My Thoughts on Fitness for Vanity

Hellooooooo. How’s the day going? Hope you’re having a wonderful one so far. 

[This post dives into some fitness and body-related content, so if you know that it’s not a comfortable topic for you, please meet me back here tomorrow am! What we read can affect our minds and bodies, and it’s up to us to surround ourselves with messaging that promotes a healthy and happy life. Just a head’s up, and sending love and healing wishes to those who are experiencing body-related or eating disorders.]

This blog topic is something that I’ve thought of here and there over the years: while going through my weight loss journey, working as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, my postpartum return to fitness, and most recently, a medical hiatus from the fitness world. When I wrote this post, I got a few comments that got the wheels turning. I thought it would be good to turn this into a discussion and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section. 

Fitness for vanity is good for initial motivation, but fitness for health is going to create sustainable habits for long-term success.

Fitness and Healing From Medical Issues 

Weight gain and fitness loss are common occurrences during any kind of break from working out. While I was on the mends from my surgeries, I focused on eating healthy foods that helped my body heal, but since my activity was level down, I had less of an appetite. Over the span of a few months, I could feel my energy level and strength declining. I’d received quite a few emails from readers in similar situations, and not one, but ALL of them wanted to know how to recover from an injury without gaining weight or dramatically losing their fitness levels. Before we discuss anything, I need to say that healing and recovery are the top priority. If you’ve read the blog for a while (thank you!!!), you already know my stance, but I think it’s worth repeating: you should always, ALWAYS, prioritize recovery over anything else and know that the gym is waiting for you when you’re in full health again. Now with that out there, I will say that the best thing you can do for your long-term fitness goals during this time is to continue with your good habits. Maybe that’s nutrition, meditating, or whatever limited activity that is approved by a doctor. The worst thing you can do is think that since you can’t go at your maximum fitness ability, you might as well abandon all other healthy habits. Hopefully, you’re in a situation that’s temporary, and you’ll be back at it in no time. I had to remind myself often as I became less and less patient waiting to get back to my normal routine. 

Ready to teach barre

(So excited to be back taking and teaching my favorite classes!)

Isn’t it ok to want to work out for health AND vanity reasons?

Do they have to be mutually exclusive?

Back to the subject at hand – Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of uses for fitness for vanity purposes. Magazines and online articles capitalize on “Quick Guide to a Summer Bod,” “Sexy Abs NOW” and “Lift that booty!”-esque posts, using images of fit women and often unattainable fitness ideals. (Also, while I’m soapboxing my little heart out: if you can dramatically change your figure in 7 days, you’re doing it wrong. Slow and steady wins the race, friends. This way you will create habits that are easy to maintain over the long term, and are creating a lifestyle instead of a crash.) A “get fit quick” for vanity might not be the best idea.

I will say that vanity as a fitness goal is what brought a LOT clients when I first started personal training. I definitely had some women come in who wanted to reduce their knee pain, run faster, improve heart health, and get stronger. But more than anything, I had women come up to me and say, “Can you help my waist/hips/legs/butt look good?” 

Fitness for Vanity Has Its Place

It can get the ball rolling.

While many people have lightbulb moments related to health that inspire them to make positive changes, many people see something with their body they’d like to “fix” and it encourages them to hit the gym and/or change up eating habits. Because I want everyone to be healthy and happy, I don’t care what gets people into the gym and eating more fruits, veggies, healthy fats, whole grains, and protein if they’re doing it in a healthy way and enjoying the process. What motivates you may not be what motivates me, and that’s totally cool.

It can be a nudge to keep going.

If someone is encouraged by noticing physical results or the fact that they fit better into their jeans and they start to do cardio or pay more attention to their eating habits, that’s awesome! It may inspire them to keep going because they realize the extra benefits that come along besides said jeans, including but not limited to higher energy, clear skin, increased endurance, strength, and better sexy time.

Here’s What I Don’t Love About Fitness for Vanity Only

It doesn’t paint a full picture of health.

