'Thinspiration' Backlash: Well-Deserved Or Political Correctness Gone Too Far?

Natasha Bird

It's a hashtag that was originally designed to "inspire" women to lose weight, but all it seems to be inspiring at the moment is a media furore.

"Thinspiration" is a tag typically used in connection with pictures of slim young women, often models and celebrities, which are supposed to motivate the viewer to stay on track with their weightloss goals.

It joins the many slogans that have been adopted by advocates of the super-size-zero physique, such as "thigh gap" and "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

Kate Moss was once slammed for 'nothing tastes as good as skinny feels' slogan [Richard Young/REX]
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Kate Moss was once slammed for 'nothing tastes as good as skinny feels' slogan [Richard Young/REX]

It's use has provoked an inevitable public backlash, criticising the promotion of unrealistic and unhealthy body images.

And while we agree that pressuring women into feeling they must strive to achieve a BMI that is neither normal nor sustainable is wrong, we also wonder whether this backlash is perhaps a case of political correctness gone too far?

Chasing Perfection

"Size Zero"  - a trend that promoted emaciated celebrities as the ideal - lives in our not-too-distant memory.

We are still painfully aware of its effect on the young women of our generation.

Even more horrifyingly, the more recently popularised "thinspiration" tag has joined #tinyfeather and #chasingperfection, which are used on social networking sites by those with severe eating disorders, to promote images of skeletal bodies that could barely be expected to walk on two feet.

Considering the significant push back against the promotion of skeleton-chic, it now feels slightly poor taste every time magazines fall into the "pro-skinny" trap.

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(And yes, we ourselves admit that we are not whiter-than-white, and this is something we have to continue to work on).

Unfair Assessment?

That being said, we can't help but wonder whether, occasionally, this push back goes too far.

Recently, both musician Professor Green and Adam Richman, of Man Vs Food, have been the subjects of a lot of criticism, for their use of the "thinspiration" hashtag.

Adam, who Instagrammed a post-diet picture of himself holding up his old miles-too-big trousers, caught flack for using the hashtag and engaged in a war of words with his Insta-commenters.

Adam Richman and his Insta-post [WENN/Instagram]
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Adam Richman and his Insta-post [WENN/Instagram]

His subsequent foul-mouthed response - which was really vile and which we don't condone for a second - saw the indefinite postponing of his television show Man Finds Food by the Travel Channel.

His replies - which do seem to reveal a rather unpleasant overall character - probably did warrant his show's reported cancellation, but had his use of "thinspiration" alone triggered the Travel Channel's actions, would it have been a fair and proportionate punishment?

What Is The Ideal?

The image that Adam tagged showed the results of a long-term weightloss campaign, which saw him go from unhealthy obesity, to 70 pounds lighter over the course of 2013.

Similarly, the picture that Pro Green tagged of his wife Millie Macintosh was relatively inoffensive.

Mills, it can be argued, is lucky to have a slimmer physique than many of us could ever emulate, but she is also clearly athletic and is often to be found on Instagram promoting healthy eating and physical fitness.

The controversial image of Millie [camillamackintosh/Instagram]
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The controversial image of Millie [camillamackintosh/Instagram]

She even corrected her husband's mistake, by replying "fitspiration!"

Although the use of this particular hashtag, which has had growing, negative implications was unwise, the images that these two public figures were circulating weren't actually unhealthy.

One of Millie's many workout shots! [camillamackintosh/Instagram]
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One of Millie's many workout shots! [camillamackintosh/Instagram]

UPDATE: Millie Mackintosh has responded to the #thinspiration controversy with a couple of rather astute observations - "I know that I look slim but I think you can see I’ve got muscle definition. I think if I was putting pictures up of my ribs sticking out and bones showing like I looked unhealthily thin, then I’d say of course I was being irresponsible."

What is more, Richman's main critic, a woman called Amber Sarah, has publically labelled herself "a fat activist."

While she didn't deserve to be called any names, we're not convinced that the body image she advocates is any healthier than the one she is attacking.

The Spectrum

We can argue the finer points of general lexicon until the cows come home - "slim" is better than "skinny", "fit" should be used over "thin" and "crash", "fad" and "cleanse" should be banished to oblivion, but is this really the point?

Surely emphasis should be placed, instead, on whether the images we are promoting, be they in the mainstream media, or on our various social networking sites, depict healthy bodies?

Bodies that are attractive for their curves-in-the-right-places and their usefulness, as much as their BMI.

Shaming someone for their use of the "thinspiration" hashtag, while lauding physiques that are obese by medical standards, doesn't seem entirely logical.

As is often the case, we should probably search for the middle ground.

[Why The Thigh-Gap Look Has Nothing To Do With Diet And Exercise]

[000: The Triple Size Zero Weight Loss Trend In Hollywood Threatens Our Health]

What do you think? Is the "thinspiration" hashtag really the problem? What can we do to promote healthy body images among men and women?

Let us know in the comments and on Twitter!