Instagram versus reality: The effect of the body positive social media trend

Fitness, Health, Mind

Here we speak to two fitness influencers about how posting ‘Instagram versus reality’ photos, a body-positive social media trend, has done wonders for their mental health…

Instagram versus reality

Scroll through your Instagram feed and you’ll be inundated with flawless images – but it’s no secret that things are not always as they seem. The perfect pose, flattering lighting and a filter (we’ve all seen that Khloe Kardashian photo) can drastically alter someone’s appearance.

These images create unrealistic beauty standards and can make us feel bad about our bodies. This is why some influencers are saying enough is enough.

In a bid to bring awareness to the deceitful nature of social media, there has been a rise in ‘Instagram versus reality’ posts. These are side-by-side photos of a posed or edited image against the real version, which shows perceived imperfections such as cellulite, belly rolls and stretch marks.

Fitness influencer Hayley Madigan started posting these types of photos two and half years ago. She suffered from extreme body image issues due to her bodybuilding career.

View this post on Instagram

“I switch from feeling amazing to then judging myself within seconds”⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Something I hear regularly and also something I used to say to myself. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ I admit that I struggled for years. I struggled to accept any imperfections I had because I wanted to be the best I could be all of the damn time … and it was exhausting 😔 I thought I wasn’t worthy unless I was as perfect as I could possibly be. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ I was so drained from continuously judging myself. From continuously hating parts of my body that I wanted to change. ⁣⁣⁣⁣ It took time, it took many ups and downs but what struck a cord with me was that I realised no one cares about the imperfections in my body as much as I cared about them so why did I spend time worrying? ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ The people around me that cared for me, loved me for who I was and not what my body looked like. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ People accepted me regardless of shape, size, cellulite, stretch marks, so why didn’t I accept myself? ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ To go from feeling amazing to feeling negative towards yourself within seconds is letting that self doubt creep in. ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ How can we stop doubting ourselves? ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Can we be more grateful for what our bodies do for us on a daily basis? ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Why not work on becoming stronger … Mentally as well as Physically 💪🏼 ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Building resilience to your own negative thoughts is hard but we learn from our own mistakes and failures and that is what makes us stronger! ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Practice the way you think about negative situations, don’t dwell, acknowledge the thoughts you have and then 👉🏼⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Give yourself some bloody credit! ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Because You’re amazing!! ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Go and tell yourself that! ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Shout it out! Shout it into the mirror! ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ People love confidence 👊🏼⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ People couldn’t give two sh*ts if you have some cellulite or stretch marks!⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ People are attracted to happiness, energy, personality and laughter 🙏🏼⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Don’t waste time or energy worrying what others think especially if the odd person is being negative towards you … cut them out and move on with your head held high 👋🏼⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Swimsuit: @inthestyle ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ #HowMyHealthLooks #Instavsreality #letsbereal #feminism #youareaqueen #reality

A post shared by Hayley Madigan (@hayleymadiganfitness) on

“I used to post highly posed images because I was a personal trainer and I thought people wouldn’t want me to train them if my body wasn’t perfect. Ridiculous looking back now,” she explains.

“I was taught to pose and distort my body in a way that it could hide my imperfections because of bodybuilding and posing on stage. There is an art to this and I knew exactly how to do it. People peering in from the outside would think I naturally looked like that.

“After posting my first ‘insta vs reality’ image, the feedback I got from women was amazing. They were so happy to see that my body had similar ‘flaws’ to theirs. No matter how lean or toned I was, I still had areas that weren’t perfect. That is okay because we are human!”

Body image and mental health

Hayley, who has more than 330,000 followers, also says sharing her journey online has done wonders for her mental health.

“Over the years my body has changed, I stopped competing in bodybuilding and had to put on essential body fat. My hormones were too low to have a functioning menstrual cycle and I was deemed unhealthy. I struggled with body dysmorphia and often was very low and unhappy with my body.

“Posting my journey on social media helped me hugely. It allowed me to talk about my experiences but I also realised I was helping other women who were in the same position as me. That felt good.”

Victoria Niamh Spence is another influencer who has had a similar experience. She admits she only used to upload photos from her best angle. Now, her feed contains posts encouraging women to love their bodies from every angle.

“I began to wake up to diet culture and also recognise the responsibility that I had on my platform. I decided to switch the ‘perfect’ for the more ‘normal’. Since creating a feed that reflects me most from every angle, I’ve felt more content in myself. Moreover, I feel I can have a greater and more positive impact” she says.

“I am more connected to myself both mind and body now I share more of my reality as opposed to an online persona. I care less about my body changing and growing because I’m no longer depending on it to build an online presence. To have a platform built around my most raw and real self takes the pressure off having to live up to an expectation.”

Normalise ‘imperfections’

And she urges other influencers to use their platforms to reveal the truth behind the ‘perfect’ social media snap.

“I think social media would be a much more positive space if everyone decided to be more human and were forced to be more transparent about using photoshopping and body enhancing apps.”

The issue is also gaining momentum offline. A new bill put forward by Tory MP Dr. Luke Evans is currently being debated in parliament. The proposed law would require celebrities and influencers to label images that have been digitally altered.

There may still be a way to go but important inroads are being made to see more real bodies on social media – and we’re here for it.

Main photo: @hayleymadiganfitness

By Sam

Get your weekly DOSE fix here: SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER

      A destination for healthy hedonists that fuses the worlds of fitness, healthy food and drink.