Fad vs. Fit: The Truth About Instagram

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I am a self critic. And I know I'm not the only one. We live in a world where we are constantly told by the media, twitter, instagram, celebrities and peers how we are supposed to act and more importantly re-act to situations thrown at us by life. The list of societies' expectations for us to behave and conform to a certain ideal is endless, and failure to meet this standard can easily result in the feeling that you are not good enough, beginning a vicious cycle of self-critique.

#IIFYM. #FlexibleDieting. #MealPrep.... we cannot escape the daily influx of instagram posts captioned with these hashtags. Carefully thought out compositions of healthy food, meal prep, ripe avocados, "flex bowls" (I myself am only too guilty of adding to the stream). But what many people fail to understand is that what is shown via social media is not necessarily indicative of the truth. Yes, I post food on my instagram that I genuinely eat, but I DON'T 100% stick to my macros every single day. I, like everyone else, have days where all I want to do is lounge around eating carbs (however these days simply don't make good instagram posts). Similarly with the fitness posts; my body can look extremely different depending on what time of the month it is, or to be honest, even what time of the day it is. How much water I've drank that day, how much food I've eaten, whether or not I've trained can all have an effect on these things. But social media often ignores these fluctuations and instead paints a picture that the 'instagram fit fam' is perfect all the time. This is not the case, and nor is it healthy. Health is finding a balance between eating nutritious food, keeping your heart healthy with cardio, keeping your bones and muscles strong with resistance training, ensuring you get enough sleep and feeling happy in your mind. Most importantly though: in today's hectic world actually managing to maintain all of these things at once can be practically impossible and therefore being healthy is also about allowing yourself to have days off, to relax your routine. To find the balance between the two.

There is a common misconception amongst women, particularly young girls when it comes to fitness. Instagram is full of girls striving to get a perfect 'bikini body' or to fit into a certain dress size... we have come to live in a generation where the physical aesthetics are prioritised over health. I was once guilty of this very thing myself. Countless girls wrongly think that the way to go about achieving the body that they want is hours and hours on the treadmill, followed by 100 sit ups and a diet shake. I truly wish that for once the emphasis wasn't on girls looking a certain way, but living a certain way. Train hard and what happens to your body naturally as a result will be out of your control, but you should feel comfortable in the knowledge that you worked hard for that muscle and should be proud of your body for being healthy and functional.

I've lost count of the number of fad diets or fitness trends I've seen during my morning scroll through instagram, from gluten free* to dairy free to paleo to the raw food diet. Don't get me wrong, if you suffer from a medical condition which means that your body has an adverse reaction to one of these food groups then by all means cut it out, but do not go cutting out such large groups of nutrients just because someone on instagram told you to do so! (*disclaimer- yes, all my instagram food is gluten free, but this is SOLEY because I suffer from an intolerance to the proteins found in wheat, a condition that has been medically diagnosed. I would not advocate cutting gluten or wheat out of your diet unless you have been advised by a doctor or a registered dietician that it would benefit your health to do so).

The problem is, so many fads focus so strongly on cutting things OUT of our diets, that people often forget that it's also important to focus on what goes IN to our diets. If you want to be healthier, don't just decide to cut out sugar, snacks, fast food... why not make a conscious effort to add in more vegetables and fruit? To vary your diet, to feed your body new and exciting foods.

Don't get me wrong, I love instagram, I just sometimes don't love how it can project an image quite far removed from reality. At the end of the day, going out for a heathy brunch and drinking smoothies out of jam jars looks aesthetically pleasing, in a way that standing in your pyjamas with your head in the snack cupboard doesn't necessarily, but that doesn't mean that both things haven't happened in the same day: one of them is just deemed 'good enough' for social media. And this is something that I want you to remember next time you're scrolling through the profile of someone (like myself) who seems to spend her life in the gym and eat nothing but carefully planned, beautiful looking, healthy food: yes all of those pictures are workouts I have completed and food I have eaten, but that doesn't mean that I didn't sit in my dressing gown last night eating almond butter out the tub with a spoon (... because I did).