Wellness

7 Fitness and Wellness Myths the Real Pros Have Seen on Social Media

Because "fitfluencers" aren't always posting legit health and wellness tips.


With the rise of “fitfluencers” on social media, it can be tough to distinguish truth from myth. Certified fitness and wellness pros call out the seven biggest misconceptions they’ve seen on Instagram and beyond. / Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

Social media platforms make it super easy to disseminate information and tips, especially when it comes to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. But not all of these photos and videos are actually helpful, research-driven, or professionally informed. Just because a “fitfluencer” has a ton of followers and even more likes doesn’t mean their advice is credible or will work for others.

Due to influencers’ popularity and level of engagement, though, it can be tough to identify what’s legit and what’s bogus, what’s worth pursuing and what’s potentially detrimental to your wellness journey. To help us navigate all the “fitspiration,” we turned to local, certified fitness and wellness pros to uncover the biggest misconceptions perpetuated on Instagram and other social media platforms. That way, you can better determine how to actually maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Myth #1: Fad Workouts Work

“Some influencers are constantly posting workouts that look cool or may be impossible for the average gym goer to do. In particular, bad male influencers tend to make the workout so incredibly hard that only they and a select few athletes can do it, whereas bad female influencers tend to post workouts that only focus on legs, glutes, and abs. In reality, these are not the only workouts these influencers did to reap their results — they just look good on video and attract likes. Instead, you should look for posted workouts that focus on total body and highlight the building blocks of fitness. Rome wasn’t built in a day!” — Gwinyai Murahwa, trainer at Leverage Fitness; NSAM, TPI, and Precision Nutrition certified

#2: There’s a One Size Fits All Approach to Wellness

“What’s hard to see or even share on social media is the amount of time, effort, failure, and self-inquiry that should go into one’s wellness journey. Instagram and other platforms are meant to be curated, which means it’s so easy to see what someone else is doing for their individual wellness and think, ‘That’s going to work for me, too.’ And it might! But it also might not! Just because someone is a dietitian or trainer on social doesn’t mean they’re YOUR dietitian or trainer. We all have different bodies and minds; therefore, we’ll each have different needs, challenges, and paths. It’s great to learn and be inspired by the ‘gram, but it’s also important to seek out guidance and relationships in real life and remember that wellness is not one size fits all!” — Adriana Adelé, yoga teacher at Three Queens Yoga, Maha Yoga, and The Sporting Club at the Bellevue; RYT 500 and E-RYT 200

 

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“Social media creates, disseminates, and perpetuates the myth that ‘what works for me, will work for you.’ This is especially evident in trends like macronutrient counting, meal prep, detox teas, and intermittent fasting. This is frustrating because influencers fail to account for the genetic diversity that exists among bodies. Even more concerning is the fact that many of the people who create and disseminate this type of content have absolutely no credentials in nutrition, nursing, or medicine. Influencers are capitalizing off what amounts to good fortune or dumb luck, whether they were privileged enough to be born in a socially acceptable body or they just happened to respond well to the latest fad diet. As a healthcare provider, I have to constantly dispel this notion that just because another person was successful with a certain approach does not mean that you will experience similar results. When attempting to achieve your health and wellness goals, try to remain objective and to not compare yourself to others and to engage the support of qualified professionals.” — Susanne Johnson, family nurse practitioner for Project Hope

#3: Feeling Bad Will Make You Work Harder

“It can be difficult to navigate the waters of wellness, especially when viewing it through the lenses of influencers and content that may not have your best interest at heart. It’s important to use caution, think intuitively about decisions you make for yourself and reflect more on whether what you’re seeing on social media truly serves and honors you, or is prompting you to act from a “lack” mentality. What you pursue and listen to should suit your individual needs: your optimal health, vitality, and well-being. Nobody should tell you or make you feel less than or not good enough because of your health, nutrition, and wellness choices.” — Lynn Gallagher, yoga and meditation teacher at Haven Wellness Center and Roots2Rise, and holistic beauty and skin therapist at the Parlour and Heyday

