I absolutely hate the majority of weight loss quotes and fitspiration images that get popular on social media. I think they’re irresponsible, encourage shaming, fat-bias, eating disorders and make losing weight or living healthy harder, not easier.
The problem starts with just how insidious this fitspiration culture is…
You’re having chicken salad for lunch while browsing Instagram…
It’s a typical day. You just got your lunch from the work cafeteria. It’s a “chicken salad for lunch” day for you today. You put your plate on the table, leave your bag on the chair near you, and sit down ready to enjoy your meal.
Holding the fork with one hand, you pull out your phone with the other. As you eat, you go on Instagram and check out your feed. And you come across this.
Your lips stiffen when you read it but at the same you think it makes sense. If you were to eat naked in front of a mirror you most likely wouldn’t eat at all. Yes you’d lose weight, for sure. Of course you’re not going to try something that extreme, but the quote had a point, you think.
Just right next to it, there’s another one.
You’ve been good with your diet today. You had a strawberry smoothie for breakfast, a handful of almonds at 10 am and now you got a chicken salad. You feel especially proud of yourself since you skipped over the minced meat burrito and stuck to the “chicken salad for lunch” decision you’d made in the morning. If you’re going to wear what you eat then you may as well try as hard as you can to lose weight.
Time goes by, lunch time is over, and you return to work happy for being “good” with your diet today and feeling validated for your good choices after your quick Instagram session.
Time to break the weight loss quotes bubble.
Weight loss quotes have the AUDACITY to pose as motivating or inspiring – while setting you up for living UNhealthy.
I hate, hate, hate the majority of weight loss quotes – and you should too. Most weight loss quotes are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
I hate them not as much for their message (which I usually find disgusting) but for posing as inspiring or motivating when in fact they DECREASE, not increase, your chances of lasting weight loss – not to mention that they promote orthorexia and eating disorders.
Weight loss quotes pretend it’s all about personal responsibility.
This is what fitspiration excels at: pretending that if you just wanted it enough, if you just tried enough, you’d be successful with weight loss, staying slim, or getting fit.
Fitspiration quotes don’t take into account that:
- It’s not about the short-term success, it’s about the long-term one. What good is it if you lose bazillion pounds yet gain them back and then some more. True weight loss success comes from losing the weight in way that’s compatible to your personality and then keeping it off.
- They have no understanding of how habits work. Following them will actually sabotage habit-creation and guarantee failure – all while you’re thinking you’re doing the right thing. So you’ll keep pushing yourself to go to the gym, all while your brain will be fighting you and trying to make you not go. No surprise the gym endeavor had an expiration date.
- They pretend success is all about personal responsibility. They don’t care that the food industry spends millions to make junk food appear healthy; that not knowing how to cook and eating out regularly is now normalized; that you need a level of privilege in order to care enough about living healthy so that you actually do something about it (examples of privilege: you’re not the only caregiver for a family member, you don’t have humongous debt, you don’t have medical conditions, etc)
- They promote fat-bias. The way fitspiration sees it, fat people need to be punished, or at a minimum not be taken as seriously. Their indulgence of eating too much and not moving enough is proof (again personal responsibility poses as the only thing that has affected the situation.)
- They promote shaming. Using shaming to get yourself to change? If that were to work, or were habit-encouraging, then nobody would be overweight or obese by now. Stop beating a dead horse – you’ve tried it, it didn’t work, switch tactics!
- They promote unhealthy, not healthy, living. Follow their wisdom and you’ll soon start skipping meals, cutting calories too low, eliminating food groups just because, and overexercising among others.
- They make exercise sound like this bad thing you have to endure in order to lose weight. Please do exercise, but don’t do it for weight loss. Exercise is important for your health regardless of weight loss. Also if your goal is a healthy life you don’t necessarily need to exercise as much as fitspiration would have you believe.