Even if you look good, you may not feel good on the inside. You can get a nice bod without having sustainable healthy habits. You could also look great, and be facing your own emotional or health struggles. I think that mental health is just as, if not more, important as physical health. There are more important things than visible abs. When you smile with your heart, it radiates in an entirely different way. Fitness and looking good are such a small piece of a huge puzzle. 

Comparison is the thief of joy.

I think that using fitness for vanity or even the “Fitspo” type images flying all over social platforms inevitably lead to comparison. For some people, comparison is a healthy motivation driver. For others, it’s absolutely crushing and can lead to a constant feeling of defeat or “never good enough.” It’s remaining cognizant of how these images and thoughts affect you. Personally, it doesn’t really motivate me, but I do look at a girl in really good shape and appreciate the effort she made in taking care of herself. Make sure you’re doing what provides you with the best source of positive motivation.

It’s not a long-term success model.

While fitness for vanity can get you into the gym and changing eating habits, it probably won’t last. You need to find something deeper for long-term motivation, especially since our bodies, abilities, and goals change over time. Sure, I like my jeans to fit, but the real, end goal is that I want to live a long and happy life. There are so many people in my life that I love, so it’s important for me to take care of myself so I might get to enjoy time with them just a little bit more.

My thoughts in one sentence:

Fitness for vanity is good for initial motivation, but fitness for health is going to create sustainable habits for long-term success. 

So tell me friends: do you use fitness for vanity purposes? What’s your REAL end goal with your healthy habits? How does comparison affect (or not affect) you?

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

xoxo

Gina

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Comments

  1. I think that our goal should not be to feed our nagging urge to conform to or measure ourselves by society’s fickle beauty standards, but to free ourselves from this urge entirely.

    I will be the first to admit that I have not succeeded in this yet. However, when we say it’s okay to use fitness for vanity, we do give more fuel to society’s oppressive and narrow stereotypes about what a body (male or female) should look like. We shouldn’t really feel vanity about our bodies—that’s the thing. We should only aim for health. Imagine if you had been raised without mirrors, magazines, media, and the male gaze. You would have no reason to say “I want my butt firmer”–who would even think of such a thing?

    I think we should try to let go of this vanity altogether to give us more freedom and a more natural sense of self worth (that has nothing to do with appearance!).

  2. This is a very interesting post, and it’s definitely got me thinking about how I feel personally about the subject! It’s wonderful to see definition in your arms, legs and abs after crushing it for months at the gym. It’s another thing to take it too far and wonder “Why don’t I look like…(insert celebrity name or fit friend) and worry about every inch. I think you just need to stay balanced and learn to appreciate the strides you make in your own body, while not comparing yourself too much to other women. Also, I totally agree with you that the feel-good benefits of exercise and healthy living are much more important than any physical changes. On a final note, I always like to think that all of the exercise I do now is really my “training” for a long and healthy life. It would be wonderful to still feel good and be able to keep up with my grandchildren and even great-grandchildren someday!

  3. Charlsie N says:

    I have in the past been a big one about using fitness for vanity. My family is very much into how I look and how much I weigh so I never really did anything for my health. In the past year or two I might be at my heaviest but I could honestly tell you that I have never felt better or stronger than I have been. I am also pregnant with my first child and have made the decision that since I have a disease that I want to make the most out of life so that I don’t let that disease control my life.

  4. Thank you for writing this. There is so much crap out on the internet about “How to look perfect in 4 seconds” that is – 1. Untrue and 2. Sometimes very unhealthy. This was such a great post to read today!

  5. Michelle says:

    Fitness for vanity can have it’s place, but I do believe that using this as a starting off point to be fit can stop you from succeeding (if comparison is an issue for you.) If you feel your body is not up to “standard,” and then you take that body into a fitness class or the gym floor where you are surrounded by bodies that you deem desirable, it can be discouraging. That comparison and lack of self worth can keep you from achieving your fitness goals, especially if that goal comes from the place of believing that your body as it is right now, is not good or desirable enough.

    I only started to be able to consistently work out when I worked on my mind, and realized that even if my body didn’t change at all, it was good as it was right in that moment. And funny thing is, that’s when my body started to become stronger and more flexible, the goals that I realized I wanted when I let all the other stuff go. I’m not going to sit here and lie that I don’t compare myself to others, or I have moments where I am hard my body, but compared to before, I am so much kinder, and healthier, where I am now.

