The “Dark Side” Of Fitness Social Media

The “Dark Side” Of Fitness Social Media

What’s up, guys? Sean Nalewanyj, and I was
actually planning on covering a different video topic today but I just saw a comment
that was left on one of my recent videos where I was talking about bodyfat percentages for
men and I decided to make this video here instead. And the comment says, “Thanks for the video
Sean. Great content. I’m currently going through a lot of issues
with body dysmorphia and my girlfriend is constantly yelling at me because I call myself
fat all the time. Our school’s athletic room calipers me around
ten to eleven percent. I think that maybe a bit low. The thing is I truly believe I am fat. Unfortunately a result of fitness media. I see it with my friends too. We simply compare ourselves to fitness role
models, it’s hard to deal with.” So, this is a tough one. It’s actually a very common issue to different
degrees even for people who don’t realize it’s happening to them. And I think that anybody who really gets into
training for aesthetic purposes has probably struggled with this at one time or another. I know that I have, not so much anymore, though
we’re all influenced by this to a certain extent but definitely in my first couple of
years of training when I saw myself as being too skinny and I wanted to look like a bodybuilder. And even though I’ve put on a pretty significant
amount of muscle I still have that feeling of just not being big enough. And this was before Instagram, before facebook,
before YouTube, so nowadays it’s become an even larger problem. Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to
body image issues and if you have a legitimate struggle there that’s causing you serious
anxiety and it’s affecting your day-to-day life and your health then you absolutely should
see a professional about it, but I’m just going to give you my personal opinion on it
and a few tips. So the challenge with social media is this,
and some of this might sound a bit out there but bear with me because it is relevant. Human beings are evolutionary programmed to
be highly social animals and we are naturally wired to constantly compare ourselves to the
other human around us. Because throughout evolutionary history that
was a very useful thing to do in order to understand what was going on, probably fifty
to a hundred percent tribe you were living in and what your situation was relative to
the others. So the drive to compare yourself with others
and to want to fit in is completely normal and everyone does it. Some do it a bit more, some do it a bit less
but everyone does it to a certain degree. Now, biologically the human brain hasn’t
really change much in the last, probably a hundred thousand years or so because a biological
evolution is a very slow process. However, the actual world we live in has completely
changed from what it was throughout most of our history as a hunter-gatherers, particularly
in the last about a hundred years or so, and even to a huge degree in the last five to
ten years with the proliferation of the internet and of social media, and those changes can
make things really tough on our, sort of, ancient brain. And that’s because instead of living our
lives in the real world surrounded by a tribe of, maybe fifty to a hundred people, we now
live, still in the real world but in larger cities with way more people and we’re also
spending more and more time now in this digital world, which is inhabited by literally billions
of people and where the people who received the most attention and the most views are
naturally going to be the most extraordinary and the most exceptional out of everything
that’s out there. And that’s where the fitness industry can
become a real problem for some people. This extends way beyond the fitness industry,
by the way, but that’s just what we’re talking about in this video. So the habits of proper training and proper
nutrition are meant to build self confidence and to improve how you feel about yourself,
but if allow yourself to get too deeply wrapped up in it, again depending on the person like
the subscriber who left the comment that I’m responding to, depending on the person it
can start having the opposite effect because you’re constantly being exposed only to
the very extreme end of the bell curve. So even if you’re not consciously aware
of it seeing image after image after image of the absolute, most aesthetic physiques
literally in the world it rewires your perception of things to where you started thinking that
that’s the norm, that these are the people who are in your circle who you should be competing
with and then all you can think about is your physique relative to theirs. When in reality the vast overwhelming majority
of the population actually exist somewhere around the middle of the bell curve ranging
from a bit below average to a bit above average and only a tiny fraction exist on that very
far end. But again, because social media platforms
like Instagram, facebook, YouTube, et cetera, show people the things that they are most
drawn to, which is that extreme upper percentile, that’s what you see over and over again. And you end up with a completely skewed idea
of what’s actually going on. But it gets even harder than that and I don’t
want to keep repeating myself because I just talked about this last week, but a lot of
what you’re seeing, especially when it comes to still images, isn’t even real. In the sense that those people don’t actually
look like that in real life, you know, filters, lighting, oil, pumps, tanning, photo angles,
a lot of that stuff is usually optimized to make the very best picture possible. You’re also usually looking at people with
particularly good genetics for gaining muscle and staying lean, and then if that wasn’t
enough a lot of the people you see who claimed to be natural aren’t actually natural and
they are using drugs, which makes a massive difference to the results that can be achieved. And then if that wasn’t enough, some of
these photos are literally altered using Photoshops. So what you’re looking at technically isn’t
even a real person and so it’s no wonder why, you know, scrolling through your Instagram
feed where you’re subscribed to a hundred different fitness models is making you feel
shitty about yourself. The reality is that if you train hard and
properly on a consistent basis and you eat a relatively unprocessed nutrient rich diet,
you have some decent visible muscle development and you have bodyfat levels somewhere around
