In a typical office cubicle, with five people in four feet proximity, the smell of a microwaved chicken breast was a clear insult. Of course, I knew that my fitness diet was causing discomforts for my colleagues. Yet the discomfort of my own had too much power over me. So it did not matter what other people thought of my stinking food. Restrictive nutrition, a rigid workout program, and long office hours could be an award-winning recipe for stress. But I was determined to withstand any struggle on the path to getting the best body of my life.
The perfect body I chased represented the collective image of the best inspiration I could find on Instagram. The availability and massive reach of the platform inevitably influence how we perceive our body image and fitness. Even though we often understand that professional photography has a number of tricks to get the models look great, we nevertheless resort to the exercise our brain is wired for – comparison. The comparison to other people is rarely a positive one. More often than not, it is about the things we lack and where we are inferior. Hence, the more we compare the staged fitness images to our own everyday selves, the less secure we become.
This insecurity drives sales of multiple industries, including fitness. However, despite the overwhelming dominance of perfection on Instagram, these seven emerging trends bring fitness back to Earth. They help people have a friendlier and healthier relationship with their bodies. The advocates of each movement make a fit body more attainable and the definition of fitness more encompassing.
Backed by Chrissy Teigen, who famously showed her stretch marks on social media, saying, “My thighs have tributaries,” the body positivity movement is growing stronger and stronger. Ashely Graham (@theAshleyGraham) Megan Jayne Crabbe (@bodyposipanda), Tess Holiday (@tessholliday), Iskra Lawrence (@iskra) are among the super influencers on Instagram who encourage other women to own their flaws! Stomach rolls are just another part of a female body. Stretch marks are our tiger stripes. When you define your own beauty standards, you start appreciating your uniqueness, instead of fixing what’s wrong with you. Only with a true respect for your own body, will you be able to listen to its needs and to develop a mindset for healthy living.
Who said that fitness is confined to a specific size of clothes or defined by a number on weighing scales? Every day, thousands of women skip exercise, not because they are lazy, but because they feel too insecure to workout. They deprive themselves of learning what their body is capable of because they are afraid that someone will judge them. To help these women get into working out, plus size yogis Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn) and Valerie Sagun (@biggalyoga) share their asanas and life philosophies with their growing audiences.
From weight training to pole dancing, Roz The Diva (@rozthediva) posts her workouts and radiates positivity and confidence in all she represents. With different exercise style, one mission unites these ladies: to eliminate a myth that plus size means restriction in motion. Regardless of your shape and where you start, you can learn new physical capabilities and find your place in fitness.
Fitness and slim are not synonyms anymore. Even a Google search shows that the “thigh gap” trend has been in decline!
Led by Nicole Mejia (@nicole_mejia), her Fit and Thick movement resonated across the country. Numerous participants in various cities attend Nicole’s workshops to hear her speak about nutrition and learn about proper exercise.
Similarly, Ana Cheri (@anacheri) shares her curve-building workouts and encourages her followers to stay positive and believe in themselves.
Given the size of their Instagram audiences, women with thick and toned bodies grew to represent fitness just as much as slim ones.
For the longest time, working toward a fit body meant having to prep your own clean food. Multiple containers with chicken, tilapia, and greens have become a staple in a fitness competitor’s bag. Even to those, who do not plan to compete, fitness means the elimination of every indulgence food from the diet. For the level of discipline such diet requires, it is no surprise how often it ends with compulsive overeating, orthorexia, and excessive stress. Flexible dieters, like Cali (@macro_gal), insist that, while the macronutrient composition of food is important, it does not matter what the food itself is if it fits your macros (hence, the IIFYM diet acronym). Not only are flexible diets less stressful, but they also show amazing results.
Untying self-worth from the consumed calories is a difficult task for an eating disorder sufferer. Never skinny enough. Never disciplined enough. That poisonous “never enough” becomes a life agenda that follows eating disorder everywhere. Whether documenting a recovery process or sharing past experiences of fighting an eating disorder on Instagram, young women like Amalie Lee (@amalielee), Gina Susanna (@nourishandeat) and Aurora LZ (@aurora_lz_fit), help others to stop suffering in solitude. And such open talk about eating disorders on social media has built a passionate community and created a platform for growing awareness.
When fitness gets too serious and complicated, intimidation and consciousness often stop initial beginners’ steps. However, some of the absurdities of fitness taken to the extreme, deserve a good laugh. This alone may help a lot of people feel easier about working out. Deliciously Stella (@deliciouslystella) provides her own simple take on clean eating, beauty hacks, and daily detox. Whether it is calling doughnuts “hole foods”, gin and tonic “green juice”, or cutting carbs as in using a knife to cut bread, Deliciously Stella will put a smile on your face and remind you to enjoy the processes in the first place.
With today’s productivity obsession, we often stop noticing our surroundings, let alone trying to understand how we really feel. We carry our stress everywhere, including the gym. What was supposed to be a “me-time”, a workout has become another place for an internal dialogue with our restless mind. However, adding some awareness and intent to exercise can both improve performance and help silence the anxious monkey brain. Being one of the top fitness bikini athletes in the world, India Paulino (@indiapaulino), through her Instagram account, empowers women and advocates for body, mind, and soul transformation. She encourages taking an active position in life and setting no limits for goals and aspirations.
As different as these fitness trends are, they all create a safe space for women to say “Oh, you too?” From promoting body positivity to adding mindfulness to a workout, from defining your own beauty standards to figuring your best nutrition, all seven trends help to build a peaceful relationship between an individual and her own body. Their emersion and growing popularity show that, while sitting in an office with a container of smelly chicken might demonstrate devotion to getting fit, fitness lifestyle should not feel like a struggle all the time.
A fit body should not mean a sacrifice. Confidence can be attained from the inner sense of value each of us needs to cultivate. Only then will everyone feel welcome in fitness, no matter where they stand.