  6. LOVE this topic! This is something I tell my students all of the time– when your goal is health it becomes much more long term. When it’s weight or looking good it becomes anxiety inducing and is much less likely to last.

    Sure it’s totally normal to start your fitness journey wanting to look a certain way but realize that this is only a small part of the overall results that you will get 🙂

    funnily enough…when I started to do yoga consistently for my health, to clear my head and make my body feel good…THAT’s when I started to get really toned and develop a “beach body”…I wasn’t doing it to look “better” than before but I definitely feel more toned and fit now than when I was working out to loose weight. When you set your intentions JUST for vanity it doesn’t feel as good…when you expand that intention to include FEELING vibrant and healthy…that’s when the magic happens!

  7. Love this! I’ve been trying to slowly shift my mindset over in the nutriton area from “well, this is going to make me fat if I eat it” to “will this give my body the nutrients and fuel it needs to feel good today.” It’s a slow battle but I agree that it helps me have a better attitude and make the habits more long-lasting! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    http://www.doseofdiscovery.com

  8. I won’t read books or articles that reference vanity goals. It turns me off. I mean things like “Better Butt Workout!” or “Look Good Naked!”

    For me, the problem with vanity goals is my body really doesn’t outwardly change much, no matter how much I exercise. Diet does make a big difference, and exercise makes a huge difference in my health, but not my appearance. So if I spend a year hitting it hard in the gym and use appearance as my yardstick, I’ll quit because that’s a LOT of work for a tiny appearance benefit. I have to use health as a motivator.

    And I have to work on loving my appearance where I’m at now. Too many women spend too many years agonizing over tiny ‘flaws’. I think if half that energy went to world peace or hunger, those problems would be eradicated in about ten minutes. LOL

  9. I love this post Gina. I never thought about approaching the idea of fitness for vanity in this way but I think it really is true that it can be a great motivator but in order to set long term habits you have to think about your health.

  10. Jacquelyn says:

    I love this topic SO much. I think I found my TRUE love for fitness a few years ago. I was working out consistently about 7 years ago but I became so obsessive, mentally and emotionally unhealthy that it was horrible. I was miserable on the inside. It wasn’t until a few years ago when it all clicked for me. I stopped comparing myself to everyone, I did not beat myself up over having the pizza or wine, and fitness became MY time. I LOVE my morning sweat sessions!! I love to cook and try out new recipes and eating healthy and making amazing healthy kitchen creations. Its so fun for me! I have been following you for forever, and thank you for constantly being so real and open and always being so kind. You are a wonderful example for us women!

    • Fitnessista says:

      i’m so happy to hear that it has changed for you into something so healthy and empowering. it’s amazing when that happens!
      thank you so much for being here and reading <3

  11. This is such a great post with such a healthy mentality on fitness! I joined Jenny Craig to lose weight because I want to be healthy and look my by best. I’d say it’s an 80/20 thing for me. Mostly I want to live a long and healthy life, but at the same time I’m human, I want to feel good about what I see in the mirror. And have my husband feel good about the person he has to look at every day for the rest of his life. 😉

  12. I stopped my subscription to shape and self because they seem to only focus on vanity goals. even if they have an article here or there about health goals, it’s right next to an ad for diet pills.I was over it. that said, it’s something I go back and forth with. i know that if I don’t exercise and eat well i would gain weight but over time I’ve come to appreciate the other benefits. i just don’t know if those would ever 100% motivate me. hopefully one day 🙂

    • Fitnessista says:

      i can’t stand the “get fit quick!” mentality. it’s not sustainable and i wish magazines would stop trying to capitalize on that.

