It’s not what it seems

It’s not what it seems

It’s not what it seems OptiMum Health



This Guest Blog by Melanie Swan is featured within our 30 Day Body Image Challenge:

It’s not what it seems.

In today’s social media driven environment, hashtags like #noexcuses, #fitspo, #fitspiration and many others, are reconditioning us to believe there is a new range of super humans with physiques to die for who just suddenly popped out from the pre-#selfie universe.

We’ve gone from really only having professional magazines and websites to having the likes of Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and many others where we can apparently be inspired by these feats of human physique.

#Lean is the new buzzword and body fat percentage has taken over from weight on the scales as the new goal, #abs the mark of a ‘real athlete’ and a girl’s ability to show off her #glutes in the best light the mark of a ‘real woman’. Yawn.

By the way, stay with me on the hashtags, I’m not making these up!

But what really lies behind them? Well, let’s be honest, many things; genetics, lighting, photoshop, drugs and usually, a whole lot of dieting and its physical, psychological and emotional consequences.

In this blog I’m going to break it down a bit for you. I’m a journalist, I know what happens with images and social media is no different.


The #Selfie

The #selfie is an art form.

It’s 99% lighting most of the time and choosing the right mirror, the right room, the ‘downlighting’ from your bathroom which invariably makes you look more defined or that nice lengthening mirror in the bright room which trims you down.

What you’re not seeing is the many other selfies the person has taken which don’t look so good and you’re seeing the one good shot.

It’s the same in a professional shoot. Out of 30 pics you may only like a handful.

My favourite selfies are the post-workout selfies, make up all still in place, false eyelashes in place. People, these are not post workout selfies. Even your favoured #fitspiration will look like a #sweatymess in the gym.


The #FitMum

While I think it’s amazing to see women with children sharing ways of staying active with your kids and encouraging mums to take a little time for themselves when kids can totally take over your every breathing moment, I also think there needs to be a balance.

Many of those who I see, are genetically slim anyway. They haven’t battled to get from 80kgs ‘losing the baby weight’ to get back to their 65kgs. They were slim already and stayed as such.

For women who’ve had kids, they usually already feel pretty bad about themselves, seeing their bodies in a way they’ve never seen before and usually, they hate it. Many of my friends have been through this.

If we’re not careful, we can without realising, just compound this sense of low self esteem when we tell them there’s #noexcuses not to be working out. Many are juggling multiple kids, a job, keeping the house in order and trying to maintain their relationship with their husbands.

Bear in mind that the ‘super-mum’ you think you’re following may be a stay at home mum with home help (paid or just a great family support network), with genetics which mean she will never put on weight and who has a financial situation to allow her the luxury of this lifestyle. We are not all born equal.


Fitness Model/Physique Athlete Secrets

One very successful WBFF pro recently told me that the secret to his amazing stream of photos even while he was ‘off season’ was the raft of shoots he does while he’s ‘in season’.

His way to get through those not so peak times is to drag out the dozens of photos he’s had done when he’s looking his best. Pictures can also hide many things.

Many of these #ripped #shredded #fitnessmodels are not superhuman or genetic masterpieces, they’re that #stacked and #lean for a reason and those reasons usually involve the likes of growth hormone, fat burners and steroids.


Another very popular one claims his incredibly #shredded physique is simply eating clean and training smart. Wrong. He’s juiced up to the eyeballs. Nothing natural about him. This counts for many women I know too.


What the psychologist says

Dr Anna Gekoski, co-author of ‘What’s Normal Anyway? Celebrities’ Own Stories of Mental Illness’ among others, says: “In today’s society there is a worrying, and rising, trend for the quest for physical perfection. The factors involved in this explosion are myriad.

In a culture increasingly obsessed with celebrity, we are constantly bombarded by airbrushed images of actresses and models – in magazines, newspapers, and on billboards – showing unattainable ideals. The rise of social media has also contributed to insecurity and dissatisfaction with our looks.

A recent study found that the more time young women spend using sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and, the more likely they are to develop a negative body image and/or eating disorder. Why?

For one, the use of social media means that we are now seeing more images of ourselves, making us more aware of how we look. At the same time, we are also seeing more images of our friends, peers, and colleagues, all too often drawing unfavourable comparisons.”



Social media has been an amazing tool in many respects. It’s behind some inspiring fund raising projects, it’s connected people across opposite sides of the world and can be a powerful education tool when used correctly.

However, discernment is key.

All is not what it seems.

Many of the people we are ‘following’, looking up to, are really not what they seem.

As Aristotle said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

Like any kind of media, newspapers, magazines, television news and documentaries, just take things with a pinch of salt, apply some common sense where able and just remember, never judge a book by its cover.

There’s no replacement for education, good old fashion academic books. If you really want to develop your knowledge whether it’s on fitness, nutrition or anything else, there are so many courses.


Melanie Swan is a journalist in the UAE at The National newspaper and has her own blog ( She is a RYT200 certified yoga teacher and has competed twice in physique competitions, Miami Pro and WBFF.