#4: The ‘Gram Always Reflects Reality

“Social media bombards us with gym selfies, before and after pics, and perfectly beautiful meal plans. Striving to maintain this level of perfection is exhausting and stress inducing. It is also not reality! I realized this more and more as conversations with friends made it apparent that my own social media would make you think that I exercise like crazy and cook all the time. I don’t! But I do post pictures whenever I teach a workout class (four times per week and half the time I don’t get any exercise myself), and I post around four meal pictures per week, which isn’t a whole lot out of 21 meals total. It is important to remember that a social media influencer is probably only posting 10 percent of their lives online, and you have no idea what the other 90 percent looks like.” — Beth Auguste, registered dietitian and nutritionist, certified women’s fitness specialist, and board-certified specialist in obesity and weight management

 

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“When someone is struggling with their fitness or wellness journey, social media can be a scary place. Images of thin people posing in front of fitness equipment does not mean they are strong or healthy. People retreat to places like Instagram for inspiration and, in my opinion, come away with unrealistic expectations because filters, lighting, and photoshopped images can be really deceiving.” — Erin Chambers, owner of and instructor at Real Girl Pilates; Classical Mat Pilates–, Pilates Reformer–, and barre–certified

#5: “Healthy” Looks Like Only One Thing

“Unfortunately with the rise of social media, it seems as though anyone can consider themselves an “expert” in the wellness industry if they have the right look and enough followers. Health and wellness is not a one-stop shop, and no single approach is going to work for everyone. A healthy approach to life should be one where you are listening to your OWN body and doing things that make YOU feel like the best version of yourself. “Healthy” does not have a specific look and we need to stop promoting that confidence is found in a certain body type. Someone’s body tells you nothing about their physical, mental, or emotional health and in my opinion, all three of these pillars need to be in alignment to live a true healthy life.” — Morgan Dowd, coach at Unite Fitness; NASM certified

“There are so many “fitness bloggers” out there now, and it’s no secret that these people are absolutely ripped. But what we often forget is that these people are either spending hours on end in the gym, which most of us don’t have the capacity to do, or that they’re doing something additional to have the body they do. All of this perpetuates the idea that you’re not doing enough if you don’t have a body that looks like that, which is false and dangerous. I do think (and hope) the narrative is shifting as more and more accounts and blogs are popping up of people chronicling their journeys with weight loss, mental health recovery, and holistic wellness in honest ways. That is the narrative of real people with real goals who are transparent about their triumphs and tribulations.” — Emma Barrera, spin instructor at City Fitness

#6: Shortcuts Automatically Yield Positive Results

“Bad influencers will promote slim teas, fat burners, workout programs, waist trainers, supplements, fad diets, or any type of shortcut that claim to give you the best results of your life in four weeks. These products really only benefit the influencer posting them because they’re getting some type of compensation, which means the influencer isn’t actually in the business of helping or inspiring their followers. Good influencers will tell you that there are no shortcuts, that you’ve got to invest time and sweat in yourself to get long-lasting results. And they will do so to encourage, support, guide, and praise their followers because the real joy is being part of someone else’s success.” — Gwinyai Murahwa

 

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#7: More Likes = More Expertise

“Unfortunately, aesthetically beautiful and provocative posts get re-affirmed with more “likes,” but more likes does not mean more financial or impactful success. And it certainly does not demonstrate that someone is a more competent practitioner. If someone tells you that eating a banana with avocado fixed their scoliosis or that Warrior Two cures diabetes, you might want to be suspicious. While it may feel rewarding to them because they can create more engagement on social media, it doesn’t make the content well-intentioned or even good-spirited. Content should be posted for the value it provides followers, not the number of likes it gives the poster.” — Jake Panasevich, yoga expert for U.S. News and instructor at Maha Yoga

“Instagram is a beautiful place for dissemination of knowledge, fostering community, and finding inspiration. But it doesn’t replace your own intuition and the responsibility to be your own advocate when it comes to your health and wellness. Just because someone shares a certain diet, exercise, or lifestyle that works for them doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you. Be a skeptic, do your research, experiment with what works for your own body, and consult a professional when needed. Remember that just because someone is an “influencer” doesn’t mean they’re actually qualified to give medical advice.” — Nicole Hinterberger, physical therapist at Wallace and Nilan Physical Therapy and spin instructor at Flywheel Sports