  13. I have to tell you that this post came as such a great reminder for me today. I’m 22 weeks pregnant and had a little scare over the weekend (baby is fine!) that prompted the doctor to put me on modified bed rest. Of course, the health of the baby comes first! But, it was frustrating, as I had a very sick first 18 weeks and was JUST slowly getting back into the gym for some light walking and strength training. It felt so good! After those first miserable 18 weeks the last 3 1/2 weeks I felt like myself again! Moving, getting those endorphins going, it was awesome. I’m not going to lie, the realization that I will never be one of those mamas to be in the gym for the 9 months, was hard for me for many reasons. Working out has been my me time ever since I started college and needed a replacement for team sports. It’s my get my music on and GO time. I am so used to the endorphins! But also, and it was hard for me to even admit this to myself, there was a little bit of vanity creeping in. I wanted to be the mama with the toned arms from strength training and prenatal yoga. It’s hard to even admit that some of my frustration was vanity related, but, we’re all human, and…it was. This was a great reminder that “the gym will be there” and hopefully, come October, healthy baby and I will jogging around town 🙂

    • Fitnessista says:

      i’m thinking of you and know exactly how you feel. i was SO bummed when they took impact exercise away from me (and i wasn’t even on bed rest). the gym will be there, and it feels even more exciting and rewarding to get back into it after a break. hang in there, and so happy you and baby are doing well. <3

  14. Robin Morehouse says:

    Great post – I just did a presentation on motivation specific to exercise at work and this was one of my topics as well. I read “No Sweat” by Michelle Segar and she does an amazing job of talking about finding motivation for fitness. My favorite part was about finding what sustains us and then sustaining it. Reading the book it changed my thoughts on why I am motivated – not for overall better health since that is not enough to get me out of bed at 4:30am but for the feeling I get while I work out and that it makes me a calmer and more centered human after. That was important to realize for me. So although I like that exercise helps to make my jeans fit I am more in love with the person it allows me to be.

    • Fitnessista says:

      i will definitely check out that book! i agree that the calmness makes a huge difference. i’m a happier more present person if i’m active that day

  15. what a meaningful post! last year I competed in my first bikini body building competition and have to say…from behind the scenes, some of the most shredded “instagram ideals” people were also treating their bodies very, very poorly. *For some fitness competitors* it becomes all about vanity / aesthetic at the expense of their long term health.

    I originally began competing for two reasons: vanity, and to have a new goal to work towards. The difficulty in that was in the combination of the reasons. Suddenly my new goal was ALL about how lean I could make myself look up on stage which, for me, was not a healthy mindset.

    A year later, I am still working to mend my metabolism and rebalance my relationship with food and body image. My ultimate goal is to get back to doing what’s HEALTHY for my body, and doing it for the many benefits BEYOND aesthetics.

    • Fitnessista says:

      i love that you posted this, and it was very insightful to read. bikini competitions have always intrigued me, but i love food too much and would hate to feel guilty for eating something healthy, like a bowl of fruit. i’ve also found that many friends who compete usually sway too far on the other end of the pendulum during “off” season. it’s better to have that nice balance in the middle

  16. For me working out is probably 70% vanity.. I like to eat, so I workout so I can eat mostly how I want to and still look decent. I totally compare myself to my skinnier, more toned self and make that my goal to re-obtain that.. (Sitting for 12 hours a day at my job/commute is my biggest vice). Every so often I throw in goals like a half marathon or trying to get faster or stronger at a certain exercise. But its mostly vanity for me. Sounds bad.

    Now that I’m pregnant, I’m staying active for the health of the baby and because I don’t want to blow up too badly since I’m totally craving pies and pancakes 24/7. I try to avoid indulging all the time, but I’m pregnant! Sometimes its worth it!

    • I do that too – comparing myself to my skinner, more toned self of a couple years ago. Can be even more frustrating than comparing yourself to a friend or stranger I think.

  17. My post I wrote for tomorrow addresses a similar thing but focuses more on teaching the fitness community to be more responsible for the language they use in motivating clients and members. I think vanity has its place, but it can’t be the end all be all. If that’s the only reason you’re exercising, it’s not going to be a sustainable practice.

  18. I have seriously mixed emotions on this topic! I love working out. I love the feeling it gives me. I love hitting new weightlifting PRs. I love being strong enough to move furniture, carry heavy things, etc. I know that I want to be mobile and able to take care of myself when I’m older too.

