While some of fitness TikTok can be inspiring and helpful, it can also be a minefield of misinformation and unhealthy practices. All too often, the line can be quite blurry between FitTok accounts that can get you into shape and make you more body positive, and accounts that slip into dangerous weight-loss goals, exercise addiction, unrealistic expectations, and obsession with how you look. At the same time, these “health influencers” could be giving you tips and tricks that are absolutely not recommended by doctors, and that could even be dangerous to your physical body or your mental health.
Well. As someone who got less healthy in all the ways during the pandemic and a pandemic divorce, I’ve recently started to take better care of both my body and my self-esteem. But it took me a while to find people on social media who checked the right boxes for my needs as a mom in my 40s who was fed decades of garbage about how my body is supposed to look (and how I was supposed to treat my body).
I needed health and fitness influencers who did not tout weight loss goals. Who did not put value judgements on foods. Who weren’t completely obsessed with fitness over all else. I needed my FitTok finds to understand that fitness is for health (mental and physical), fun, and the challenge — and it doesn’t have anything to do with scales or mirrors.
Here are the best people I’ve found.
The gold standard in body-positive yoga, Jessamyn is a queer, plus-sized woman of color whose inclusive, loving approach to fitness and yoga has helped millions of women feel more confident in their practice. Her feed is filled with feel-good messages, inspiring pep-talks, and lovely images of people of all sizes striking a pose. If you really want to go to the next level of radical self-acceptance, she also has a naked yoga channel on OnlyFans now.
A single mom has committed herself to getting healthier and stronger, and none of that translates to getting to a certain size or number on the scale. Elizabeth Sanders’ feed is filled with super-cute workout clothes, unstoppable body positivity, and just a lot of ass-kicking. I love seeing her gym workouts as well as listening to her story, whether it’s about how she’s getting comfortable working out at the gym or why she’s doing what she’s doing (spoiler: it’s all for her). Warning that she does show some progress pictures from time to time, but they’re all focused on strength and happiness and not size or weight.
One of the most damaging parts of social media is that is incredibly curated and edited; it can make you feel like everyone else looks completely perfect. Mom and fitness journalist Danae Mercer is dedicated to reminding everyone what women look like in real life, especially after recovering from a severe eating disorder in her 20s. Her body-positive reels focus on how models “fake” pictures, how we can feel better — or at least neutral — about our imperfections, and how we should really just be having fun and living our lives.
“We see these images as casual, momentary snapshots, but in reality they’re each taking 30 to 40 minutes to create,” she told her alumni magazine in 2020. “The result is, we look online, and we think, ‘Everyone is perfect but me.’”
If you’re looking for inspiration and also a ton of laughs, you’ve got to follow Erin Azar, a self-described “struggle runner” and “chaotic runner” who does not give one flying flip about how she looks or how much she weighs. A mom of three little kids, she’s all about running for mental health and physical health, as well as for fun and community. Many of her videos are completely hilarious, and quite a few make fun of the fitness influencers who we try to avoid most. She’s a huge proponent of the “leisure run,” which is basically running without any goals in mind. I love it.
If you’re not convinced yet, know that she often does interpretive dances about each of her runs. Go watch one.
Latoya Shauntay Snell (Running Fat Chef)
If you’re into running, walking, or jogging and need some health inspo, this is your woman. Latoya Shauntay Snell has been a multi-sport athlete for 10 years and her feel-good TikTok channel is filled with energizing talks, tips for running at every size and experience level, and tons of great style. She truly shows the joy that comes with exercise when you take away expectations, embarrassment, and shame. It is awesome.
“It’s not about moving faster than everybody else,” she writes in one of the captions of her videos. “For me, I love seeing the ways I can propel myself into a new adventure.”
Fitness to hit a weight goal or pants size can not only be unhealthy, it can also be demotivating and frustrating. I love Sarah Hinton’s Mind and Mountain TikTok account because all of her fitness advice is geared toward the goal of exploring the world and being able to get out in nature. She’s a therapist and fitness instructor who lives in Alaska, and her videos are not only stunningly beautiful, but also informative and inspiring. She walks viewers through great activities that can help you get out in the world and also shows how joyous it can be to exercise outside.
Reyna Cohan’s feed is very much a snapshot of her daily life — and it’s not just infused with yoga and and gym trips, but also with lots of food, fashion, self-care, and adventure. Super down-to-earth and fun, Reyna really shows how taking care of yourself can happen in just a few minutes, and how loving yourself makes living life a lot more fun.
Callie is an Indiginous ultramaratoner who is all about body positivity and inclusion in running. She’s currently training for a 100 mile race, with a super-positive and thoughtful attitude that inspires me to like… jog around the block, at least. And while she’s definitely all about doing health stuff the actual healthy way, just a small warning that she has lost about 200 pounds running and does post about how her journey to health did include weight loss.
If you’re looking for an account that’s inspiring but also comes with a ton of actual, practical gym advice to get your stronger and happier, check out Danyele Wilson. She kills it at the gym and has mountains of tips for bigger and taller women who want to optimize their workouts. She also has more general tips for healthy living and body acceptance, and her confidence is contagious.
Sarah Aswell is the Special Projects Editor at Scary Mommy, where she contributes her editing and writing across the website and runs Scary Mommy Book Club. A humor writer and stand-up comedian, Sarah’s work has appeared in places like The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, National Lampoon, MAD Magazine, Reductress, Funny or Die, and more. Her writing about comedy, entertainment, and parenting has appeared in Vulture, Forbes, USA Today, Vice, The Advocate, and Working Mother Magazine, to name a few. Sarah lives in Missoula, Montana, with her two daughters and slightly too many cats. She was recently named one of the best unknown comedians in America by Thrillist, which is one of those insults that sounds like a compliment. Follow Sarah on Twitter at @sarahaswell and/or check out her comedy at sarahaswell.com.