Under the Influencer

Social media’s effect on how we view our health

WAC Personal Training Coordinator is smiling as she leans with one shoulder against a wall.By Michelle Payne, Senior Fitness Specialist & Personal Training Coordinator

Hey there, you beautiful person! Do you ever look at social media and see images of gorgeous people exercising, with flawless bodies and faces? Do these images ever affect your confidence and self-esteem?

If so, you’re not alone. Social media has a knack for perpetuating often unrealistic body standards, which influences our standards of beauty and how we perceive our own bodies. With the inundation of influencers on Instagram and TikTok, we are constantly looking at society’s idea of “perfect.”  This is a very distorted image of reality that employs the use of lighting, angles, makeup, and Photoshop to create the illusion of a perfect image. But, as I like to say, it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors! When we see these projections of flawlessness, it can create a false sense of how everyone should look, causing many people to develop an unnatural view of what healthy bodies are supposed to look like.

Fitness influencers are also prevalent on social media, and they are—for the most part—models who are paid by companies to sell their products, whether they be supplements or apparel. Influencers typically promote a certain type of body and do not represent all body types. Images featuring “perfect” people working out (or at least pretending to) can generate a mindset that says we should all look the same, and if we don’t, there must be something “wrong” with us.

So how do we improve our own body image in a world that is heavily influenced by social media?

  • A critical truth to remember is this: Most influencers who offer health and fitness tips are simply not qualified to give such advice.
  • Be skeptical and careful: Always put your health first and do not do exercises that might put you at risk of injury.
  • Exercise! Studies show that movement is as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy to improve body image. Even a small start makes a great difference. Not only do you feel better when you are more physically fit, you also feel good about yourself when you see your body change.
  • Appreciate everything your body does for you. It’s a unique and wonderful “machine” that belongs only to you! Place more emphasis on your physical capabilities as opposed to your physical appearance.
  • Resist speaking negatively about your body.
  • Unfollow or unfriend accounts that try to sell products that are supposed to change your body to look like the model. There is no magic pill. There is, however, magic in setting and following goals, in and out of the gym!

And always remember: “Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live.” —Jim Rohn

—Reach WAC Senior Fitness Specialist & Personal Training Coordinator Michelle Payne at mpayne@wac.netView Personal Training services online.

—Posted October 11, 2021; JC.

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