    But on the flip side… I am definitely motivated by the idea of being in a bathing suit. I want my clothes to fit me well. I love the way my muscular legs look and I would be lying if I said it’s not part of my motivation to get to the gym.

    Diet goes hand in hand with this topic too. I’m currently doing a Whole30 and again, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t because I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to banish bloat before I’m in a swimsuit again but I’m also trying to prep my body with all the necessary nutrients for future pregnancies.

    Vanity driven or not… I know hitting the gym and feasting on tons of fresh produce is doing my body right!

  19. For me, this is definitely something that has changed over time. I feel like in my younger days, I would say most of the choices I made were fear-based, including the choices I made in regards to exercise and especially diet. A lot of that was based on caring what other people thought of how I looked, and their perception of my lifestyle. I really wanted to be seen as that uber healthy, really thin, tall blonde yoga chick always drinking her green juice and politely turning down meat and never getting angry. I do realize now all the issues with this, but that’s where I was at one point in my life. As I have gotten older, and especially since I turned 30 (I love this decade btw), I… just don’t care anymore. My choice making has been more motivated along the lines of “I’m a grown ass lady and I do what I want,” and (I quote Amy Poehler here), “I don’t f***ing care if you like it.” Maybe that’s just part of getting older? I dunno. I feel like I am more aware now of what long-term effects today’s choices have than I was in my 20s… but I also work in aging research, so maybe that’s part of it too. I really don’t care how other people perceive my lifestyle anymore. I do what I want to make myself happy. And I’d just rather be healthy and happy than necessarily look a certain way. I would hope that is the general consensus of the world, but sadly I know it probably isn’t. I really liked this post btw.

  20. It’s a tough one but they kind of go hand in hand. As someone who wants to be healthy I also want to simply look good in my clothing and not be judged by my weight. I like to work out and I want to be healthy enough for them to not be so difficult but an enjoyable effort. I know that I am treated differently by many people because of how I currently look and I would like to remove that barrier. As well I don’t want my son to be judged for how his mom looks.

  21. When i posted at the beginning of the year that one of my resolutions was to focus on health. It really was all about getting stronger & healthier. I did not mention that i wanted better legs, or a flatter stomach because that’s not my long term goal. It’s so much more than that for me. I definitely have a much better relationship with food now than i did a few years back, I don’t have this guilt that If i eat pizza…OMG this is the end all be all.

    I also have improved on not indulging all weekend long, and then monday still started off bad and kept it going for the rest of the week. and tried to start again on the following monday. Now it’s ok so i had a couple bites of this junky food, just eat good, healthy stuff for the rest of the day.

    I don’t have a goal weight that i want to hit, well, that’s a lie…I’d love to be 130, but truthfully, I don’t think it’ll happen just because based on my measurements, I’m actually smaller than i was on my wedding day 5.5 years ago, but i actually weigh more! I’m ok with that.

    I do think fitness has a small place for vanity, but it’s so hard in the world these days to ignore those “beach body” type ads or transformation photos that these people got it done in 30 days. I don’t think it’s realistic, it took me a LONG time to realize that, and this year is the first year to acknowledge that slow and steady wins the race. 😉

  22. My thoughts on this are all over the place. Hitting 30 has made me more focused on eating and fitness to feel good, regardless of what everyone around me is doing. However, I find it really difficult to let go of smaller jeans from just a couple years ago. I hate giving up the thinner identity.

    It’s so interesting to me how different instructors use vanity motivation. I don’t mind “Let’s push this last set for that 3rd margarita at happy hour” but I hate hearing stuff like “Now don’t eat something bad after class to negate all that work!” Talk about sucking all joy out of that sweat sesh.

    One of my other fitness motivators is frugality. I hate nothing more than wasting money so if I paid for those classes I’ll be there pushing it!

    • Fitnessista says:

      ugh i LOATHE when instructors say things like that. at one of the studios where i teach we’re actually not allowed to reference food as a reward or using exercise as punishment for eating something “unhealthy.” i love that they did that.

