“FOLLOW ME!” I know what I’m talking about!

Social media is a powerful tool, especially for the fitness world. Instagram offers the opportunity to keep yourself accountable on your fitness journey by posting your daily accomplishments. You can find a variety of workout options to fit your lifestyle, a chance to build a community for support, and more. There are countless fitness posts on Instagram that offer daily or weekly workouts, diet tips, and photos of toned abs and round glutes with “inspirational” quotes.

But the viewing of all these fitness posts can have a negative effects on our body image and even be dangerous to our health. What is the dark side to Instagram fitness programs? How do we keep ourselves on the healthy side of social media?

It’s natural to assume that someone who looks fit, toned, and thin is an expert in health and wellness. So many times we choose to follow the people we aspire to look like and take their word as gospel. They offers a variety of different programs, encourages participants to share their before and after stories, and has proven that their way is the only way they can get results.

One thing to remember, however, is that not every fitness personality is an expert.

Someone sharing their fitness journey or workouts on their Instagram story does not mean they know or are aware of the safest and most effective ways for you to get healthy. Social media is full of so much fitness content that some of it is not going to be good for everyone. Not everybody can handle the same workouts, restrictive diets, or lifting heavy weights- what your body needs and where you are on your health is exactly that YOUR JOURNEY.

The most important thing to remember is that most of the people we see offering fitness tips and the “supposed” solution to the “best body” are offering just that “what works for them only”. They are not always experts or educated in the fitness field at all- and promising to show you the results you may be looking for, so be sure to put your own health first and ask for certifications. You would not go to a doctor who did not go to medical school? Why would you trust your body to someone who knows nothing about how it works, moves or what it needs.

No one can argue that these influencers don’t have the best intentions in sharing their fitness tips and suggestions, and the countless comments from grateful people does show that lives have changed for the better.

Despite the attempt at promoting self-love and body positivity, the fact remains that there is a huge disconnect between the images being posted and the inspirational quotes that accompany them. Many of these fitness posts will encourage you never to compare yourself to others including them, while displaying a photo of their washboard abs.

They may be living a life totally opposite to the life presented on a post and playing on a person with poor body image.

When we continually exposure ourselves to these photos it is can cause us to engage in habits that are not in line a healthy lifestyle. It can result in having a negative relationship with food, over-exercising, or injuries trying to gain the perfect Instagram body.

Additionally, making your fitness journey about before/after photos shifts your motivation to get healthy to your physical appearance, rather than internal health. You’ll end up finding yourself comparing your after photos to fellow participants wondering why your results weren’t the same, causing damage to your self-esteem.

Of course, there are positives to the Instagram fitness influencers and what they offer to their audience. These plans and programs provide an outpour of support from fellow participants and are offered at a relatively lower cost than other fitness options. Most importantly they can BACK UP THEIR PROGRAMS WITH CERTIFICATIONS and knowledge that they have educated themselves with. However, it’s important to remember that your emotional and physical health come first. We want to be sure to run any new fitness or diet program by a professional first. Listen to your body, know your limitations, and most importantly don’t follow any accounts that cause you to feel bad about yourself. Find yourself following those accounts that bring positive messages and leave you feeling inspired toward improving health and less about how you look in a bathing suit.

Most importantly, remember that fitness and health are not about sweaty selfies, developing six-pack abs, or those before and after photos. It’s about finding the right habits you need to incorporate into your life that can allow you to become the best version of yourself!