By Vicky Witts | Advice Editor
With a rise in online fitness challenges, social media accounts based on exercise, and new diet trends, it can often feel that everyone around you is trying to alter their appearance or health in some way. Whilst charity runs and fitness challenges do have many benefits for a large number of participants, such exercise obsessions can also be mentally damaging to those who are unable to participate or choose not to and are self-conscious regarding their body image. Therefore, it is important to learn how to avoid becoming unhealthily focused on fitness and health.
Alter your social media
Social media platforms are usually a great method of self-expression, and often many people use it as a method of sharing pride regarding their body image and fitness ‘journeys’. However, the possible consequences that perhaps are not thought about when these posts are created may include unrealistic expectations for body image, as well as damaging feelings of self-consciousness to people who do not look like the people that they are seeing on their social media feeds. It is therefore important to ensure that your social media pages act in a way that helps rather than hinders your body confidence.
To do this, it may be beneficial to look at who you are following online and ensure that they are people who will not cause you to make negative comparisons between yourself and them. For example, following people who post daily about their intense workout regimes or new diets lead you to feel inadequate about your own lifestyle and so, you could choose to unfollow these people, and instead follow accounts which are more about promoting body positivity and self-love towards the way that you are now. Whilst following fitness accounts is not inherently bad, it is important that you follow accounts that suggest healthy and realistic routines rather that overly intense and unrealistic posts. Alternatively, if you feel that this is not enough and you are still creating negative comparisons to the people that you see online, taking a break from social media in its entirety may allow you to get a fresh perspective on yourself and what is healthy for you.
Talk to your peers
If you feel that you are struggling with body image or find that you are overly focused on health and fitness, you may find it helpful to discuss this with your friends and family, especially if you feel that without knowing they may be harmful to your mental health. For example, if your friends are taking up exercise challenges or trying out a new diet, it can often make you feel worse and that you are getting left behind whilst everyone else is actively and openly trying to change their body image or fitness level. Simply having an open conversation about topics which you may be sensitive to and ways that they can help you become less worried about your own body can help you to progress and may let you begin to appreciate yourself more.
Track for the right reasons
Fitness trackers and watches have been gaining in popularity in recent years, with estimates that 245 million could have been sold in 2019 alone. These are not just popular with athletes and keen sports people however, as many of us are taking to them to simply count our steps and measure how many calories we have burnt in our everyday lives. However, whilst there is likely nothing particularly damaging about just knowing how many steps you have done in a day and comparing them to your friends in fun competition, setting your goals too high or getting into a routine of recording every aspect of your life may lead you to be health conscious to an unhealthy degree.
In order to avoid this, it is important to remember that everyone has different needs and physical capabilities, and so, you should not be focused on comparing how much exercise you do in a day with those around you because what is healthy for them may not be healthy for you. Additionally, in order to avoid worrying about the fact that you do not always meet you daily exercise or calorie goals that are set on any form of tracker that you have, you should aim to set them to numbers which are realistic and that you are likely to achieve. Even if you choose to push yourself and increase the amount of exercise that you do daily, you should still aim to make any fitness goals that you have reasonable and remember to not feel disappointed if these goals are lower than your peers or people that you see online, as we all have different physical capabilities.