Image Obsessed: The Relationship between Instagram and the Fitness Industry

With 200 million current active users, it’s no surprise that Instagram is dominating the social media sphere, and is playing a huge part in the driving force that is the fitness industry. Through Instagram alone we have seen an astronomical surge in fitness movements, communities, and self-made influencers. Last year, it was reported that Facebook lost almost 2.8 million users under the age of 25, so it’s no stretch to suggest that they have more than likely turned their interests to Instagram and Snapchat instead, but why?

To put it simply, we live in an image obsessed society, and I don’t mean body-image right now, I mean visuals. Pictures, filters, quotes, selfies, screenshots, albums, stories, you name it. We love visuals because it’s relatable and it excites us, and this shows in the very basic of social media analytics. Although this content is viewed through a filtered and often photoshopped lens, statistics do show that these videos and pictures are getting our attention. Young people are image obsessed in both senses of the word, and it seems the only way to find a huge chunk of this demographic is by delving into the beautifully organised chaos that is Instagram. The password? #fitfam.

The Power of Fitness Communities

Instagram has given us the incredible opportunity to create and grow communities, whether you’re a sponsered influencer, or a standard follower. The best thing about it, is that it is completely free. Hashtagging #fitfam #bbg #crossfit, instantly plunges you into an entire feed saturated with content that’s geared to you. It’s empowering, it’s motivating and it’s reassuring. Positivity breeds like wildfire in this environment because it is a fantastic support system. Say what you want about Instagram, but you cannot fault it’s communities; they are uplifting and works to keep those who are lagging on some days, stay in the game!

Visuals & Sense of Attainability

Photoshop and filters aside, Instagram shows us real people, with real progress. It gives us a sense of business authenticity because we are getting marketing straight from the customer. This authenticity gives people like you and me a sense of attainability. We don’t buy celebrities weight-loss and workout DVD’s anymore, because Instagram is saturated with them, and they’re not celebrities, they’re just like you and I. We realise that actually, we can achieve our goals because so and so did (and she probably has the transformation picture and self made videos to prove it). It’s reassuring and so motivating. Once we know that the goals are achievable, the next step is discovering how.

#thinspo vs. #fitspo

Okay, I’m sure you’ve seen both of these circulating over the past few years, but for the sake of clarification: #thinspo is a hashtag typically occompanied by thousands upon thousands of pictures of abs and thigh gaps, and #fitspo by girls with thick thighs and flexing new back gains. Both look attractive, but they leave the door open for some toxic behaviors. Fitspo came about years ago, as long as I can remember joining Instagram and Pinterest and before long I was inquistive enough to stumble across some sensitive areas such as the pool of pro-ana and other ED pages, with quotes such as ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ being thrown around. Thinspo for me is a seemingly innocent surface with extremely dark undertones I wouldn’t want to stumble across again. Fitspo is relatively newer, brought about by the sudden influx of female lifters and interest in pro bikini models. It is a community that aims to be an influencing and motivating community for women who want to lift and build, but it’s origins are not something so innocent. There is of course the obvious hitting back at the thinspo community, with the intention to show that ‘strong is the new skinny’, but with that comes a wave of arrogance and self-riteoucness. There is equally as much body shaming and it’s messages are equally as misleading. It’s important to take these communities with a pinch of salt and refrain from becoming too invested in either.

We Live in a World of Instants

Turn on your phone, click on Instagram, check out your feed. How long did that take? 2-3 seconds? Instagram is instant. Want to see what pastel pink hair looks like? #pinkhairstyle. Want some new decor inspiration? #bohodecor. Search a simple hashtag and within seconds, you have your answer in the form of thousands and thousands of photos. Top searches save in your search bar, liked posts save automatically. No detective work, Instagram is efficient in it’s search options and optomises this process by refining your searches to you and your recent logs. It’s clever and so ridiculously fast. This, then, gives us an answer to the over used excuse of, ‘I have no time in my day to workout’, because actually, Kayla Instenes just uploaded a 15 minute ab blast which after a few seconds of uplaoding, will probably be top of your discovery feed. Instagram is instant and therefore PERFECT for on the go people, and the everyday user living in the age of instants.

