Skinny Is Not Enough: A Content Analysis of Fitspiration on Pinterest

Health Commun. 2017 May;32(5):560-567. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2016.1140273. Epub 2016 Jun 21.


Fitspiration is a relatively new social media trend nominally intended to promote health and fitness. Fitspiration messages are presented as encouraging; however, they might also engender body dissatisfaction and compulsive exercise. This study analyzed fitspiration content (n = 1050) on the image-based social media platform Pinterest. Independent raters coded the images and text present in the posts. Messages were categorized as appearance- or health-related, and coded for Social Cognitive Theory constructs: standards, behaviors, and outcome expectancies. Messages encouraged appearance-related body image standards and weight management behaviors more frequently than health-related standards and behaviors, and emphasized attractiveness as motivation to partake in such behaviors. Results also indicated that fitspiration messages include a comparable amount of fit praise (i.e., emphasis on toned/defined muscles) and thin praise (i.e., emphasis on slenderness), suggesting that women are not only supposed to be thin but also fit. Considering the negative outcomes associated with both exposure to idealized body images and exercising for appearance reasons, findings suggest that fitspiration messages are problematic, especially for viewers with high risk of eating disorders and related issues.

MeSH terms

  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Media*
  • Social Theory*
  • Thinness