  23. Bravo!!! You are so on point! I frequently remind myself thin doesn’t automatically equal healthy or fit. It’s tough to remember when buying size 12 at a department store but easy when I’m passing smaller females at mile 2 of a 5K.

    • Fitnessista says:

      yes! i LOVE THAT about races. you can look around and have no idea how the people around you are going to do.

  24. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Losing weight is a struggle and trying to have the energy to workout after a long day at work is a mental struggle… but it is a battle I’m still trying to fight and while I would love to fit into some smaller clothes and feel a little better about myself while shopping, I’m really trying to do it for my health for when we’re trying to have a baby, to reduce my extremely high risk of getting breast cancer… and so on. I want to feel good about myself and I know being healthy and taking things one day at a time is how I’m going to get there.

  25. Always a hot topic, training for aesthetics versus training for health and strength. I like your take! BUT… The truth is that it’s highly individual and no one can tell you why you should train. Reading between the lines, training for aesthetics is fine “as long as” this or that also happens. It’s acceptable as long as you are also training for health and strength, or not relying on aesthetics as long-term motivation, or whatever. I suppose bodybuilders are allowed to train only for aesthetics because that’s exactly what they do. They are quite happy and motivated by looking better and better for many years. So why shouldn’t the average woman be allowed to do so without judgment? Not to criticize your post… everyone is entitled to their opinion. But it’s a tired, veiled judgment (in my opinion) that training for aesthetics is not a worthy goal on its own long term. Maybe it is!

    • Fitnessista says:

      that is a very interesting point. i didn’t even think about bodybuilders! so true

    • I see what you’re saying, and I think it’s an interesting concept to separate fitness from health, as the two are so entwined most of the time. I think people assume that if you’re in the gym or working out, that you’re doing it at least partially for your health. In reality, you can train for no other reason than the physical results, and there’s nothing’s wrong with that. I think it’s worth noting, however, that training for vanity and training for health can be vastly different- and even in opposition to one another. For instance, I know some bodybuilders who absolutely trash their bodies in order to look a certain way, and some of the times in my life where I’ve looked my thinnest were definitely not my healthiest (like immediately post-divorce, working out every day and subsisting on coffee and diet coke….yikes) And then there are people who live a very healthy lifestyle but don’t look as fit or lean. Again, no judgement, but I think it’s worth mentioning from a health-promotion standpoint that vanity alone might not be enough to sustain long-term health (long-term aesthetics are a different story).

  26. Lindsay says:

    I love this post and would love to see more like it! The mental aspects of fitness are just as important as the physical ones. When I started living an active and healthy lifestyle around January of 2013, on the vanity to health scale where vanity is 0 and health is ten, I was about at a -2309578. It was all about looking skinny in my wedding photos. Now that my wedding day has long passed and I’m still eating nutritious foods and even more in love with working out I’m still at about a 5.5 on that scale. I care less about how I look and more about how I want to be healthy for my family and myself, but every time I get on Instagram or get my Shape magazine in the mail a little part of me thinks, “Ugh, if only I could lose 15 more lbs/lose 5% bfp/etc.” It’s a work in progress but it gets easier every day. I think a HUGE part of it is that I found a workout program that I love and that I look forward to. I don’t dread the gym anymore and I consider fitness and nutrition my hobby. My point is that we’re all a work in progress and we all need to be nicer to ourselves. I had a choir director in high school that used to look us all in the eyes individually and say, “You are enough.” I feel like this is something that we all need more of in our lives.

    • Fitnessista says:

      i totally agree that finding something you love makes a huge difference. love that you said we should be nicer to ourselves. so so true

  27. I think about this article often and while I’m not a mother yet, this is exactly what I want to teach my daughters. I think you could relate too! https://wellfesto.com/2013/11/19/10-things-i-want-my-daughter-to-know-about-working-out/

  28. Stacie Smith says:

    Thanks for this Gina. I just found out that I have to have surgery and I will not be able to do really rigorous activity for about 6-8 weeks. I know that there will be points where it will be very frustrating. Do you have any advice?

