Thinspiration: What is it, and what is it doing to us?

As our society becomes more digitized, means of communication between complete strangers has become much easier. This has provided us with some clear benefits: reading news from around the world is much easier, contact with friends and family far away is feasible, and connections can be made with people we’d never talk to otherwise.

But social media has some serious downsides too, one of them being the rise of “thinspiration”. Health magazine recently defined thinspiration as “images and ideas posted on social media sites that are supposed to inspire women to lose weight, but all too often fuel eating disordered behavior and the pursuit of skeletal thinness”. More and more people – especially girls – are using sites such as Pinterest and Tumblr, where pressures to be thin can be found without even intentionally looking.

 

I was going to make some disclaimer and say that at least thinspiration has good intentions, but it simply doesn’t. By posting pictures of unhealthily thin women on pinterest, and giving other pinners advice on losing 10 pounds in a week by doing “the water diet”, health is clearly the last thing from any of these people’s minds. The goal of thinspiration is to do whatever it takes to be skinny, even if that means starving yourself and working out excessively.

 

With the ease at which anyone can find tips on how to lose a ridiculous amount of weight in an extremely short amount of time, it comes as no surprise that eating disorders continue to increase in the United States. The obsession with being thin seemed to be turning around for the past couple of years, but with the rise of “thinspiration” researchers worry that people of all ages will feel even more pressure to look like the girls in photos online.

 

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again:

What makes a person beautiful is NOT how thin they are, how flat their abs can be, or how little they eat. Until the focus of eating well and exercise shifts away from being skinny and towards being healthy, progress won’t be made. So the next time you think about pinning or posting something, ask yourself this: are you doing it to be healthy, or to be skinny? If we all start focusing on the former rather than the latter, we can change our perceptions of beauty by starting with ourselves.

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