The “Dark Side” Of Fitness Social Media

What’s up, guys? Sean Nalewanyj, and I was
actually planning on covering a different video topic today but I just saw a comment
that was left on one of my recent videos where I was talking about bodyfat percentages for
men and I decided to make this video here instead. And the comment says, “Thanks for the video
Sean. Great content. I’m currently going through a lot of issues
with body dysmorphia and my girlfriend is constantly yelling at me because I call myself
fat all the time. Our school’s athletic room calipers me around
ten to eleven percent. I think that maybe a bit low. The thing is I truly believe I am fat. Unfortunately a result of fitness media. I see it with my friends too. We simply compare ourselves to fitness role
models, it’s hard to deal with.” So, this is a tough one. It’s actually a very common issue to different
degrees even for people who don’t realize it’s happening to them. And I think that anybody who really gets into
training for aesthetic purposes has probably struggled with this at one time or another. I know that I have, not so much anymore, though
we’re all influenced by this to a certain extent but definitely in my first couple of
years of training when I saw myself as being too skinny and I wanted to look like a bodybuilder. And even though I’ve put on a pretty significant
amount of muscle I still have that feeling of just not being big enough. And this was before Instagram, before facebook,
before YouTube, so nowadays it’s become an even larger problem. Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to
body image issues and if you have a legitimate struggle there that’s causing you serious
anxiety and it’s affecting your day-to-day life and your health then you absolutely should
see a professional about it, but I’m just going to give you my personal opinion on it
and a few tips. So the challenge with social media is this,
and some of this might sound a bit out there but bear with me because it is relevant. Human beings are evolutionary programmed to
be highly social animals and we are naturally wired to constantly compare ourselves to the
other human around us. Because throughout evolutionary history that
was a very useful thing to do in order to understand what was going on, probably fifty
to a hundred percent tribe you were living in and what your situation was relative to
the others. So the drive to compare yourself with others
and to want to fit in is completely normal and everyone does it. Some do it a bit more, some do it a bit less
but everyone does it to a certain degree. Now, biologically the human brain hasn’t
really change much in the last, probably a hundred thousand years or so because a biological
evolution is a very slow process. However, the actual world we live in has completely
changed from what it was throughout most of our history as a hunter-gatherers, particularly
in the last about a hundred years or so, and even to a huge degree in the last five to
ten years with the proliferation of the internet and of social media, and those changes can
make things really tough on our, sort of, ancient brain. And that’s because instead of living our
lives in the real world surrounded by a tribe of, maybe fifty to a hundred people, we now
live, still in the real world but in larger cities with way more people and we’re also
spending more and more time now in this digital world, which is inhabited by literally billions
of people and where the people who received the most attention and the most views are
naturally going to be the most extraordinary and the most exceptional out of everything
that’s out there. And that’s where the fitness industry can
become a real problem for some people. This extends way beyond the fitness industry,
by the way, but that’s just what we’re talking about in this video. So the habits of proper training and proper
nutrition are meant to build self confidence and to improve how you feel about yourself,
but if allow yourself to get too deeply wrapped up in it, again depending on the person like
the subscriber who left the comment that I’m responding to, depending on the person it
can start having the opposite effect because you’re constantly being exposed only to
the very extreme end of the bell curve. So even if you’re not consciously aware
of it seeing image after image after image of the absolute, most aesthetic physiques
literally in the world it rewires your perception of things to where you started thinking that
that’s the norm, that these are the people who are in your circle who you should be competing
with and then all you can think about is your physique relative to theirs. When in reality the vast overwhelming majority
of the population actually exist somewhere around the middle of the bell curve ranging
from a bit below average to a bit above average and only a tiny fraction exist on that very
far end. But again, because social media platforms
like Instagram, facebook, YouTube, et cetera, show people the things that they are most
drawn to, which is that extreme upper percentile, that’s what you see over and over again. And you end up with a completely skewed idea
of what’s actually going on. But it gets even harder than that and I don’t
want to keep repeating myself because I just talked about this last week, but a lot of
what you’re seeing, especially when it comes to still images, isn’t even real. In the sense that those people don’t actually
look like that in real life, you know, filters, lighting, oil, pumps, tanning, photo angles,
a lot of that stuff is usually optimized to make the very best picture possible. You’re also usually looking at people with
particularly good genetics for gaining muscle and staying lean, and then if that wasn’t
enough a lot of the people you see who claimed to be natural aren’t actually natural and
they are using drugs, which makes a massive difference to the results that can be achieved. And then if that wasn’t enough, some of