It’s no surprise that Tiggemann et al. found that weight loss quotes can have negative consequences on body image. Results showed that people experienced negative mood and body dissatisfaction, and decreased state of appearance self-esteem after viewing a random set of fitspiration images.
And don’t for a second think that this is a problem only overweight and obese people who try to lose weight have to deal with. This cultural issue affects people of all sizes.
Take this young woman’s struggle to maintain her healthy weight as an example. Misleading fitspiration messages only exacerbated a preexisting body image issue.
And without further ado, we’ve already covered two of those precious gems, let’s go through another 19 weight loss quotes; quotes that pose as motivating but actually slam your chances for healthier living.
19 weight loss quotes that make getting healthy harder.
Ok marathon of *head-desking* (new word!) is about to start…
Weight Loss Quote #1: Dear stomach, you are bored, not hungry, so shut up!
While it’s true that sometimes you may be eating out of boredom, not hunger, if your stomach is the one complaining, then it’s most definitely hunger – and you’d be starving yourself by not following through.
Plus, when food comes available later guess what will happen…
Weight Loss Quote #2: You don’t get the ass you want by sitting on it.
First, this quote purposefully forgets that even the people who exercise the most among us still use their bottom to sit down and still spend multiple hours every day sitting. So you do get the ass you want by sitting on it, it’s just that exercise will also help lift it up, shape it, define it better – we work on this in Flat Belly Firm Butt, this skinny fat to fit example is a good one. (Also benefits of exercising your bottom: posture improvement, better quality of life, etc).
Also, if your goal is weight loss specifically, you can avoid exercising in the first place – butts are made in the kitchen. (However, I did mention how good exercise is for your health, right?)
I can see how this image could be motivating if your butt is really close to the one in the picture already, but for people who have 10s or 100s pounds to lose, this is just shaming.
Weight Loss Quote #3: Do it for the “holy shit, you got hot!”
This one assumes that you can’t be overweight and hot at the same time. But is this really true?
While society will most likely see you as hotter the thinner you are, and sometimes the more muscle definition you get, it’s best not to exercise or try to lose weight for external rewards like social approval, but for things that matter to you personally (intrinsic rewards) – whether that is that you enjoy taking good care of yourself and only feeding your body with the best that is available, or enjoying your time walking outdoors, etc.
Weight Loss Quote #4: Here’s a weight loss secret you can pin… There are no secrets. Stop eating garbage and get off your ass.
weight loss secret: pic.twitter.com/X6W3FCdRWT
— Fitness Quotes (@Fitness_QU0TES) April 16, 2017
Again it’s all about personal responsibility according to this quote. It’s solely your fault and you deserve to be shamed. Also more fallacies here: like you can gain weight by eating bigger portions of healthy food and while exercising – but this is not mentioned, this quote doesn’t care about truthfulness.
Weight Loss Quote #5: The fact that you aren’t where you want to be should be enough motivation.
— Dr. BERT RUTTEN (@BERTRUTTEN) March 2, 2017
Not being where you want to be is motivation to start, but it’s by no means the only thing you need to succeed. Zero understanding of habits creation here. Motivation comes and goes, if motivation is your sole plan for success then it’s certain you’re going to quit whatever you start.
Weight Loss Quote #6: If the pants fon’t fit…no, no, no just quit eating.
#weightlossquotes If the pants don't fit…….no, no, no…just quit eating.
— Bradley Bullock (@bpbullock22) October 16, 2012
Sure, quit eating. And then we’re wondering why people get eating disorders. *headdesk*
Weight Loss Quote #7: Won’t quit til I’m fit
— AmountFit Apparel (@AmountFitShop) January 22, 2016
At fist this one sounds good for its focus on perseverance but at the end of the day, the focus is still on the short-term here.
I say I won’t quit exercise till I’m so old, or sick, that I can physically no longer do it. Because my goal is to live to 100 and still be exercising by that time.
I have a long-term, lifestyle goal, not a short-term one.
Weight Loss Quote #8: Excuses don’t burn calories.