  29. LOVE LOVE LOVE this! I feel like you deserved to write this as you got a lot of hate with that last post, which I thought was completely fine, yet others felt was saying something different than you were saying. My thought on this is that if you’re doing fitness for vanity, it’s okay at first but long term you’re setting yourself up for failure and it will manifest in health or mental problems. To me, that’s just as unhealthy as not working out at all.

    • Fitnessista says:

      i don’t really think i got hate. people disagreed with me, which is cool, and were respectful about it for the most part. i just think it doesn’t have to be black and white; there can definitely be some overlap there

  30. Robin R says:

    This post succinctly describes why I read your blog. Well done.

  31. I love this post and completely agree! Just wanting to look good isn’t enough to maintain longterm health. I’ve been struggling with this a bit recently because my body doesn’t look like it used to thanks to an imbalance in exercise due to teaching too much of one thing. I weigh more and my shape isn’t the same, but I’m still exercising and eating well, so I’m still healthy. For awhile I asked myself: why do anything different then if I’m healthy? Now I have decided to make a change, completely aware that this is fitness for vanity’s sake and that’s ok. I’m much happier when I’m getting in a wider variety of heart-pumping exercises too. I do want to be healthy always (and that was a big change I made more than a decade ago and stuck with), but I want to look the part too!

  32. I loved the sentence “Even if you look good, you may not feel good on the inside.” because that’s been true for me. Thank you for a different type of post and putting this out there. I’m encouraged by it. Instagram can lead me into the comparison boat and I *try* not to follow those fitness gals who I know draw me to comparison vs positivity. Posts like this help remind me it’s healthy for me. Thanks, Gina!

  33. A very interesting read! I will say that for me it’s 100% true. I initially started my fitness journey many moons ago with the sole intent of looking better. And yes, while I still do think about it, it’s become much more about how I feel when I exercise and eat right. Not only feeling stronger and healthier, but clearing my mind and feeling happier too – as a working mom of a toddler, I’m a bear if I don’t get some exercise in!

  34. Katrijn says:

    LOVE this post. I’ve been reading your blog for about 8+ years now and it’s continually a place I come to for healthy mind/body balance. I work out because it feels good to be healthy and active. I notice my energy levels are down and my irritability goes way up if I take too much time off from it, or if I don’t just get moving in some way, however small, every day. The mental health aspect is absolutely a top motivator for me, along with wanting to take advantage of being young and able to use my body, while I can. Also, bringing a baby girl into our lives in a few months is going to be the biggest motivator yet. Thanks for keeping it real!

    • Fitnessista says:

      thank you for reading for so long, katrijn. and that is so true about the mental health aspect. i was pretty cranky when i couldn’t work out, just because i thrive so much off the endorphins. excited for you and your family!!!

  35. I think those are excellent points you made there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying “hey, I don’t like how I look right now, let me get into shape and start eating healthier to fix that”. A lot of people feel better mentally and physically when they are happy with how they look. It is the world in which we live. But, I completely agree, if your motivation never changed, if you become happy with how you look and never changed your goals to wanting to stay healthy, never made habits of what you started, then it is not going to last. It will become a never ending cycle of I need to fix it, ok it’s good so I’m done, oh I need to fix it, ok it’s good so I’m done. Make those healthy habits, look good, feel good and be good.

  36. I am curious since you mention your weight loss many times over the years, why haven’t you showed before pictures of yourself? It seems to be a contradiction in what you really thinnk vs this post.

    • Fitnessista says:

      i’ve written a few posts about it with before pictures, and also put one on instagram. i can go back and find the links. i don’t have a ton of recent pics because it was 13 years ago- i was in college

  37. love love LOVE this post, Gina. and everyone’s thoughts- thank you! I think most of us have been there at some point, it’s hard not to! Working out does your body good- but it’s natural effect is to tone your body!
    I started out working out for endurance, then kicked it up for physical looks, kept and it for health, kicked it up for gains. I love it and wont ever leave it. Through life, your body changes. I’m not where I’d like to be physically right now, so yeah, there is some motivation there. However, i KNOW that everything I am doing is bettering my body, whether I can see it or not. And I will continue to work out and be active to better my health, and will hopefully bring others with me.
    Also,, I’ll be sharing this like crazy. Thank you again 🙂

