Fitness

A photo posted by Khloé (@khloekardashian) on

Pull up your Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media app and you’re flooded with #Fitspiration. The popular hashtag is intended to encourage you to eat healthier and lead a more active lifestyle. But just like anything done in excess, #fitspiration can also be a bad thing.

In fact, researchers from Georgia College & State University and Chapman University recently analyzed how the use of social media could be tied with eating disorders and compulsive exercise in young adults and found that, perhaps not surprisingly, there is a connection between disordered eating and compulsive exercising thanks to the popular hashtag. This wouldn't be the first time that fitspiration has been in the spotlight for a negative reason. It's been proven before to bring down women's self-esteem and that's NOT cool in our book.

However, I do believe that there are some positive effects tied to fitspiration — as long as it's promoted correctly. The last thing you want to do when motivating others to exercise or eat well is to make them feel insecure or guilt trip them.

Related from Vivala: 5 Women on Reclaiming the Word 'Fat'

We reached out to experts for advice on how we can all use #fitspiration in a positive way without losing sight of its initial message. Here are their best tips. 

1. Your mind-set determines what fitspiration means to you. We've been brainwashed by this idea that if a woman is super thin or has six-pack abs, she's automatically healthy, when the truth is that someone's exterior doesn't always reflect what is going on inside them. Make sure that when you are viewing these posts, you take them with a grain of salt. "Approach these images with the mind-set that these posts are evidence that healthy living is possible for you, too," says model Melinda Parrish. Try to avoid negative self-talk, because that can lead to feelings of doubt or shame. Instead, try to see #fitspiration posts as guides, not as a basis for comparison. 

2. Unfollow unhealthy accounts. If you've been following an account that makes you feel guilty for skipping the gym today, hit the Unfollow button. "It's important to keep in mind that when you make the decision to follow someone on social media, It should be someone who inspires you — someone who makes you want to work harder and be a better version of yourself," fitness instructor and nutritionist Monika Paez says.

3. Follow inspirational accounts. When you're turning to social media for some #MotivationMonday, it's best to stick to accounts that send a positive message. For example, if you enjoy cooking, find an account that teaches you how to make your meals healthier. "Follow people who post real images of themselves at their worst and best, people who give you recipes, show you workouts you can do yourself, and don't just post pictures of their bodies," Paez says.

Related from Vivala: 9 Things to Know Before You Start Running

4. Remember that social media isn't everything. It's easy to get so caught up in social media that you forget about the real world, but it's important to look for inspiration offline, too. Paez suggests having a serious conversation with friends or family to make sure you have their support if you are looking to change your lifestyle. "Ask them not to have unhealthy food around you, offer healthier food options at gatherings or even join you on your journey," she says. 

5. Be the change you wish to see. The beauty about social media is that you have the freedom to express yourself. If you disagree with most of the fitspiration messages you see, you are more than welcome to share your vision as well. But be mindful and sensitive with your posts because you never know who is watching. After all, you don't want to feed the negative side of fitspiration! Most importantly, express yourself in a way that you'd like to see more of out there. "Be kind, be open to new ideas, and share your story," Parrish says. "We grow more powerful when we use our voices to inspire and empower one another."