Social media should add something to our life. It’s supposed to be for connection and entertainment. Yet so many of us scroll through Instagram and end up feeling bad about themselves.
One particular genre of social media personality that might have an impact on how you feel is the fitness influencer. Fitness influencers can make you feel the need to be critical of your body, compare your body to theirs, compare workouts, feel as though your workout isn’t enough. There are a lot of pressures that can come from following fitness influencers.
At the same time, some fitness influencers provide genuinely helpful knowledge, exciting workouts or great modifications.
So, how do you know when it’s time to unfollow that fitness influencer? Start by asking yourself these questions.
Do you get any positive benefits from their feed?
One question to ask yourself when deciding whether your social media is in need of a cleanse is “why do I follow this person?” or “what do I get from this page?” Pausing and turning inward helps you determine whether their content meets your personal criteria for enjoying social media – like connection and entertainment.. Do they make you feel empowered, confident, or informed? Are you learning something? Are they engaging with their followers? Influencers influence us, let that be for the better!
Do they have toxic messaging?
“Goal body.” “No days off.” “Fitness has a look.” Toxic fitness messaging generally dismisses real life by creating a false narrative that working out for several hours a day is both realistic and necessary – when in fact, there are a lot of valid reasons to skip a workout! We need days off to recover, to avoid burnout, and to enjoy the other 23 hours of the day that don’t revolve around the gym. A fitness influencer who advocates for working out every single day, pushing through injuries and fatigue, should raise a red flag.
Toxic fitness culture is linked to diet culture in that it promotes one shape and size body as the ideal – white and thin. These dangerous messages are usually being shared by people in bodies that historically represent what being fit “looks like.” It’s 2022 – we know that fitness has no look.
One of the most toxic messages fitness influencers can send is “if you do what I do, you will look like me.” That’s just not true. Genetics play a major role in what we look like, no matter how much we exercise or what we eat. So if you see a fitness influencer sharing a “7 Days to Get Arms Like Me” program, hit that unfollow button as fast as you can.
Do they make you feel bad about your body image?
If an influencer is telling you that you “need” to change how you look, that’s a hard UNFOLLOW! Fitspo often looks like it is promoting a ‘healthier’ lifestyle, but so often that lifestyle is extremely disordered. Counting calories, tracking macros, and measuring your body are not inherently healthy.
Even if you don’t partake in tracking your food or restrictive eating, just exposing yourself to this kind of content can have a damaging effect on your psyche. A 2021 study found that fitness influencers often portray themes that can lead to unhealthy thoughts. Mental health is part of health, and promoting restriction and focus on how your body looks is actually promoting mental illness.
Are they actually certified?
Having a platform does not make someone a professional. Look at what certifications these influencers hold. One study found that only 16.4% of fitness influencers actually held a certification even when they call themselves a professional!
A lot of these influencers give advice they aren’t qualified to give that isn’t rooted in scientific research. Imagine that you are following someone who is supposed to be teaching you something and they don’t know what they are talking about. Unfollow!
Are they giving nutrition advice that sounds like a fad diet?
If it sounds like a fad diet, it probably is. So many influencers give nutrition advice they aren’t qualified to give. A lot of times those #ads are linked to the foods they are recommending you eat. It’s hard to know what is good advice, but usually it isn’t from someone who is just telling you things with no background in the field. For nutrition advice, it is best to follow anyone with MS or RD after their name. This shows they have a degree in nutrition.
If someone is giving nutrition advice that is promoting extreme weight loss, beware. Will drinking celery juice really detoxify your body? Does LaCroix and vinegar really taste like a substitute for soda? Anyone promising you your body will drastically change in a short period of time is promoting disordered eating. Instagram banned ads promoting diet products for the reason that it does affect people negatively. It still happens, but usually under the guise of “if you do what I do, you will look like me.” Definitely unfollow those pages.
How to mindfully unfollow fitness influencers
The fastest way to cleanse your feed is unfollow people who show up and you quickly scroll by this is a sign you usually don’t care about their content. If you find yourself reading a post that triggers anxiety, negative body image, or other negative feelings, quickly hit unfollow. Instagram now shows you which accounts you interact with the least, and that may be a great way to recognize which accounts you won’t even miss.
Another great way to curate your feed is to make sure to engage with influencers you do like. The more you engage with an account, the more it will show up in your feed. You can also add folks whose pages you like to your favorites.