— World of MIRA (@World_of_MIRA) April 22, 2017
While this is technically true, it still puts emphasis on exercising for the sake of weight loss. Also, it’s shaming (surprise!)
Weight Loss Quote #9: Fat lasts longer than flavor.
— Dr. BERT RUTTEN (@BERTRUTTEN) March 1, 2017
What a common fallacy that healthy food tastes bad and only unhealthy food tastes good. Of course, this quote could care less about portion size. More emphasis on personal responsibility and shaming. Sacrifice enough and you’ll get there!
Weight Loss Quote #10: No pain, no gain, shut up and train.
— Nutrition Club Ca (@nutrtinclub) April 13, 2017
While this could be motivating to pro-athletes, for regular Joes it’s just stupid. Pain will discourage habit-wiring dooming you in the start-and-stop vicious cycle. But again zero knowledge about habits is the default here.
Weight Loss Quote #11: Suck it up buttercup so one day you won’t have to suck it in.
— RubyFitness (@RubyGFitness) February 20, 2017
Fat is the worst thing that can happen to you, right? Having a muffin top is so bad you deserve all the shaming in the world if you let something like that happen.
Or that’s what this t-shirt would have you believe.
Weight Loss Quote #12: Unless you puke, faint, or die keep going.
Unless you die, keep going. If you puke or faint it means that your next set will be good money pic.twitter.com/5BeHEDcRLV
— Elizabeth Brewer (@1ElizabethBrewr) March 2, 2017
Sure, keep encouraging overexercising. No surprise so many women get eating disorders and amenorrhea as a result of irresponsible advice like that.
Also keep making it look like you need to absolutely exhaust yourself to get results. At Flat Belly Firm Butt, we beg to differ with our 16 minutes 3 times a week regimen (check out the fitness level calculator for the types of results to expect.)
Weight Loss Quote #13: Do not reward yourself with food, you’re not a dog.
You can absolutely reward yourself with food. You can cook an amazing meal and then sit down and enjoy it slowly, savoring every bite! Why not? This is life.
We assume reward equals either eating more or making worse food choices but that’s not always the case.
And even if you choose to go for a less nutritious option, this is not necessarily bad and something you need to stop doing. It depends on your overall pattern.
As for the “you’re not a dog” part, is this meant to be humorous? Because I find it insulting.
Weight Loss Quote #14: If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all.
— Kent Stuver – Internet Marketing (@kentstuver) April 10, 2017
I’m guessing this one was not specifically meant to a weight loss/healthy living audience, however, I do see variations of this message offered often to encourage weight loss or fitness goals.
These quotes are so insidious because sometimes part of them makes sense. Like with a marriage you need to go “all in,” you cannot be partially committed or half-married for example. You cannot be half-pregnant. There are some things that it’s necessary to go all-in.
However in a healthy living context, this is just another version of the pervasive all-or-nothing thinking that leads too many people into starting “healthy” behaviors that they are then going to quit in a month or two.
I’ve mentioned those quotes have literally no understanding of habits, right? I don’t know if I’ve said it enough times. Should I direct everyone to my healthy habits book?
Weight Loss Quote #15: Don’t listen to your inner fatty, she’s an evil bitch. She misses bread.
Motivation Monday the struggle is real. Wish my inner fatty was less of an outer fatty but baby steps! 1lb off at weigh in. 1 ?? 49 to go. ? pic.twitter.com/tMUqo7zJfH
— ?Enid ? (@enid_eyeglass) April 24, 2017
This is degrading and my heart aches for the people who will consider this for real. Referring to your “inner fatty” AND referring to her as an “evil bitch?” This is literally promoting losing weight or living healthy out of hate of yourself, not out of love for doing the best you can for you! The door to eating disorders is now open and it poses as motivational too!
Not only that, but even its health advice sucks. Cutting out a food group without a medical reason? Hmm…
Weight Loss Quote #16: If you learn self-control, you can master absolutely anything.
This is an example of another quote that can be applied to multiple areas of life.
