Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

“Found My Best Self”: Women’s Fitness and Body Transformation Discourse

“Found My Best Self”: Women’s Fitness and Body Transformation Discourse

Yen-ting Chang

This research aims to answer the question of how fitness shape women’s perceptions of their health and bodies by examining the “Before and After” transformation posts and its discourses on Instagram shared by the SWEAT fitness app users. Recent study trends indicate the idea of “fitspiration”, the amalgamation of the words fitness and inspiration, which consists of images and text that are designed to inspire people to pursue a healthy lifestyle through exercise and eating well and has been promoted as a healthy alternative to “thinspiration”, a blending of thinness and inspiration, and aims to encourage strength and female empowerment. The women users from the SWEAT app construct two types of self-image: before and after fitness practice. The before image represents the lack of confidence and discomfort with their bodies. This contrasts the after image which is the “better-self” that demonstrate a slimmer and stronger body image with confidence and self-disciplines. In these posts, they do not explicitly describe their body shapes but instead their mental state and overall health. The determination and self-discipline are major means and attitudes to achieve the goal for fitness. Although the fitness goal is set up by the individuals, there is emphasis on online community engagement and peer pressure to help achieve that goal. The results of the fitness practice are correspondent with the posts, which is an image of a better self who is physically and mentally healthier. The explicit judgement of body type was rarely mentioned, instead, they used the less extreme word to express their body dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, they suggest that fitness is a sign of health and that appearance is the primary rationale for exercise, reinforcing societal healthy and appearance ideals.

April 2, 2018 - Posted by | abstract


  1. It’s interesting that the body is used as a tool to express “better mental health.” Did you find that users were projecting these healthy ideas because that is what the users viewing the images wanted to see/read, or did it seem as if the users were generally more focused on creating a healthy mindset?

    Comment by Haley Scott | April 16, 2018 | Reply

  2. This is cool. We know that physical and mental health are connected and putting physical health in terms of mental health is big now days. You mentioned that body image is still a major rationale for exercise, how has this changed with the shift you were looking at?

    Comment by Craig Meiners | April 17, 2018 | Reply

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