Fit-Shaming: Why Can’t We Just Leave Women Alone?

Fitspiration, clean eating and healthy selfies are flying all over social media of late, as women try to encourage one another to keep up their healthy lifestyles (and no doubt garner a little praise for the hard work they've put into their bodies).

But many have spoken out about a new trend trumping #fitspo, dubbed 'fit-shaming' – attacking healthy, strong women because their photos are more sweat than cocktails.Fit-Shaming: Why Can't We Just Leave Women Alone?#fitspo

And while 'fat-shaming' has long been frowned upon (though is still a common theme online), many people don't seem to have any problem having a go at healthy women showing off their toned tums and strong muscles.

Fitness junkie Amy Molloy wrote in Grazia, "I have a ritual whenever I go for a run…I always stop to take a selfie. I post the photo on Instagram… because I want an online reminder of the moments that make me happy.

"Unfortunately, not everyone else is as happy for me…and instead I find myself facing a daily barrage of fit-shaming."

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Amy's passion is health and Fitness, as are the posters on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter who populate the #fitspo hastag.

And they're attracting some serious trolls.

Is this just yet another example of how women just can't win? We're damned if we're chubby and unhealthy, but damned if we publicly do anything about it.

Or are these fitspo women just being, well, really bloody annoying with their perfect abs?

Fit-Shaming: Why Can't We Just Leave Women Alone?In-gym selfies (Instagram)

Male fitness freaks and body builders post healthy selfies all the time and gather no angry reaction, but if a woman does it she's 'making people feel bad' or 'shaming' women who don't choose the same lifestyle.

Amy's not said or done anything wrong, but her tone just seems to raise heckles.

Some suggest fitspo posters are asking for it. Why post pictures of you half-naked, mid-workout at all? Is it arrogant, self-obsessed or trying to get one over on your opposition, causing our competitiveness with each other to ride to the surface? Are they just making us jealous and mean?

They deny this, saying it's just like feeds that revolve around fashion, food or interiors, a record of things they love that are inspiring to others. What's wrong with that?

But it doesn't feel the same. Perhaps because what we wear and collect is a creative representation that we have ultimate control over, while our bodies often feel much less under our control, conflicted and under threat.

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The fit-shaming trend raises questions on all levels, from why women feel so threatened by these images to the psychology behind online trolls in general, not to mention the deep-rooted issues of body image in our society.

Plus there's the question of whether #fitspo just dresses up #thinspo as something less immediately sinister.

But just looking around the Yahoo Lifestyle office reveals the #fitspo bubble is in danger of bursting.Fit-Shaming: Why Can't We Just Leave Women Alone?Jen's inspirational bum (Instagram)

While we were once obsessed with her bum, now a collective groan is uttered every time Jen Selter posts her latest Instagram belfie.

We want to follow and be inspired by fitspos, but it can be hard. The tone can comes across self righteous and smug, and frankly seeing constant images of women who are nailing it when we're struggling to even make it to the gym in the first place can be downright depressing.

Fit mum Maria Kang was flamed for being a 'fit-shamer' after publishing the now-infamous image of herself and her perfectly toned body with her three young children, asking 'What's Your Excuse?'.Fit-Shaming: Why Can't We Just Leave Women Alone?Maria's picture with her sons on Facebook created a backlash (Maria Kang)

But she shouted back at her critics, saying 'fat acceptance shouldn't be encouraged'. And she and others like her seem to have made it their personal mission to make fatties into fitties. And with rising obesity and all its related illnesses, surely this is a good thing, so why does it get our backs up so much?

Perhaps it's because while all of us want to be slim, healthy and reduce our risk of awful diseases, we either can't or won't put the effort in to make it happen. And when the celebration of good health is so conflicted, it's easy to turn on the people getting it 'right' when we can't.

Obviously trolling at all is a ridiculous thing for an intelligent human to do, so perhaps those of us who are getting more jealous and downhearted than upbeat and inspired by the #fitspo feeds should just stop following them.

And if you want to post photos of you looking fabulous, just remember there are jealous, unhappy people out there ready to hit out at you to make themselves feel better rather than put down the doughnut.

Are you a fit-shamer or the fit-shamed?

Vicky Pattison

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