It also happens to be one that’s quite popular in fitspiration literature. Once again personal responsibility emphasized:
No, our environment does not affect us at all. With enough self-control, you should be able to do whatever you want! That’s why a 2015 study found that the majority of heart-attack survivors can’t even take their statins 90 days after discharge from their heart attack hospitalization (reference at bottom of article.) If heart attack survivors cannot even stick to taking pills then what about more difficult behaviors?
Literally no understanding of habits or behavior change. Again.
Weight Loss Quote #17: It takes 21 days, 21 days of healthy eating and working out and it will become a habit.
This one is not focused on shaming but it gets the science wrong! The number of days actually depends on the complexity of the habit and how it fits into your routine (just to name a few!) Educate yourself! It can take a few days or it can take months! I wrote about how long it takes to make a habit here.
Weight Loss Quote #18: Today’s weight loss tip: Use superglue as lipgloss.
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Yeah I should really try that one! Sadly I'm not one of those people who can't eat anything when they are sick. I'm the complete opposite, I feel sorry for myself and so eat everything I can get my hands on. You would be surprised how much bad stuff you can consume even with a sore throat: icecream, hot cocoa, whipped cream, rice porridge… I'm just gonna stop there or it will be seriously embarrasing ?? #eatingtoomuch#lovetoeat#foodlover#carblover#fitnessdiet#fitgirl#fitspiration#fitnessaddict#fitgirlprobs#fitgirlproblem#gymlife#beingsicksucks#sickandtired#dietquotes
I guess this is supposed to be funny, but the humour is based on the flawed concept of personal responsibility being the only thing that matters.
Yup, if you could just stop eating entirely you’d lose weight! Go live in a 3rd world country while taking no money with you – that’s another way to achieve your goal.
Also you could get cancer (many people lose weight this way) or get some other type of sickness that induces weight loss. People will be blown away by your results!
All in the name of health!
Weight Loss Quote #19: Struggling to find a weight loss program that really works?
This is supposed to be funny, and yet another example of a joke that plays on the same “it’s all about personal responsibility” myth.
Head-desking marathon is now over!
By now my forehead is red from a combo of face-palming and head-desking. Glad this is over and I do hope it helped show you a thing or two about how pervasive fitspiration culture is, how harmful it can be, and the extend of how wrong it is.
Fitspiration and weight loss do an extreme disservice to the people who are most vulnerable to it – the people with body image issues, and the ones who really want to lose weight and are looking up to them for inspiration, thinking they’re helping their cause by sticking some of them on their fridge.
With that said I want to clarify that I don’t believe that the people who spread those types of unhelpful quotes are evil in some way – most of them just don’t know any better because that’s how far behind we are yet as a culture and we still believe in old-fashioned yet disproven paradigms (go big or go home, getting healthy equals big sacrifice, if you wanted it enough you’d get it, etc.)
Not all weight loss quotes are made equal.
There are actually some that I really like and think help people who are making better choices. Like this one by Confucius – “It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.” I use this quote all the time in Exercise Bliss where people who hate exercise gradually become like the people who naturally enjoy it and do it every day!
Or another one I use often is “Not everyone is doing it but you are!” I say this in Flat Belly Firm Butt often (every workout video ends with the audience clapping as well!) because we deserve to feel rewarded for exercising – an activity that’s so good for out health and wellbeing!
Now let’s turn this back to you: Which one of these weight loss quotes was the worst offender in your opinion? Why? Leave a comment and let me know.
(Also if you have any favorites that are actually motivating and positive, then let me know!)
- Tiggemann M., Zaccardo M. “Exercise to be fit, not skinny”: The effect of fitspiration imagery on women’s body image. Body Image. 2015 Sep;15:61-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.06.003. Epub 2015 Jul 10.
- Rosenson RS et al., Underutilization of high-intensity statin therapy after hospitalization for coronary heart disease, J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Jan 27;65(3):270-7. doi: 10.1016.