Fitness & Comparison: Motivating or Manipulative?

When we talk about comparison in the fitness world we usually think about comparing ourselves to others. There’s lots of reassurances out there like “You are your only competition” and “Just be better than you were yesterday” to help us take a step back from it.

But I don’t just mean that we’re glancing at the numbers on the treadmill beside us and secretly trying to beat them. I mean the practice of before and after pictures as well as the ever-growing fitness community on Instagram.

See, it strikes me that even if we preach not comparing ourselves and posting our fitness journeys for our own sake there’s still something bigger going on.

Do we really think that comparison isn’t like, %70 of what’s going on outside the fitness sphere on Instagram? As a regular practice, we follow brands, influences and celebrities who we admire. We covet their clothes, cars, homes – their whole lifestyle.

So when the account we’re following is a fitness-specific influencer or celebrity can we truly pretend we aren’t comparing and coveting their fitness based on their body in posed pics and workout videos?

Now, I will acknowledge here that fitness influencers are probably doing the most out of any influences to help their fans achieve what they have. You admire my abs? Here’s an ab workout I like. You want my perfect booty? Here’s my booty routine.

Sure, they make money off their fans desire to be like them but at least they seem more likely to share the how-to than other influencers.

You don’t see a lot of other influencers breaking it down for you how they got what they have and how you can too. They just profit off your admirations as the likes and comments roll in.

Even with the before and after photos I mentioned earlier we’re encouraged to engage in a detailed comparison of ourselves to ourselves. While that’s a little healthier than only lusting after the results of others, it still feeds into a comparison mindset when considering our current fitness and future goals. I think it’s an awesome practice that we reflect on our own progress and success. We still have to talk about it, though, when we talk about comparison.

The biggest problem, for me, is that a lot of the influencers who encourage comparison either with before and after photos or just putting themselves out there in a way that forces you to compare where you are compared to their fitness journey, do so to sell products.

The fitness fam on insta is overflowing with “positive vibes” and “support” but a lot of companies are successfully harnessing the community for comparison, admiration and sales.

It definitely makes me a bit bitter to see “fitness influencers” or “fitness models” selling detox teas, certain supplements and diet programs. Like, this is why we can’t have nice things, ya’ll. Too many people harness the power of community for marketing and misdirect our well meaning support.

I wouldn’t call for the end of the fitness community on insta because so much good does come from it – I think we, as fitness focused accounts – might just have some work to do to reclaim our community.

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