Fitness Influencers: A Scam to Target Young Women?

Mia Romanoff, Blogger

While fitness influencers (internet personalities who capitalize off sharing their lifestyles and health/fitness tips) have existed since the rise of internet personalities in the mid-2010s, when quarantine started a year ago many influencers gained the attention of millions. Personalities such as Chole Ting and Alexis Ren shot to popularity gaining millions of followers over the course of months. The prospect of using lockdown as a time to get fit seems innocuous, however, the unregulated claims and target audiences of social media fitness gurus contribute to a toxic diet culture aimed at young women. This is not the first time where public personalities have attempted to capitalize off girls’ desire to achieve aesthetic perfection. 

On Instagram Kylie Jenner promoted the fittea detox tea while her sister, Kim Kardashian, was promoting an appetite suppressant lollipop. Neither of these products’ weight loss claims had any scientific backing and even if they did, skipping meals and using laxatives are unsafe methods to achieve such a goal. Over the summer Chloe Ting was called out for providing false information about exercise such as promoting the idea of spot reduction, which is the idea that certain exercises can get rid of fat in a specific area of the body. These claims coupled with aggressive marketing techniques that promise huge results quickly if one is able to complete one of her challenges, continue to feed into the idea that health is secondary to physical appearance. The overwhelming message of these channels is that flat stomachs, sculpted butts, and an hourglass figure can be achieved if you are willing to work hard for 14 days and that the only reason to exercise at all is to reach these physical ideals. 

To further these claims, Chloe herself makes reaction videos to people’s before and after pictures which is supposed to act as motivation for her subscribers. This veers dangerously close into the territory of thinspo, a term coined in eating disorder communities that references the use of images of others bodies to inspire yourself. To add to the problematic nature of the fitness influencer, the personality and claims become linked so that the person who is being looked to as a professional (regardless of whether they have any expertise) is also financially capitalizing off their social platform. This taints any advice as the goal is not to share accurate information but rather to expand their following and economic opportunity. 

As a society, we should not be looking back but rather looking towards body neutral or body positive movements that encourage health overlooks instead of increasing the pressure on women to fit a visual mold.