Desperate for Fame

The most disheartening I see on Instagram, is women and men putting themselve through hell getting their dream bodies just to post about it. I’m not against showing off progress, I am against showcasing it purely for followers. If you’re working out and dieting for Instagram, then it’s not the right reason. I believe in making changes for you and for your wellbeing, not because you want to hit 12k overnight. Soon you will realise Instagram is saturated by sucessful people hitting 12k every single hour and getting fit for followers is not the way forward. Get fit for you whilst promoting something positive and you’ll find support from new followers before long.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post for today,

HAPPINESS IS…A COLOURFUL PLATE

I’m a fussy eater, or at least I used to be. How did I tackle this? How am I now that girl that will order seafood ramen with a glass of green juice? (Wagamamas, I’m looking at you). It’s simple…make your food look GOOD and trick yourself into eating it. Sounds like garbage, but it’s actually science and it ACTUALLY works.

For the sake of time (and the never ending length of my blogs these days) I’ll say it simply: Our eyes are, arguably, the most important gustatory organ. It legitimately influences how we taste and agree with food when it hits our body. It’s incredible, and so easily taken advantage of. Food industries PUMP our food with colouring and test fruits and vegetables against colour gradient charts to find out if they will make the standard profit. Plenty of studies have been done to prove that our eyes trick us when it comes to taste and smell, so for the sake of science and your immune system, here’s some colourful meal ideas to consider!

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PURPLE PARMA BOWL
OK, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a strange combination but I like experimenting with food and this was JUST the right amount of crazy to get before I ruined it. First off, I filled the bowl with a lovely cherry flavoured Greek yoghurt. Then museli, honey, dried strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, coconut, raisins, chai seeds, nuts and PARMA VIOLETS. Yes, Parma Violets. Just think for a second, dried fruit is sickly sweet and the Parma Violets just compliment it with a sour kick. Plus, it was fun and made me feel like a kid. Accept it.

Almond & Orange Smoothie
Smoothies are fantastic for picky eaters. Disguise all the grim foods with some strong flavours and boom, great tasting vitamin dense drink. This one in particular has almonds and hemp, a little kale and carrot and good spoon of manuka honey. Top that off with orange and lemon and you have a fruity drink with all the super food goodness! Add this to your breakfast to fill you right up!

Antioxidant Oats
It’s simple, it’s clean, but it’s packed with power.
1. (bottom left) Oats, honey, chai and blueberries. Keeps you full for hours, pumps you with antioxidants, slow releasing energy and looks really tasty too. This is a staple for me!
2. (right) On the go breakfast: Costa oats, frozen packed blackberries and fresh strawberries! It’s a little sugar boost, cheerful and colourful enough to pick you up on any journey!

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MEAT FREE BURGER
For the veggies. This one is an incredible meat free brand (I will make an edit with the name of the company soon) with a spinach layer, reduced tomato and onion relish between a grilled brioche. Plain, sure…but delicious. The flavour is in the veggie burger, you do not need to add to this. And it looks divine (if I don’t say so myself).

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HALLOUMI DELIGHT
Halloumi is certainly a delight. It’s also a little on the calorie side but EAT TO BUILD, right? This is just wholemeal thins, a little mayo, grilled spicy chicken, grilled halloumi and some mean greens on the side. Bright, cheerful and a quick go to lunch idea!

Once again, try these out and let me know if you like them!

Francesca M. Healy

 

 

 

Interview Stress: Inevitable but Defeatable

Ugh, Interviews.

They are undeniably the most stressful things to experience – and I should know, I’ve had a week of them back to back!

Now I don’t want to bore you with my personal career search, what I do want to talk about right now is stress, and more specifically, how to handle that stress. Note I’m using the word handle, not COPE. I see the word ‘cope’ thrown around far too much when it comes to reading stress and anxiety articles and I personally don’t agree with it. Cope implies you’re at the mercy of your stress and that you should just ride the wave, so to speak. Nah. Let’s talk about how you can approach the stress and alleviate it yourself.

Also, I’m not going to give you the typical self help interview tips like, ‘prepare before hand’ and, ‘do your research’ because guys, it doesn’t matter how much to prepare and research, the stress can and will come regardless. So when it does, tell yourself that it’s OK, you’re human and a lot of that stress is a big dose of excitement. Generally, we work better under pressure and immediate answers are usually the most honest and genuine ones. So take these following tips into account, but as an aid, not a cure! Stress is OK!

OK, so how to we handle interview anxiety exactly? Here’s some tips that I personally use to calm myself down a little and compose myself.

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Have a pamper morning

I’m telling you, set that alarm early, run a bath and put on that over priced hair mask. Looking good is important but feeling good is imperative. Feel good and you’ll emit positivity without even trying. You’ll smile without forcing it and ease back into that office chair without reminding yourself to first. So go on, start the day right with YOU time and remind yourself of how much you mean to you, and you’ll carry that healthy mindset into the interview room.

