Over the last decade, social media has served as a powerful tool of influence for students when it comes to fitness-related content. But it along with it has come “fitstagram.”
While there are a multitude of benefits to utilizing social media in this way, the reality is, outlets such as Instagram and Tik Tok have contributed to a rise in pressure and unrealistic expectations for many students when it comes to their physical fitness goals.
As campus recreation professionals, it is our duty to help our students remain body positive in the age of “fitstagram.”
Here are a few strategies I utilize to help me do just that:
1. Set Realistic Physique Goals
I can’t count the number of times students have stopped by my office with a photo of their favorite fitness influencer in hand. They ask, “Can a trainer help me look like this?”
In these situations, I encourage students to remain body positive by setting realistic physique goals instead of living comparatively.
I explain to them we are all physiologically endowed in different capacities. So, it’s important to celebrate personal progress over perfection.
Don’t lamenting over the fact your stomach is not as toned as an Instagram influencer’s stomach. Instead, celebrate the loss of several inches around your waist.
2. Educate Students on Fitstagram
Another way I encourage students to remain body positive in the age of fitstagram is by providing education.
I’ve found many students unaware of the deception tactics utilized by influencers to create the false image of perfection.
Filters and other photo editing software are used to enhance physical strengths and diminish deficits. Some influencers also falsely credit natural means as the origins of their toned physiques. They neglect to reveal cosmetic procedures and various performance enhancing drugs as the true sources.
By educating unsuspecting students on the realities of social media fitness dishonesty, I hope to alleviate some of their pressure to seek body perfection.
3. Lead by Example
Another important tool I utilize to help students stay body positive is to lead by example.
While I consistently exemplify the importance of staying physically active by utilizing my treadmill desk throughout the day, there are occasions when my students also see me enjoying a sweet treat.
I showcase the importance of balance in leading a healthy lifestyle. My hope is to display to students that consistency — not perfection — is the key to lasting success.
In the unfortunate instances when a student’s body image is so poor it becomes unhealthy or leads to harmful behaviors, it is important to encourage the student to seek professional assistance.
Many universities offer free on-campus counseling and psychological services to students in need of additional support.
I recommend familiarizing yourself with all of the mental health support services on your campus so you can provide the best recommendations for your students.