  38. Thanks for the post, Gina! I guess that I’m always happy when people, particularly those who are overweight or obese, are motivated to get leaner – regardless of the reason. Maybe a medical scare, not fitting into their favorite pair of jeans, or an inconsiderate comment motivates them to want to shed some pounds. I wouldn’t blame that person who just wants to feel better in their clothes. I take health very seriously, but I guess I can’t expect the same of others. But like you said, those who approach this process with holistic intentions will keep the weight off and all-in-all be healthier long term.

  39. This is such an interesting topic.
    Personally, I just cannot live without exercise. I started competitive gymnastics when I was only 3 years old, and actually read a study that said when a child exercises regularly between 8-11 years old, they’ll most likely always feel the need to work out later in life.
    I guess that’s true for me!
    It’s my outlet and gives me energy and generally makes me feel good about myself – I just feel stronger and more present.
    At the same time though, I do certain workouts to prevent weight gain. I screwed up my metabolism big time in my late teens/early twenties and I gain weight ridiculously easily so vanity is definitely influencing why I work out the way I do – but not the reason for working out in general, if that makes sense.

  40. Love your blog. My feeling on this topic is from personal experience. After being an active child in sports into my late teens and then quitting, I was chastised by parents and myself to lose weight. I had such a pretty face, lose weight to match my body. For years I struggled. Then one day my doctor sat me down and said something had to give. I wasn’t going to live a long healthy life if I didn’t make some serious changes. I went home and decided to do it for my future. I lost 100 pounds doing exactly what the doctor said, eat healthy and exercise. Nothing sexy but just some serious commitment and hard work. It took me almost three years and two half marathon walks but I did it. It helped me be able to have a baby and even though some of the weight crept back on, I was only able to lose that weight again when I put it terms of my life, my future with my child and husband. Working out to look good never helped me. I like they way I look when I am eating healthy and keeping active, but it has more to do with the way I feel. Strong! We all have to do what works for us, but I find that when losing weight is driven by how we look, it is more often driven by fear, not strength.

    • Fitnessista says:

      100 LBS. hot damn, girl. you are amazing.
      i am so so happy to hear that you feel strong and happy.
      keep up the incredible work taking care of yourself <3

  41. adrianna says:

    honestly, i could not agree with you more! its exactly what got me started on my fitness journey–vanity–bc i was sick and tired of being fat. that motivation lasted for awhile, then it morphed into a mental break each day (or good studying time during school)…my ME time where i didn’t have to talk to anyone and i could zone out and feel great afterwards. then once i started learning more about weights and various classes, i started to change motivation to get stronger, run faster, be better at all aspects of fitness. and now, its all about gaining fitness, racing faster and/or longer, but mostly enjoying that time to myself and socializing with all the friends i’ve built doing it.
    awesome. post. !!!

    • adrianna says:

      oh, and forgot to add, vanity certainly fuels me some of the time. i mean, these past few weeks i’m certainly thinking about the beach vacation in a few weeks…
      and great responses to all!

  42. I started exercising for vanity. I’ve never felt confident in my body before, so a few years ago I decided it was about time I got my butt off the couch and started moving. But that motivation really didn’t last for me. Not when I was your poster girl for instant gratification. I wanted abs and a hot booty right now. Unfortunately, my body didn’t shape up in an instant, so I was disappointed at first, going back to my old habits of lounging on the couch. But then, I realized that every time I exercised first thing in the morning, I always felt better during the rest of the day. I accomplished my work faster, was happier around people, and felt like my body was growing stronger – which slowly but steadily started boosting my confidence about my physical appearance. So, ultimately, I began achieving my first exercise goal (vanity/confidence), but it wasn’t that which motivated me, but the mental clarity and well-being I felt with exercise and eating clean, healthy food. Will I ever work out for vanity again? Yes, I still think it’s part of it. I always feel better about myself as a whole when I focus on my health, but I know now that looking good isn’t really what I’m here for. 🙂

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