No Caffeine

Sorry coffee addicts, but even you have to admit that caffeine shoots your nerves. You’ll be sat there twitching and eyeballing every corner of the room like its the last thing you’ll ever see. It’s easily done, I get it, but it’s not a good feeling when you’re sat in a coffee shop watching the clock and worrying about your best handshake technique whilst two shots of caffeine is making your heart do cartwheels. Skip the coffee and opt for something calmer. Calm is the theme we’re going for here, after all. Remember that what you put into your body has a million other effects too.

Talk to Somebody

Phone a friend, get a family member to drive you to the office, do a little pre-interview brunch. I feel calmer in a social setting. Don’t sit at home with your head lost in questionable google articles doing last minute prep with a pre-booked taxi…ask someone to preoccupy you for a few hours. If it doesn’t calm you, at least they’re there to quick fire some confidence at you! Today I delved into a conversation about the change in size of pepperami snack sticks with a rather hyperactive school kid and it really wasn’t the most riveting conversation I’ve ever had but it took my mind off my nerves a little and gave me something to smile about.

Plan a Reward

We all love presents. Presents that say well done are ever better. Let’s continue the theme of self-love by pre-planning a little reward. Have something waiting at home for you that you can genuinely look forward to. A lovely dinner, a new book, a bottle of wine or a night out with your friends. Do something that makes you want to stay excited and positive despite how you feel on exiting the interview. Aced it? Go tuck into that take away and Peaky Blinders binge. Fluffed it? It’s OK because you bought a new face cream and your bestie is coming over with wine so who bloody cares anymore? You get the jist.

I hope you enjoyed this little article, and from me to you, tried and tested, I promise it works! Good luck,

Francesca M. Healy

Legs: QUAD focus / GLUTE focus

Here’s this weeks quad and glute focused lower body workouts. These are both ‘heavy’ days as I call them, so I essentially always have a challenging weight and use controlled, slow reps. Mind muscle connection is important when splitting lower body workouts into muscle-specific exercises.

With progressive overloading, good form and my current activation set thrown in I think this is a super effective workout that BURNS the target areas and leaves you with pretty heavy DOMS the next day…so make sure you stretch, foam roll and take all the hot baths you need.

Below are some photos of my quad growth whilst completing these workouts (or similar when I get bored) and I am so happy with the progress! (1 month)

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It’s also worth noting I do train legs (or aim to) 3 times a week as they are my stubborn area! The third workout is usually the last workout of the week, on a Saturday of Sunday depending on when my rest days fall. This will include a full lower body workout, glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves. The only difference is I make this a lighter day, using half the weight and doubling the reps. It’s more like a cardio session but I like to throw it in to make sure not only am I getting stronger, but I’m conditioning too!

Ice Cream Party

Ice Cream Party (1)

I hope you enjoyed these! Again, remember to stretch and foam roll as these are pretty intense for me. Keep rest times as appropriate as you need them and trust me when I say pre-workout or a coffee is a god send throughout!

Francesca M. Healy

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FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD

I’ve been working on making breakfast look beautiful recently. I’ve always had an issue with breakfast, I generally don’t have an appetite of a morning and I often wake up a little nauseous. I’m not sure why, but I have always struggled. Recently however, breakfast has become THE biggest meal of the day. Buying fruit, nuts, seeds, chocolate, etc, and then making it look delicious on my plate and eating it slowly has encouraged me to start thinking about breakfast in a positive way. I’ve trialed this for a few weeks, and now I wake up literally THINKING about what I’m going to eat. Safe to say breakfast is pretty much where I consume most of my calories and enjoy doing so very much.

Above are some of my more modest breakfasts. A breakfast more recently may consist of anything up to 100g of oats, protein and chocolate, banana, nuts, seeds and berries, 3 eggs on toast (w beans or veggies) and often a shake. An hour later, I’m hungry.

Banana Oats:
Honey oats, banana, chai, almonds and blueberries w/ hemp protein powder.

Berry Jar:
Raspberries, Strawberries, Blackberries and honey, muesli and flax seed.

Chocolate Berry Bowl:
Strawberries, yoghurt, coconut flakes cocoa powder and dark chocolate

Overnight oats:
Greek yoghurt, crushed protein biscuits, raspberries, chai seeds, almonds and seeds mix, cashews and blueberries

Cherry Bowl:
Greek yoghurt, blueberries, cherries, chai seeds and honey

Almond Pancakes:
Pancakes (with almond powder and vanilla protein), crushed almonds, Nutella, dried mango and coconut flakes and honey.