the middle to slightly lower end of what would be considered the healthy range, then you’re
going to be physically stronger and in better shape than at least ninety-five percent of
the population just from that alone. It’s unfortunate that people can put in
the work to get to that position and then still feel insecure and unconfident with how
they look because they are comparing themselves to those who are in the top ninety-nine point
nine, nine percent, or to people who literally don’t even exist in real life. So, in terms of practical advice on this,
again, I’m not an expert but I’ll just give you a few thoughts. So first off, if you are really into body
building and fitness and your goal is to build the absolute best physique you possibly can
because you enjoy it and you’re passionate about it and watching videos and looking at
online pictures of other physiques motivates you and then inspires you and it’s not causing
you any distress then there’s nothing wrong with that and by all means continue. This video is obviously not aimed at everyone
and if you’re happy then just keep doing what you’re doing. On the other hand, if this is something that
you’re struggling with ad despite your consistent training, good nutrition, carrying some decent
muscle mass if that’s your goal and being at a healthy bodyfat level, if despite all
of that you’re finding that this constant comparison game that your brain is playing
is genuinely making you feel unhappy and constantly feeling insecure then there are three things
that I would recommend. So the first is just basic awareness. A lot of people who are newer to fitness literally
don’t even realize the stuff that I was just talking about, in terms of how social
media pictures are optimized to look as good as possible for social media, how Photoshop
is often used, there’s drug use and also that you’re usually looking at people with
the very best genetics as well. So just being aware of that in and of itself
is really valuable and does go a long way. The second thing I’d advise, and this is
a more practical tip, if deep down you feel that this stuff is stressing you out and it’s
making your life worst then stop looking at it. It’s really as simple as that. Just stop looking at it. Or more realistically make an effort to look
at it a lot less than you currently are. So stop sitting there endlessly scrolling
through your Instagram and our facebook feed, stop watching YouTube video after video after
video of all this people flexing on camera and [Indiscernible] and squatting six hundred
pounds. Again, if that stuff is motivating to you
and you enjoy it then fine but ultimately for a lot of people I think it ends up being
a big time sink in the long run and it shouldn’t be necessary for motivation anyway because
if you’re in this for the long term you have to be able to draw your motivation from
within. If you have to watch someone else lifting
in order to derive the motivation to get yourself into the gym that’s eventually going to
run out and you’re going to have some real problems. But bottom line if this is becoming a problem
for you, if you’re eleven percent bodyfat and you feel fat or you’re a natural lifter
with sixteen inch arms and you feel small, the best advice I could give, and something
that I did and I continue to do myself, is start directing a greater portion of your
attention away from the digital world and more into the real everyday world. Because living in the real everyday world
is going to give you a way, way more accurate picture of what’s actually going on. So take your head out of your phone and start
walking around and observing real everyday people because the digital fitness world and
all these digital fitness people you’ve absorbed your mind into are not an accurate
representation of the real world that you actually inhabit on a day-to-day basis. And you need to readjust your perception to
understand that to the average person who doesn’t even exercise regularly, because
most people don’t, relative to them you do have an amazing physique already if you
are in pretty good shape as is. Now, I’m not saying don’t continue pushing
for higher goals if you truly want to and it’s coming from a place of genuine excitement,
and I’m not trying to glorify mediocrity either but at the end of the day we do this
because we want to feel good, we want to feel confident, we want to feel good about ourselves
and if you’re struggling with body image issues and your metric for success is to look
like the fitness model in your Instagram feed, for most people that is a dangerous road to
go down and you are ultimately playing a game that you most likely can’t win. So try cutting back on your social media use
and see how that feels. Try using fitness pages and channels mainly
for informational purposes rather than just staring at physique after physique after physique
for the hell of it. Subscribe to fewer people, use your social
media apps less often or even go to the extreme for a period of time and just stop looking
altogether and see what happens. And then from there, again, direct your attention
and your focus into the real everyday world and onto real everyday people. It might not be a solution to the problem
but I really can’t see any possible way that it wouldn’t at least help. Now, this video is getting bit long, so I’ll
make this quick but the final tip I’d give to learn to enjoy training and nutrition for
how it would makes you feel rather than just for the way that it changes your appearance. In my case, for my first few years of training,
literally the only purpose I saw for working out was in terms of how many inches of muscle
it was going to put on to my body. And when I started to enjoy the process itself
and enjoy working out just for working out itself because it feels good to be physically
active and because of the effect that it had on my mood and my wellbeing that really was
a game changer for me. Now, not always but most of the time I genuinely
look forward to go into the gym. And I’d derived just as much satisfaction
from how it makes me feel as I do from how it makes me look. And that sort of diffuses my focus between
the two and I become a lot less preoccupied and less obsessive about my aesthetics compare
to everyone else is. So that’s all I wanted to say on that, guys. I hope it was helpful. Feel free to share your thoughts on this in
the comments below. If you enjoyed the video then make sure to
hit the like button and subscribe. My official website is over at
and I’ll talk to you guys again soon.

