Comment: the truth about social media fitness

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Not everything we see on our screens is real. Steph Knight explores how bloggers and social media icons blur our visions about the truth behind fitness and the app industry.

Edited by Natalie Whitmore

Laying in bed, face lit up from a screen, it’s almost become a necessity to scroll through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook before even being able to comprehend getting up and ready for the day. It’s old news that social media has taken over and become a huge part of most people’s day to day lives. And with the rise of health and fitness bloggers, we can now get diet plans and fitness tips for free, all without having to lift a finger. But, to what extent can we trust these tall, toned and tanned social media stars?

638With celebrity status bloggers such as, Essena O’Neill and Cassey Ho recently coming clean about their diets and how they achieved their look through what is primarily starvation, it has caused doubts amongst the entire community. In a video, in which Essena was finally honest with her followers, she says “Everything I was doing was edited, and contrived, and to get more value and to get more views.” A
nd even goes on to say, “I don’t even know what is real and what is not, because I’ve let myself be defined by something that is so not real.”

Hannah Scott, Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and Health Coach amongst much more, says: “there have been people who have set up health blogs, but then stopped blogging because they can’t even maintain it [the diet] themselves.

“a lot of times what they’re presenting isn’t actually true”. Suggesting that it is important as viewers and followers of these blogs, to not always accept and believe everything these bloggers say as fact.
With their constantly increasing followers, it’s important to note how many people popular bloggers are reaching from their chosen platform. Whether it’s a couple of thousand, a couple of hundred thousand or even millions; they reach a huge audience, all of whom look up to them and aspire to their body, lifestyle, level of fitness, etc. It means that everyone who follows them is vulnerable to deception by what they’re putting out into the public sphere.
Tara Whitbread, Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor, says “With the age of social media, the images and statements of these personalities are seen and can spread much quicker than ever before particularly to younger, more influential people”.

635821657738646941It’s difficult to be able to tell when someone is lying about their diet and how they achieved their lifestyle, or the way that they look; It only makes it more difficult when you throw product placement and sponsorship into the mix. Does that tea really make you skinny in 28 days? How about those pills? Apparently not, “In terms of the products that people are advertising, people should be very discerning around them,” Scott follows.

“You always want to look at why a person might be promoting the product”.

Editing and manipulating pictures isn’t anything new, but people seem to forget that you can do exactly the same on social media. “It’s so easy to take hundreds of pictures and there are apps that people can change their body shape and all kind of things like that,” Scott mentions.

“Be careful that people are giving you a balanced view because nobody is perfect”.

Everyone who is on social media will be able to tell you, it’s very rare that they’ll post something bad about their lives – we show people our best life, lying to others but believing when others do the same to us. It’s so easy to do, and almost everyone takes advantage of this; “It is very easy to share photos, videos and statements that are only a part of a picture or that are false, but no one sees the real, daily life behind it. By posting only certain images it is easy to build a fake picture that manipulates the truth” Whitbread agrees.

The age of social media, has now created a boundary between health experts and clients; it was much simpler when you’d meet a professional face to face and know the advice you were receiving was legitimate. A lot of health bloggers have no qualifications, and that can be particularly dangerous; “if I was following a blog, I’d want to know more about the person. Have they studied it [Human nutrition, etc]? Are they working in it? Have they done a lot of research themselves?” Scott tells us, she continues the importance of qualifications by mentioning; “A couple of health bloggers in Australia presented themselves as if they were healing cancer – that wasn’t true and can be quite dangerous”.

Take caution when reading, watching or following health and fitness bloggers – on whatever social media site that may be. Although many of them are genuine and have a true passion, it is important to take care of your body in the way your body needs to be taken care of. Take everything you see with a pinch of salt – not literally.