Francesca M. Healy

What 18yr old me would have wanted to know…

When you get into exercise, be it anything from running to power lifting, you never get it first time round. You can prepare yourself as much as humanly possible of course, but the truth is that every single day you will learn something new about yourself and your sport. Every single week I find a mistake in my training and I will tweak it slightly and nail that movement I’ve been hating for so long. Every single day is a learning curve.

You see, getting into fitness is kind of like buying a new phone; everyone is talking about it, it’s the latest trend. You can read all manuals, watch all the adverts and scour all the reviews. You can imagine how cool it is to have and how many people will be super envious…but once it’s in your hand and it’s you using it, the chances are you start to notice little things wrong with it. It’s too big for your hand, its not loud enough, the screen is too bulky, it’s slower than you want it to be, etc etc.

Fitness is not a one size fits all and accepting that things can and will go wrong is your first step to success.

Here’s 5 things I wish I could have known at 18 years old…

1. MORE THAN ONE BODY TYPE EXISTS.

Christ, when I was 18 and first starting out I truly believed that I would look like the models I followed on Instagram. As in, I truly, wholly believed if I worked hard enough I would have their EXACT physique. I strived for it, and whilst having things like that to motivate you should in theory be a good thing, in reality it did nothing but depress me. I wasn’t listening to my body and paying attention to my specific biology. I was squatting, curling, training abs like no tomorrow believing I would walk out with an lean hourglass figure, big butt and toned arms. The reality? Overly developed traps, bulked quads, stubborn as fuck glutes…the list goes on. My stomach got toned but my waist did not budge. Why? Because genetics. My body type isn’t meant to accommodate big hips and a tiny waist, and as a 5”3 girl I will never have long lean legs. I am short and athletic, slightly naturally skinny and I hold fat in strange places. Coming back down to reality when I realised this was HARD. However eventually I realised what potential my body type did in fact hold, and then, everything changed. Suddenly, my workouts were for me, and me only. My personal, ‘build a Hannah’ guide, where I actually paid attention to my physique. Hey, I have to work harder for my butt and maybe my waist is an urban fucking legend after all but learning that more than one body type exists was the first step to loving myself.

2. PEOPLE WILL NEVER STOP STARING

Walking into the weights section and having thirty sets of eyes on you will never become old. It never becomes comfortable and it never is okay. BUT it will happen. People are nosey, people will watch and lord above men will perv but lets be really honest with ourselves here…you look too? Someone walks through the weights area, you look. Why do you look? Because you’re bored? Because you’re nosy? We always take it as a personal attack but as long as that person is just looking and not staring then try your best to ignore it. I always say to myself, if they’re staring at me they’re not paying enough attention to their own set and therefore, I pity them. Jokes on you my friend. Then, I pretend they’re not there, grab my equipment and do my set because I’ll be damned if some thirty year old juiced up grunter ruins my workout.

Also, ladies: If a person keeps staring and you’re feeling uncomfortable then it’s OK to confront them. Just a simple, “can I help you with something?” usually makes their heads swivel the other way. Embarrassment and confusion sinks in and voila, you suddenly don’t exist. Simple and easy.

3. EMBARRASSING MOMENTS HAPPEN WHETHER YOU’RE RIPPED OR NOT

Ever dropped a 45kg bar mid-clean on one thigh and collapsed to the floor like a dead weight? Ever ripped your hand right open on a 85kg deadlift? Ever tripped over a barbell? Let go of a heavy cable mid set and let it smash right to the floor? Chinned the box instead of jumping on it? Flew off a treadmill? Ripped your leggings?

Above are just some of the ridiculous things I’ve…ahem, ‘achieved’ in the gym – most of which I did no more than six months ago. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or not, it’s OK to be a klutz in the gym! We are dealing with weight here people! Shit happens! Cut yourself some slack, put a plaster on it and save the story for an awkward date.

