AIM: The Thinternet: Tool or Tormenter?

When I started blogging in 2005, Facebook was limited to Harvard students, Twitter was at least a year away, there were no apps or iPhones, and there was no “thinspiration.” (Although our model-thin culture was alive and well on the covers of most major magazines.)

There’s no doubt that the Internet was my number one most useful weight-loss tool this last time down the scale. The Weight Watchers online program taught me how to eat, and the community of people I met there taught me why I eat the way I do. I asked them to hold me accountable, even though I’d never met them in real life, and they did. I wandered away from that accountability over the last few years and what do you know? Twenty of those doggone lost pounds found their way back to me and so again I have sought the help of a few of the folks who helped me out the last time, only this time we’re using MyFitnessPal.

If I were just now deciding to lose weight, I wouldn’t know who or what to believe. While the Internet continues to be a critical tool for my own weight loss and maintenance, as well as an excellent source for fitness and nutrition information, it often leaves me “Internetically” exhausted and downright angry.

To research this month’s AIM topic, I clicked on the “5 foods you should never eat” link you find on nearly every page that supports GoogleAds. (You know the one with the banana on it? Yeah, well, bananas aren’t one of the five foods.) I listened to a 20-minute spiel about why I should “join” the Trim Down Club (for ONLY $47! And if you’re not satisfied, you get to keep the four free gifts!) because I wanted to know what five foods I should never eat. They are: excess sugar, margarine, high-carb “comfort foods” (although on their plan, you can eat a stack of pancakes IF you combine it with the right amount of protein…), processed soy, and genetically modified corn. Pay me $47 and I’ll tell you almost the same thing, except for the part about eating pancakes with bacon.

Clearly I wasn’t frustrated enough, because I Googled “five foods never eat” and…surprise!…there was an exhaustive list of links to articles and blogs with their own five foods to never eat. According to Cosmo, they are artificial sweeteners, diet foods, frozen prepared meals, soy and margarine. The Huffington post reports you shouldn’t eat fried food, white bread, creamy salad dressing, white rice, and white sugar. Another site listed nine foods “you should never attempt to eat (or ever eat again)”: Canned tomatoes (because of BPA), processed meats, margarine, vegetable oils, microwave popcorn, non-organic fruits and vegetables, soy protein isolate, table salt, and artificial sweeteners.

And if that wasn’t enough fun, I Googled “diet cleanse” and thought I would stroke out from all the downright awful and deceptive information. Words like garcinia cambogia (thank you…NOT…Dr. Oz), adiponectin, and grehlin get thrown around like if we don’t know their “secrets” (duh!), we’re destined to be fat forever.

It’s the black and white DON’Ts and DOs that make me nuts. In the realm of weight loss, “never” is never a good approach. Truth and success are usually somewhere in the gray.

I know I’m beginning to sound like an old man who yells at children to get off his yard, but allow me a few words about the hashtag “thinspiration.” (Here’s a link to a grouping of more than 1700 pages of images tagged with “thinspiration.”)

While I’m all for motivational sayings and motivational images, an overwhelming majority of them include or are exclusively of thin (often too thin) young, scantily clad woman. I just…ugh… When will healthy at any size or shape be considered beautiful?


For my sanity, I limit myself to keeping up with less than 10 personal blogs and about four or five blogs written by dietary and nutrition professionals. Reading about other people’s struggles and successes keeps me connected to my own experiences of struggle and success, and the professionals I follow offer informed and sane nutritional advice. Occasionally, I will click on links to other blogs or articles that address an issue of interest to me, but I’m sure you know how easy it is to lose an hour or three of your day “clicking through.” I can only cram so much information and other people’s angst, frustration, or plain old opinion into my head at one time without wanting to poke sharp objects into my eyes.

How do YOU navigate the weight-loss and nutritional waters of the Internet? What “inspires” you? What makes you go, “What the what??”

AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debbie @ debby weighs in
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit
Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

6 thoughts on “AIM: The Thinternet: Tool or Tormenter?

  1. I read everything. The good, the bad.. the weird…

    It teaches me that… Not every tool works… That I need to know me and my body…

    And that, even the most asinine article, can have one USEFUL point…

    I also find, that the articles and blogs I read… Keep me on track.

    But, I must digress… I graduated high school in 2003 (I know, I'm young.. shhhhh)….

    Thinspiration existed back then… before you started to blog.

    I remember being a senior in highschool and watching girls look at Thinspiration pictures on the HS libraries computer.

    I remember being astonished, and a little scared…

    Now.. it's a struggle to find a healthy boundary… without inching up on Thinspiration…

    But I push on…
    And stay informed…
    And accountable.

  2. Right now I'm on blog hiatus, so that should tell you something about my own”Thinternet overload.” For me, it's a mixed bag. Love it or hate it, I'm somewhere in the middle, but I have to take breaks now and then. For some reason, my weight loss is better now that I'm not posting regularly. I think too much information from other blogs, internet sources, and myself aren't always helpful, at least in my case. For me, moderation is they key–in both eating and blogging.

  3. Oh, the studies, the studies…all these studies and yet obesity rates continue to grow. I think you really nailed one of the problems people (including this people) face when trying to find a successful way to manage their weight. Also, the whole absolutism thing. I keep catching myself making a little growly noise low in my throat when I read harshly restrictive “advice.” 🙂

  4. You said a mouthful – those “five foods” sites slay me, as they're always different. It has gotten CRAZY in the past few years, and I've learned to tune out most of the stuff out there. But the thinspo pictures, ugh…such a disservice to women.

  5. It's just the media in general that pisses me off with regards to weight obsession. That is what created thinspiration in the first place (IMHO).

    I read a lot, but I have steered clear of the health and fitness boards on pinterest after I started seeing the crazy thinspo stuff on there.

  6. Like you, I keep my blogroll to a minimum. I follow blogs that help me stay connected and focused enough on weight loss to stay healthy. Half of them are people who are in maintenance.

    Even with the little I see in the arena of blog articles, Pinterest pins, etc. it's so easy for me to compare myself to others and still feel like a failure even though I've lost and maintained at least 65 pounds lost.

    Then I remind myself I am running a half marathon in a week and a half…and I'm reminded once again I'm not a failure. 🙂

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