Over the past year, I’ve noticed a significant escalation in the amount of people who preach that social media doesn’t reflect real life. A move towards a more self aware state of existence is undoubtedly positive, as it shows that people are becoming more comfortable with the idea that our life doesn’t have to conform to some preconceived idea of “perfection.” However, it simultaneously creates an unfair presumption of pretentiousness behind images that are posted online. Whilst many images are posed for, edited, and carefully selected, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all pictures on social media present a skewed reality!
When you come across instagram accounts that are just flooded with appealing pictures of one’s lifestyle, perfectly lean pictures of one’s body, or just any pictures that are socially perceived as glamorous, then no- that person’s life doesn’t always look that way. Having said that, I don’t necessarily think that all aesthetically pleasing instagram accounts are trying to present an illusion of the account holder’s life, or to pretend that their life is flawless. At the end of the day, instagram is a feed of pictures and a gallery where people can express their creativity.
Despite the popular belief that instagram feeds people with a pool of lies and the negative associations that such accounts enforce, it’s also a positive platform where you’re able to engage with like minded people and build connections that you wouldn’t have normally been exposed to. Ever since I’ve been immersed in the fitness and nutrition side of social media, I’ve made such amazing connections with fellow vegans all around the world, but also fitness enthusiasts in general. Of course most of them are going to post workout pictures that are strategically taken from a perfect angle and under good lighting. The same applies for food.
But, so what? Are we going to completely reverse the current convention and start discouraging people from appreciating their ability to transform their bodies through exercise, or start telling people to just ‘eat their food’ without wanting to again… appreciate how nicely presented it looks? People aren’t going to post double chin pictures of themselves, or snaps when they’re eating a can of pasta that they’ve quickly heated up because even though we all have ‘bad angles’ and rushed days, there’s also nothing wrong with appreciating the good times in life.
Today’s the perfect day for me to be writing this post, as I’ve quite literally had a full day of eat. I’ll usually have three large, substantive meals and at-least 2 solid snack sessions in-between. But I have four saturated exams coming up this week and the weather was gloomy and humid, which majorly affected my mood as I tend to feel “down” during rapid temperature changes… so I practically spent the whole day sat on my couch eating and scrolling through my phone. Did I post on my instagram feed whilst I had my hair up in a bun, walked around in PJs, and ate crisps out of a bag? No, ofcourse not and that’s absolutely fine! I might have posted on my story telling my followers that I felt lethargic and demotivated but that’s because I want to be honest and real with people and I don’t want to encourage any ongoing trends of superficial realities.
I enjoy connecting with people through the instagram ‘story’ feature because I feel that it gives a personal touch to instagram, where you can get an insight of the daily life and personality of people you follow. So I’ll tend to post pictures of my abs in the morning sometimes as I’m always surprised when I look significantly “lean” after a delicious feast before bed, or after a week of low intensity / no exercise. Over the month of April (2017), I had a two week internship in London where I barely did any physical activity and still managed to maintain a lean physique and an energetic mood- something that surprised me and I therefore felt compelled to share it on my story. Shortly after I received several Direct Messages asking me to post more pictures of my fitness/ body/ muscles on my actual feed, as opposed to just on my story- as they tend to disappear after a 24 hour slot.
Even though I enjoy seeing people I follow post pictures of their bodies before/ after a workout whilst they post about their progress or self love, I don’t feel completely comfortable doing it myself for two main reasons. Firstly, I consider myself a relatively modest person and despite my confident appeal, I don’t consider my body as ‘amazing,’ or ‘perfectly lean,’ so I wouldn’t want to portray that illusion. Secondly, I don’t stick to a certain way of eating and exercising, in order for it to be appropriate to post ‘progress pictures,’ which means that I don’t currently have specific goals at the moment because Uni work has completely taken up most of my time until the end of June.
I usually work out four times a week- which includes a combination of going to the gym and weight training/ doing core exercises and swimming, I eat a (mostly) whole foods plant based diet, and I walk to campus (20 minutes) as opposed to taking public transport. A combination of these factors allows me to keep myself energised, happy, fit, and provides a sustainable way of feeling satiated after every single meals whilst having a relatively lean physique with minimal effort.
The controversy over posting pictures of my body on instagram and talking about self love, mindful living and veganism- which is what I love advocating on social media, is that someone could be posting similar pictures of THEIR bodies whilst leading a very different life to mine. When scrolling through instagram feeds, you don’t always pause and read the captions underneath and as a result, my pictures can so easily be associated with with accounts that reflect unhealthy mindsets towards food and fitness. If someone looks at two different images on social media that show similar body types, it can be easily presume that those two individuals lead similar lifestyles.
It’s unrealistic and deceptive for girls to be posting pictures of their athletic/ slim figures whilst also only only ever posting pictures of mountains of junk food. There’s nothing wrong with indulging every now and then, that’s exactly what I spent the WHOLE of today doing, but I’m honest about that and I’m also transparent about how I live my life during the other five days in a week (I’ll tend to go all out with eating at my favourite restaurants a couple times a week).
I want people to realise that achieving a good body doesn’t have to come through an unhealthy mindset because eating a plant based diet comes hand in hand with both a healthy mind and body! It’s a maintainable lifestyle that allows me to feel great on most mornings when I get out of bed, as I look forward to eating a big ol’ bowl of flavoursome porridge, toast, or a ‘vegan full english’ depending on how much time I have. Either way, it consists of a routine that doesn’t deprive me of anything, whilst still allowing me to feel happy about the way I look and FEEL.
Being affected by damaging instagram accounts that implicitly put pressure on their followers to lead certain lifestyles is an unavoidable consequence of how broad the internet is. But with any medium of human interaction, you can chose to stay away from negativity. This is easier said than done, but you can recognise the downfalls of a situation, without allowing it to directly effect and intervene in your life, or interrupt the positive framework that you’re in.
Without posting yet another lengthy post, as a female on social media, I feel that it is my responsibility to not encourage or help accelerate any perceived social interpretations of what the female body looks like. Sometimes I’ll wake up looking nine months pregnant and walk around the whole day feeling bloated- from my face, to my belly! Other days, I’ll wake up feeling like I could strut around town in a crop top without feeling slugish and both those states are NORMAL because the human body, especially the female body fluctuates according to what time of the day it is and what time of the month it is. Hormonal side effects are NATURAL and should be embraced, accepted, and appreciated- It’s what makes us human.
Our bodies; our skin and bones, are made to help us survive, to enable us to engage in activities that make us happy and to build positive human interractions. Our bodies aren’t there to be hated on, as they’re the engine by which we function in life, whilst simultaneously being the temple that we find comfort and self love in. Throughout our lives we meet thousands of people who we connect with in one way or another, and no matter how close or intimate we get with some, noone will understand our entire life and pool of emotions as well we do. Our body is the only being that has been there with us every step of the way and the least we can do is love it for that, appreciate its strength and respect its resilience.
You might not be happy with the way your body looks right now, but you can’t expect to improve your physical appearance or mental response to that if you don’t love it. we’re all built differently and the way we look should not be our main focus. As individuals, we have so much potential to thrive- intellectually and emotionally, explore, experience, give, and share- yet so many of us let our physical appearances and insecurities intervene with all that. Without getting too cliché, at the the end of the day, people aren’t going to remember your jean size, or how narrow your waste is, but they’re going to remember the memories they had with you and how you made them FEEL. Be a person that you’d want to meet. Be a person that you’d want to spend time with. Be a person that you’d want to love. And through that process, don’t be afraid to meet yourself, to learn who you are, to enjoy spending time alone- with your own company, and above all- to love yourself!