What “THINSPO” means & why I hate it.

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Last year, there was a bug going around Tumblr – the hashtag #THINSPO – which is an abbreviation of “thinspiration.”

Now, I will be the first to admit that I am overweight and I need to lose a few pounds. When I first saw the Tumblr posts, I thought it was pretty cool; people were posting things that inspired them to get or stay thin.

And then I noticed something.

There were a lot of protruding bones in those posts.


I realized that THINSPO wasn’t just a way for women to inspire each other to get healthy and into shape.

It was a theme for anorexics.

And Tumblr was never quite the same for me after that. I don’t use it anymore, as much as I miss the hilarity that ensued there, and the delicious-looking food porn!

And then, not too long ago, I received an notification from Tumblr about a change in their Terms of Service.

And before I could even figure out what my password was to start logging into Tumblr again, I started seeing people talk about THINSPO on Pinterest.

What. The. Eff?!

While there are plenty of well-intending posts, pinned by people who really just want to get in shape and get healthy – there are those that lean towards the darker side of the theme. And they are the majority, unfortunately.

For instance, the person who pinned a photo of a runway model backstage – you can count her ribs. That? That isn’t about getting healthy. And the fitting into size 0 jeans? That’s not a goal of being healthy, that’s a goal of being small.

And those two things are very, very different. 

I’ve been there.

I’ve been that girl who looks into the mirror, and instead of seeing her hip bones protruding and her breasts disappearing, she sees flabby thighs and a fat ass. The girl that doesn’t eat all. day. long. so that she can actually eat a small portion of her dinner, in front of her parents – so that they don’t figure it out and stop her from achieving her goal.

I’ve been that girl who lays awake at night, wondering if she will ever get down to her “goal weight” and if she does, will things be different? Will she start to feel pretty? Will people like her more if she looks perfect?

I worked to get down to 100 pounds. And then I wanted to be under 100 pounds…and then under 99, and under 98…it didn’t stop. I would calculate in my head how much food I needed to consume to not get sick – and to not get caught – and how much I could exercise without making myself pass out. These were the early to mid 90’s and there was no Google – there was only trial and error.

When I struggled with anorexia, I don’t think I really knew what it meant – I knew I wanted to be smaller, but I didn’t understand the psychology behind what was going on in my head. I read a few books, but it still didn’t seem like I was doing anything wrong – I was determined to learn from their mistakes! Fortunately, I got pregnant and my attitude towards my body changed a lot after that.

As I got older and came to really understand what it was I had dealt with as a teenager, I realized that for me, my anorexia was about control. I had no control over anything in my life, but my food? My body? Those were things that I controlled – and let’s just say that I became the dictator of my own body.

When I hear my daughter talk about her weight issues, I cringe. I’ve never been a healthy weight – I was either starving myself in my teens, or eating too much, like I do now. I am not obese, but according to my doctor, I need to lose 20 pounds to reduce my risk of Type 2 Diabetes, which runs in my family. I don’t know how to give her diet and exercise advice, because even after all of this time, I still haven’t learned it for myself.

So we work on it, little by little, one day at a time. When she asks for ice cream after school, I tell her no – not because she is going to get fat, but because excess sweets aren’t good for her. I am trying to teach her healthy diet choices as I am learning them and putting them into practice myself.

   *     *     * 

I began writing this post last month, and I just didn’t know how to end it. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder while I went on a Spring Break Cruise, out to Santa Monica to attend a press event, and then while I was at a funeral in New Mexico. I kept it in the back of my mind, considering alternate endings…

Then, while perusing Pinterest today, I saw something about Pinterest shutting down the THINSPO boards.

Can I get an AMEN?

Anorexia is a very dangerous disorder, because it can so easily be confused with someone just trying to get into shape and be thin. When I was a teenager, I was skinny, but I didn’t look starved – I never got to that point. But that didn’t mean that I wasn’t starving myself.

It breaks my heart to know that girls are struggling with the same demons I faced in my teens. Kudos to Tumblr and Pinterest for shutting the THINSPO posts down!

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  1. says

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I battled an eating disorder for years and also I’m a healthy size 10 (UK) now, I still have that niggling feeling in the back of my mind that tells me I need to lose weight. One of the problems with thinspo and these communities of people who share images is that young girls feel like everyone around them is having the same thoughts – and it becomes normal behaviour! It’s so worrying! Good for you writing this post – I think every parent with a young daughter needs to read it and be aware of the ever-growing problem x

  2. says

    I was that girl too. I remember being so proud when I would reach new goals- 4 days no food, 5 days no food, etc. I still know all of the “underground” anorexia websites because I went to them so often. I’m glad that Pinterest and Tumblr are taking a stand against thinspo posts, but unfortunately, those posts will always exist on other sites made specifically for that reason.

    I think what bugs me are the people who say “Oh, I don’t see a problem with it. It’s encouraging.” It’s NOT encouraging to those young girls. They don’t know the limit and they are not trying to get healthy.

    So glad you wrote this!

  3. says

    I was that girl too. And somedays I still am. The thinspo boards make me cringe and I hate them with a passion. People joke about anorexia, but it isn’t a laughing matter at all. Thank you so much for your post Jenn.

  4. says

    These are horrible! It disturbs me that we live in a society where thin, frail and protruding bones is considered beauty. I hope that I can teach my daughter that really beauty is inside and you don’t have to be a size 0 to be beautiful. Thanks for posting this.

  5. says

    Yes, some of those pictures were very disturbing! Glad that Tumblr and Pinterest caught on and are doing the right thing. I just hope those girls that are posting/pinning those pictures as well as the ones actually in the pictures, get the help they need to become healthy :(

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