Pros and Cons of “Thinspiration”

With photo-based mediums like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, communication via imagery is more popular than ever. It’s both inspiring and terrifying for women looking to live a life of fitness. I’m only going to address Pinterest right now, because it’s the vehicle I’m most familiar with.

If you do a search for “thinspiration” (a scary term in itself, if you ask me), you are provided with a multitude of varied results. Some are encouraging and even helpful, such as the workout below:

Some are downright ridiculous, like the below.

I am all for forums that encourage those in the healthy living space to share recipes, workouts, anecdotes, etc. Of course! It’s why I started blogging in the first place. I just don’t see how images of impossibly thin girls with antagonizing slogans will help those who are either trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle. I don’t want to spend too much time addressing this SPECIFIC pin, but … living a healthy life is all about balance. Diets don’t work because they are based on deprivation of some kind, which usually translates into an inability to commit long-term. I eat cookies! I eat dark chocolate, and drink wine, beer and vodka. People have different indulgences, and if you don’t like cookies or candy … fine! Don’t eat any. But then, that image wouldn’t make all that much of an impact on you anyway, would it?

The larger picture issue that I see is unrealistic expectations. I’ve been reading articles and studies for ages that discuss the body image issues that the media causes. Celebrities (it’s their JOB to look good at all times!), models, magazines, movies … there are already so many sources you can find unattainable body imagery. This is worse. It’s more omnipresent, and allows commentary from the public that only further encourages girls (especially younger, more impressionable females) to look to others when deciding what is beautiful, what the benchmark is for “thin” and how to judge themselves in comparison to those pictures posted.

I am of the opinion that people need to take responsibility for how they react to such things. If I had a pre-teen daughter, she wouldn’t be allowed to use Pinterest with free reign. I personally have no problem looking at these images and not attaching myself to the results displayed. I don’t think everyone has that luxury, however. I love Pinterest for so many reasons, but this particular use of it is slightly disturbing, in my opinion. In addition to the self-esteem risks I’ve listed above, there’s another component.

People working out and trying to get in shape have a goal in mind. It could be a number or a visual of how they want to look. If they hold themselves up to a standard they’ve pinned under “thinspiration” that doesn’t work with their body type or lifestyle, they may grow exasperated with the perceived lack of results and simply give up altogether. It’s a double-edged sword.


What do YOU like/dislike about Pinterest? 

4 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of “Thinspiration”

    • Thanks, Cass. I understand and want people to have things that inspire them to be healthy and work out, but I just think it’s a difficult emotional navigation to use pictures like this to do it. Totally depends on the person, but I’ve seen it do more harm than good, I think.

  1. I hear you Molly. I’ve never used Pinterest…but I very deeply and disturbingly understand the concept of ‘thinspiration,’ having recovered from a severe eating disorder in my late teens/early 20s. What I think is scary is the realization that this type of appearance-based/shame-based ‘inspiration’ is in the forefront (i.e. the tag ‘thinspiration’) on a fairly mainstream popular website–does that mean that people are beginning to accept this stuff as acceptable??? “Thinspiration” used to be a thing of pro-anorexia websites, and now, the eating disorder of the shadows is becoming the disordered eating (and distorted body image) of the masses. What of our society? ay yi yi.
    of course, I mean, like you say, “totally depends on the person, but I’ve seen it do more harm than good”—
    A friend of mine recently wrote on this same subject:

  2. Thank you so much for sharing that blog post! I totally agree that the increase of media available to people heightens the scrutiny that people place on themselves and others. It’s not a good obsession to have. Images like this make people strive for elusive “beauty,” a term that has historically been a moving target based on criteria invented by an anonymous people with their own priorities in mind. It’s all about context.

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