where influencers encourage users to engage in “healthy eating” and “healthy living.” However, it contains many hidden messages that depict beauty as pain and suffering through a restrictive diet and strict exercise regimen. This body type is unattainable for many, but influencers often post about diet products, exercises, and even restrictive diets that can be followed to achieve this desired body. In this paper, I will utilize studies performed, and I will conduct my own surveys to support that Fitspiration and Instagram have skewed our sense of reality on what is beautiful and “expected” of us in terms of body ideals and food and exercise expectations. Social media has the power to uplift or disinhibit, and I believe fitspiration accounts are a culprit in younger and older women developing negative body image and eating disorders of all severities.

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