The Rise of Health Porn, and Why Not All Inspiration is Created Equal

The progress photo has likely existed since the dawn of camera technology, but for all intents and purposes, it started with Jared.

Old Jared wore size 62 pants. New Jared looked great, smiled wide, and sold a ton of Subway sandwiches.

His story resonated because it was extreme (size 62?!), it was simple (low-fat, 6-inch sandwiches), and it was visually shocking.

Jared's progress photo

In reality, Jared wasn’t selling sandwiches. He was selling hope. Hope that we could be like him, lose weight, and eventually have our own before-and-after photo to wow friends and family.

There was no actual roadmap or diet plan. There was no coaching or support group. No details. There was only the image of Jared and his pants.

It was health porn.

And if his 10-year run as a Subway spokesperson is any indication, that was all we needed to go buy a sandwich.

***

Fast forward 15 years, and health porn is an industry in and of itself.

We don’t call it health porn, of course. We call it fitspo (fitness inspiration), progress pics, and beautiful açaí/granola bowls. And we’re bombarded with it daily.

Millions of glossy Instagram photos. Enough Facebook posts to clog your Newsfeed for months. Apps built entirely around the idea of crowd-sourced fitness inspiration.

fitspo

Rather than spending an hour at the gym, we end up spending an hour looking at what we want to look like. It’s easy to get lost. Beautiful images and beautiful people draw you in.

If it sounds like we’re talking about tabloid magazines, perhaps the next step is to ask whether they’re all that different.

You can lose weight like this. You can eat this healthy. You can get abs like this. You can make this your new philosophy. You can do this. YOU. Can do this.

“I’m in!” you say. “How do I do it?”

… and that’s where the health porn story falls apart.

***

The “How” is what matters in healthy eating and weight loss – far more than the “What.”

Good health isn’t glamorous, because good health is all in the day-to-day details – the How. It’s low on sugar, it’s sweaty, and it smells.

The What, however, is much easier to sell. What is the right side of a progress photo. What is that toned stomach, or a series of beautiful vegetable photos.

Health porn gives you a gratuitous amount of What and none of the How, that is unless the owner of those six-pack abs wants to reveal everything that went into getting them (she doesn’t… but might if you pay $200).

It’s empty inspiration. A destination without a roadmap.

And the last thing we need is more reason to fawn over what we aren’t rather than focusing on what we are and how we can improve.

***

The solution to empty inspiration? Add a healthy dose of realness. Show the boring meals, the ice cream snacks, the unglamorous workouts, and more of the thought process.

All of a sudden, it ceases to be porn.

What starts as health porn…

Gorgeous sweet potato+avocado+veggies meal

Becomes a complete window into how a 5’3″ vegetarian woman in her 20s makes progress toward her goals:

Day in the life of YouFood user @sim

What starts as health porn (serious arm transformation!)…

50-year-old woman progress photo

Becomes fantastic insight into how a 5’6″ woman in her 50s can reach a “healthy/normal” BMI for the first time in 20 years, while building awesome arm muscle in the process:

Healthy day, in photos

A not-so-healthy day, in photos

Her bio and goals

We’d never say inspiration is a bad thing. But the difference between mindless and magical is in the details.

***

In the end, it’s about what game we’re playing. Pretty photos, or real progress? The What, or the How?

Health porn, or health?

We choose the latter. But we won’t skimp on the good-looking photos, either. Join us on YouFood (iPhone, Android).

YouFood photo collage

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About YouFood

YouFood is the world's #1 rated health app. Let's eat better, together. Get the app - it's free! - on iPhone and Android: http://www.joinyoufood.com/main/open-app
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10 Responses to The Rise of Health Porn, and Why Not All Inspiration is Created Equal

  1. Karin Sakacs says:

    I love this! It’s the reason I love Two Grand and have consistently lost at least a pound a week so I starting logging consistently. Being real. Do I get lost in fitspo? Yes I do but I am happy to say it’s a lot less since joining. Thank you for an amazing app that’s helped me break my plateau! I’m halfway to my goal!

    • TwoGrand says:

      You rock, Karin! Thank you for the kind words, and congrats on your progress so far! Sounds like you’ll definitely hit your goal 🙂

  2. Michael McGreal says:

    I am officially voting you best founders ever. Awesome post!!

  3. Lori says:

    You know you’ve been great with this…you HAVE to know! Thank you for this app!!! I, too, get lost in the pictures posted of food and exercises at times…on TwoGrand! But THOSE pictures are the inspiration for me!!! When I really want those chocolate chip cookies (notice it’s plural!) that my husband brings home, I’ll eat one instead of 6. Then notice the yummy alternatives my TG friends are making. The next day I can leave those sweets alone, and grab some fruit instead. I’ve lost 4 lbs in 3 weeks. Making small goals now and sticking with TG!!!!

    • TwoGrand says:

      Such a great comment, Lori! Thank you for writing. You mention so much of what makes TG awesome, and YOU are also part of what makes TG awesome. We have no doubt you’ll reach your goals 🙂

  4. I am so pleased to be part of this sight… I have good and bad days…I love getting unto tg and seeing what everyone is doing for that day…I have had some great inspirations from tg..love this app and sight…

  5. Debra Drake (dmcdrake) says:

    The whole time I read this I was nodding in agreement. People need to see the real side to becoming healthy, and TwoGrand does just that. TG is not just another app on my phone, it’s one of the greatest tools I have ever used to help me understand my eating patterns and keep me on track to feeling good. I can’t thank you guys enough. Your life changers.

  6. Alex Fergus says:

    Great article guys! It’s a big reason why I’m moving away from apps like IG and using Twogrand, or should I say Youfood, more and more.

    In fact, I’m also having all my coaching clients sign up to your app. I’ve just put a blog article together showing how I use your app to track my clients diet:
    http://afcoaching.com.au/blogs/blog/43001729-youfood-app-review-operation-abs-week-8

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