Jen Selter’s ass has more Instagram followers than you. Technically, her ass doesn’t have its own Instagram, but the majority of her “fitness” photos don’t show her face. It’s her ass in leggings, her ass in a dress, her ass doing air squats as if the two were somehow linked (despite what her 4.6 million Instagram followers and the infamous #shesquatsbro hashtag believe, they aren’t). Millions of women look to her as inspiration, and whether or not they’ll attain her physique is beyond the point. Selter is the face of a new wave of Instagram fitness celebrities using their bodies as marketing tools.
Their followers know these people, usually women, as “fitspirations” or “fitspos”. They might go the Selter route and exclusively post photographs of their slim, toned bodies, or go the extra mile and post videos for different exercises. They also provide diet advice, posting photographs of salads and diced fruit next to their flat stomachs. The combination beautiful women and the repeated motto, “if you do this, you’ll look like me!” has rocketed dozens of accounts to Instagram fame.
There is a deeper reasoning behind this lust for inspiration on social media. Visual platforms like Instagram allow for the delusion that beauty is a constant. Followers only see celebrities, Instagram- or real-world-, in their best light, with filters and editing to help the process. The personal nature of following someone on social media can distract people from the knowledge that this isn’t how these women look day-to-day. It becomes expected to look beautiful, and the same beast that gives people that delusion has begun to provide an alternative: eating healthy and getting fit, Instagram-style.
Doing any form of exercise will get a person who doesn’t work out in better shape. It doesn’t matter if they’re speed-walking, doing hamstring curls, or busting out some yoga moves—they will get healthier and happier from moving around. Fitness, the seventy-fifth most popular hashtag on Instagram, is far more useful than detrimental. The same cannot be said for the twenty-fourth most popular hashtag, “food.” When celebrities start offering diet tips, the results are hazardous. The average nutritionist may see 18-20 patients in an eight-hour day. Making someone healthy isn’t an easy job. Anyone with certification in the field of nutrition would tell you that there isn’t a one-size-fits all diet.
This isn’t something the fitspos of Instagram are aware of, nor is it something they’d be able to work with if they did. All influential Instagram fitness personalities have too many followers to provide personalized, healthy plans for them. Instead, they favor extreme diets.
Take Cassey Ho of Blogilates for example. With 595,000 followers, she has almost thirty thousand times the influence of a dietician and 0% of their education. She advocates for her followers to eat a 1,300-calorie diet while exercising for an hour each day. The UN would call this starvation, but to the women in the comments section desperately asking how they can look like her, it’s “the right way to eat”.
Instagram has long been aware of this association, and it was one of the first outlets to ban pro-starvation hashtags like “#thighgap”. It does its part to place a Content Advisory warning over certain search items like “#skinny” (over 5 million posts), and even includes links to eating disorder support websites. There’s only so much it can do for those who aren’t aware of how dangerous these diets are. Ideally no one would be preaching nutrition advice over Instagram but if that is not possible, it’s vital for the Insta-celebrities to censor themselves.