Let me preface this post with a disclaimer. Yes, I do write for a fantastic health and fitness magazine. And, yes, of course it’s important to eat well and look after your body.
But what baffles me is this strange confusion that has developed between saving the world and turning up to an 8am spin class.
Considering the amount of inspirational quotes, #selflove and ‘candid’ vlogs you see among the fitness devotee community, you really would think they were busy volunteering in Calais. Or, judging by the amount of ‘Buddhist’ yogis, that they were disciples of Gandhi (who, to my knowledge, has yet to join Instagram).
Rather than practical fitness and nutrition advice, much of the output is dedicated to a frankly narcissistic succession of underwear snaps featuring accessory muscles and smug ‘You’re probably not even awake yet’ faces.
Social media has somehow made this all acceptable: the legitimisation of self-obsession. What starts out as a journey to lose a few pounds becomes a quest for spiritual salvation – and everyone has to hear about it.
Frankly, if someone gets enough likes from the online fitness community on their #workoutwednesday photo, I’m not surprised if it’s gratifying enough to delude them into thinking they’re doing the universe a favour. But ultimately, well-being – or whatever warped version of it you endorse – really is just a service to yourself.
Another thing that concerns me is ‘clean eating’. While this popular concept has no real definition, it is a diet based around unprocessed, low-sugar foods. Great, in theory – but it easily becomes a pseudo-moral issue.
As Nigella Lawson has pointed out, the term itself ‘implies other forms of eating are somehow dirty and impure’, making it exclusionary to those who, understandably, just like to eat a slice of Hovis once in a while.
It even has a weird overlap with the Jewish concept of kashrut, whereby Jews avoid eating certain foods that are ‘unclean to God’ (although kashrut outlaws shellfish, which clean eaters inform me is both low calorie and full of #protein).
While some food vendors have successfully satirised this holier-than-thou concept – think burger chain Dirty Burger, Berwick Street Market’s Savage Salads and Moorgate’s Bad Egg– it is a source of anxiety and confusion for your average Joe. Cue, for instance, the growing sales for gluten-free foods (up 46 per cent in two years), despite the fact that only one per cent of the population are coeliac.
Ultimately, maintaining health and fitness is for you – or, if you are in a parental role, it is also a gift you bestow upon your family. Somehow, wellbeing has become associated with daily selfies, elitist dieting and, actually, a social-media borne cultism. Your banging bod is impressive – seriously, it looks great – but it doesn’t have anything to do with the path to enlightenment.