4. ITS OK TO EAT BEN AND JERRY’S BEFORE A WORKOUT.

To be honest, it’s really fucking not but the point I’m making here is that beating yourself up over clumsy food choices gets you nowhere! How many times have you heard or said, “I ate a chocolate bar this morning and ruined my diet so I’m gonna skip the gym today.” Seriously, nutrition is so important and being serious about it will get you amazing results but letting it determine if you workout or not that day? Come on. I slowly realised that was a terrible decision. Now eating something I probably could have done without, makes me want to go more! I promise you, treats here and there will do nothing if you’re working your ass off in the gym. One bad meal doesn’t make you unhealthy, just the same as one good meal doesn’t make you healthy. What’s healthy, is understanding that food is not the enemy, and as long as you have the energy and you feel motivated and good, go get that workout in. One set of rows is better than no sets of rows.

5. YOU ARE INCREDIBLE

This. Is. so. Important.

Stop being horrible to yourself. Stop critiquing your body and deleting your progress photos. Stop comparing yourself to Instagram models and crying over carbs.

The hardest thing you will ever do in the gym, is look in the mirror, smile, and say “I’m proud of that.” Force yourself to do it and say it after every workout. Change your mindset. Fuck your flaws. A flaw indicates a weak spot and this means IT CAN BE CHANGED. There is always work to be done and room to improve and every workout is a step forward. It is impossible to move backwards from here. Every single day you are stronger than before and nobody forced you to do it. YOU did it. Be proud of that.Francesca M. Healy

Making mistakes, and how to fix them.

Starting a ‘Fitness Journey’ is daunting. With every single social media outlet shoving the words ‘diet’ and ‘health’ in our faces every second of the day, it’s easy to understand why. As an increasingly health conscious society we have developed this impatient need to change. It’s a restless feeling among us, an unspoken tetchy subject in which we set ourselves up to fail before we’ve even began. 

Why? The question of, “can I kick the cravings” and “have I lost weight yet” resound through the busy ladies gym changing rooms throughout this time of year, new year new me and all that. Our impatience forces us to immediately focus on the negatives. Why do we complete a workout and immediately wonder why we haven’t changed yet? We’re in awe at how we haven’t cheated on our diets, yet? Not only this, but asking these questions often confirms that most of us forget that diets aren’t just for January. As in, we’re not meant to start a diet, find the discipline, lose that bastard stone and let it all go again! We’re meant to KEEP progressing or KEEP maintaining. Learn to love the challenge, there’s always room to improve. Where is the motivation to progress if we’ve set a goal and only one goal? 

So how do we fix it? We need to ditch the impatience and start fresh. Nourish your brain with positivity and self-love and you will appreciate each little step of your progress, slow or not, so much more.

 

I once bought a day pass to a gym in Manchester and I remember on every single inch of the walls in the ladies changing rooms were signs such as, ‘how did your workout feel?’, ‘did you hit a PR today?’, ‘Nothing beats how fit feels’, you get the gist. And I thought…how amazing.

You see, when we stop focusing on those scary scale moments and horrific locker room lit mirror selfies post workout, we start to focus on how we feel during our workouts. When we start to focus and fall in love with that feeling and that endorphins rush…that’s when we fall in love with working out. 

The second mistake? NOT DOCUMENTING YOUR PROGRESS.
IMG_20170905_145259_180The brain is an incredibly adaptive thing, and it is powered by an evil malicious villain called ‘self-esteem’ which likes to play devils advocate, so to speak.
First of all, progress wont happen over night, and yes, we’ve all beaten ourselves up over that fact (myself included). When we wake up every day in the same gym outfit with the same breakfast at the same time and do the same workout, our minds get bored, our bodies adapt and our self esteem comes moping in, sets itself up on a battered old sofa and whips out the violin. Fast forward a few days and we’re looking in the mirror telling ourselves it’s not working and it’s not worth it

I’m telling you now, create a diary, or a blog, or an Instagram and document your progress! Write down how you feel, how your workout went, what you were proud of. Emit positivity. Write when you’re on your bus home from the gym while you’re still flying from your pre-workout and whenever you feel down or deflated, find that book and remind yourself of how far you’ve come and WHY you do this. Put into that book when you’re at your highest, what you want to receive when you’re at your lowest. 

Photo’s are always my favourite choice of documenting as I don’t personally agree with scales, or the concept of them. The scales don’t understand your body type, they don’t care if you have a cup size A or bloody Z, and they give zero insight into any muscle growth (if that’s your goal). The scales are sneaky and lie and should only be trusted on OCCASION. Take photos. I’m not going to lie to you, your camera certainly gives a blunt and raw projection of this progress, but let’s be real, this is your body and YOUR progress and you are STILL a better version of yourself now than you were yesterday.

Learn to appreciate the journey and you’ll fall in love with fitness, it’s as simple as that. 

Francesca M. Healy