The Lowest Hanging Fitspo: The Scapegoating of Females in Fitness

Everyone loves to hate a fitspo. Everyone also loves money. And the easiest way to generate content and subsequently revenue, is to pile on someone. And that someone just always happens to be a woman.

The Problem with Cardio Carol

Happen upon any male personal trainer with a TikTok and mammy issues and chances are you will come across Cardio Carol, Keto Karen or Slimming World Susan. These caricatures of women exist as cautionary tales, a reminder of what happens if you dare step outside The Way of the Almighty Personal Trainer (WAP, but not in the way we would like). Woven into poorly-worded Reels and Instagram captions lie these women, with an occasional token Keto Keith. And boy are they stupid. Carol, who thought the only way to lose weight was to attempt to run 5 days a week. Silly Carol. Eat less, move more… but not like that. We have Keto Karen and Slimming World Susan who were foolish enough to try incredibly well-marketed diet plans that seem on the surface to guarantee weight loss. What absolute idiots!

The problem with these fabled women lies not in the fact that they carried out these behaviours. The issue lies with the fact that it is constantly women who are ridiculed for these behaviours, be they fabricated or not. The constant guffawing and sneering at women for “falling for” products that have millions of euro in marketing designed to target our insecurities has to stop.

I don’t want to see you, with Female Fat Loss Coach written in your Instagram bio, telling me don’t be a Slimming World Susan, and then offer me an 8-week drop a dress size challenge. Because you are no better than Slimming World. You’re Slimming World with a saviour complex. You haven’t saved us lowly women from a life of cardio and ketogenic diets, you’ve just replaced it with MyFitnessPal and the Stairmaster.

Maybe, just maybe, the problem doesn’t lie with Cardio Carol. Maybe, it’s her creator.

The Female Fitspo

Similar to Cardio Carol, the fitspo exists in Instagram lore as all peroxide and no substance. Everyone loves to hate an influencer, and the fact that these women are young, lean and beautiful means they deserve it. Right?

As a fitspo woman, you obviously can’t be hot and have a shred of intelligence. You exist solely for flame emojis and thirsty DMs, which you will subsequently be mocked for “asking for”. Ick. The female fitspo is a precarious topic, and one I myself find hard to navigate without being all judgy and an asshole, much like the very people I am trying to write about.

Regardless, I am tired of seeing the female influencer constantly paraded around as “everything wrong with social media”. Maybe the high-waisted leggings have finally cut-off the circulation to my brain and I’ve missed something, but the most damaging individuals on social media with the largest platforms tend to be men. Promoting your glute guides may not be the most “inspiring” way of using your platform, but at least it’s not fucking harmful. Which we cannot say for those who advocate for a “primal” lifestyle (whilst being a paper cut away from bleeding out they are so hyped on steroids) or actively demonising carbohydrates, plants or whatever is trendy to excommunicate from health and wellness. I once attended a conference where a male personal trainer once stood up an announced we should all be following a “pear fast”. Yup.

And of course, that’s not to say fitspos can’t say or do stupid things. Lord knows I have been suckered by many a fitspo into detox teas and BCAAs. However, it is truly exhausting that the first line of “fuckery” is a girlo who hip thrusts, and not some doctor who gives out “hormonal hacking” tips.

Enter Strawman

I hear you with your strawman arguments – so you’re saying we can’t call out women anymore? What about influencers that promote detoxes/restriction/BS?

And, I here to tell you shove them because you know damn well that’s not what I mean. The issue is not with the dangerous dietary practices or useless exercises that are filmed zoomed in on an influencers’ glutes. The issue lies with individuals who make misogynistic content thinly-veiled as “educational”. If the only way you can educate women is to call us stupid… *shrugs*

And sir, if you’re going to come for the gals for thirst posting on your Reels, please do not have the audacity to send us flame emojis in the DMs. Namaste.


Published by Michelle Carroll

I am an online coach (MSc Sports & Exercise Nutrition, EQF Level 4 Personal Trainer, PN Level 1) and radiographer (BSc). I believe in empowering others to make better choices for their health through education. I think that the fitness industry has created a disconnect between best practices and “evidence-based” practices. I hope by chronicling my experience as a healthcare professional and my education as a fitness professional I can assist others on the path to bettering themselves.

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