11 comments on “The “Dark Side” Of Fitness Social Media

  1. Lone Wolf Post author

    You and Jeff cavalier are my most trusted and favorite YouTube fitness guru's. All your info and vids are fantastic.

  2. Rob Gravelle Post author

    I never feel big enough – not unless I carry 20%+ BF…and then I just look like a fatso! 😛

  3. James Woodall Post author

    Had a friend at 5.3 and 105 lbs thought herself fat!! she disappeared for aa week-end and came back after having her "fat" knees reduced. Sad! And she lifted and ran. Looked fine but couldn't get over the fact that people she was comparing herself to were not near what normal people look like.

  4. Ezequiel Cueno Post author

    Hi Sean! Speaking about social media, one common distraction are phisiques made with CrossFit. Such an impressive phisique seems not possible to get done with traditional gym, or at least not the atletism that those men have. Have you ever talked about CrossFit vs gim comparison? Thank you in advance and very useful videos you upload 🙂

  5. trancemadmaz Post author

    I and others are surely thinking after watching this… I wonder if I can reach the extreme end of the bell curve if I took PED's?

  6. Racoonz Dinner Post author

    I’m glad I don’t feel this way even tho I don’t look buff like the fitness gurus I follow- I see them more as aspirations and teachers, kind of like you, Mr Nalawanyj

  7. Unknown YouTube User Post author

    What u see shared on social media with physique status is either skewed toward the more genetically elite side of the spectrum (i.e. ppl still look shredded at 15% Body Fat) and this makes the average more naive to this person think that this is what is considered “normal”. Not to mention they’re literally trying to warp your perception of stuff in the fitness industry to try to sell you something more often than not. These people don’t look like that year round, the photos are edited with the perfect angle and lighting, and these fake fucking naturals giving people false hope making money off of it need to gtfo


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