Debunking the Most Common Instagram Fitness Myths

Some wellness-focused Instagram accounts are totally worth the #regram. Others? Not so much. Here’s how to sort through your social media feeds to separate the good advice from the bad.

Illustration by Jeannie Phan

The Insta-Myth: Everything you see on the ’Gram is real.

Reality Check: Given that we’re all spending more time on social media, it’s easier than ever to see the chiseled arms of a fitness instructor or someone’s perfect breakfast bowl and feel like we’re coming up short in our own lives. But don’t be fooled: Sarah Polacco, a strength coach at Achieve Fitness in Somerville, says that when it comes to fitness accounts, most pictures are professionally taken at specific angles that minimize flaws. “The videos and pictures you see are just a snapshot of a moment and not a full view of everything that’s happening,” she adds.

The Insta-Myth: Detoxes and cleanses are good for the body.

Reality Check: These kinds of fad diets may be marketed as magic pills by some social media influencers, but the truth is, “cutting out entire food groups and ignoring your hunger cues is not good for the body or mind,” says registered dietitian Lexy Penney, owner of Shanti Nutrition. By restricting yourself, she notes, your hunger response goes into overdrive, which means it could actually take more food to make you feel full.

The Insta-Myth: The faster you get results, the better.

Reality Check: While meal plans and exercise programs touted as quick fixes on Instagram are certainly enticing, slow and steady always wins the race when it comes to healthy behavioral changes. “For building results in fitness, slower is a much better way to build sustainable habits, avoid injury, and maintain your all-around health,” Polacco says. Bottom line: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The Insta-Myth: If there’s no pain, there’s no gain.

Reality Check: “Don’t get me wrong: I love to push weight, sweat my butt off, and get a hard-core workout in,” says Luis Yzusqui, a personal trainer at Mike’s Fitness in Jamaica Plain. “But there’s absolutely no reason to ever be in pain.” Even as trends such as self-care and recovery gain steam in the wellness industry, there are still some misconceptions that soreness equals success (see: those intensive and overly elaborate Instagram workout videos). Instead, Yzusqui suggests “learning to differentiate between the signals your body is giving you” while working out, building intensity progressively and making time for proper rest and relaxation.

The Insta-Myth: There are specific dos and don’ts to every exercise and nutrition routine.

Reality Check: You know those green check marks and red Xs on the ’Gram categorizing certain foods or exercises as bad (gluten and crunches) and others as good (kale and cardio)? Forget them. The fact of the matter is that each one is simply an opinion, because all bodies are different. “There’s no such thing as a perfect exercise or nutrition plan,” Yzusqui explains. “Ultimately, whatever resonates most with you in creating mindful habits will be most successful in creating lasting results.” In other words: Take any “tips” at face value, not as hard-and-fast rules to live by.