these photos are literally altered using Photoshops. So what you’re looking at technically isn’t
even a real person and so it’s no wonder why, you know, scrolling through your Instagram
feed where you’re subscribed to a hundred different fitness models is making you feel
shitty about yourself. The reality is that if you train hard and
properly on a consistent basis and you eat a relatively unprocessed nutrient rich diet,
you have some decent visible muscle development and you have bodyfat levels somewhere around
the middle to slightly lower end of what would be considered the healthy range, then you’re
going to be physically stronger and in better shape than at least ninety-five percent of
the population just from that alone. It’s unfortunate that people can put in
the work to get to that position and then still feel insecure and unconfident with how
they look because they are comparing themselves to those who are in the top ninety-nine point
nine, nine percent, or to people who literally don’t even exist in real life. So, in terms of practical advice on this,
again, I’m not an expert but I’ll just give you a few thoughts. So first off, if you are really into body
building and fitness and your goal is to build the absolute best physique you possibly can
because you enjoy it and you’re passionate about it and watching videos and looking at
online pictures of other physiques motivates you and then inspires you and it’s not causing
you any distress then there’s nothing wrong with that and by all means continue. This video is obviously not aimed at everyone
and if you’re happy then just keep doing what you’re doing. On the other hand, if this is something that
you’re struggling with ad despite your consistent training, good nutrition, carrying some decent
muscle mass if that’s your goal and being at a healthy bodyfat level, if despite all
of that you’re finding that this constant comparison game that your brain is playing
is genuinely making you feel unhappy and constantly feeling insecure then there are three things
that I would recommend. So the first is just basic awareness. A lot of people who are newer to fitness literally
don’t even realize the stuff that I was just talking about, in terms of how social
media pictures are optimized to look as good as possible for social media, how Photoshop
is often used, there’s drug use and also that you’re usually looking at people with
the very best genetics as well. So just being aware of that in and of itself
is really valuable and does go a long way. The second thing I’d advise, and this is
a more practical tip, if deep down you feel that this stuff is stressing you out and it’s
making your life worst then stop looking at it. It’s really as simple as that. Just stop looking at it. Or more realistically make an effort to look
at it a lot less than you currently are. So stop sitting there endlessly scrolling
through your Instagram and our facebook feed, stop watching YouTube video after video after
video of all this people flexing on camera and [Indiscernible] and squatting six hundred
pounds. Again, if that stuff is motivating to you
and you enjoy it then fine but ultimately for a lot of people I think it ends up being
a big time sink in the long run and it shouldn’t be necessary for motivation anyway because
if you’re in this for the long term you have to be able to draw your motivation from
within. If you have to watch someone else lifting
in order to derive the motivation to get yourself into the gym that’s eventually going to
run out and you’re going to have some real problems. But bottom line if this is becoming a problem
for you, if you’re eleven percent bodyfat and you feel fat or you’re a natural lifter
with sixteen inch arms and you feel small, the best advice I could give, and something
that I did and I continue to do myself, is start directing a greater portion of your
attention away from the digital world and more into the real everyday world. Because living in the real everyday world
is going to give you a way, way more accurate picture of what’s actually going on. So take your head out of your phone and start
walking around and observing real everyday people because the digital fitness world and
all these digital fitness people you’ve absorbed your mind into are not an accurate
representation of the real world that you actually inhabit on a day-to-day basis. And you need to readjust your perception to
understand that to the average person who doesn’t even exercise regularly, because
most people don’t, relative to them you do have an amazing physique already if you
are in pretty good shape as is. Now, I’m not saying don’t continue pushing
for higher goals if you truly want to and it’s coming from a place of genuine excitement,
and I’m not trying to glorify mediocrity either but at the end of the day we do this
because we want to feel good, we want to feel confident, we want to feel good about ourselves
and if you’re struggling with body image issues and your metric for success is to look
like the fitness model in your Instagram feed, for most people that is a dangerous road to
go down and you are ultimately playing a game that you most likely can’t win. So try cutting back on your social media use
and see how that feels. Try using fitness pages and channels mainly
for informational purposes rather than just staring at physique after physique after physique
for the hell of it. Subscribe to fewer people, use your social
media apps less often or even go to the extreme for a period of time and just stop looking
altogether and see what happens. And then from there, again, direct your attention
and your focus into the real everyday world and onto real everyday people. It might not be a solution to the problem
but I really can’t see any possible way that it wouldn’t at least help. Now, this video is getting bit long, so I’ll
make this quick but the final tip I’d give to learn to enjoy training and nutrition for
how it would makes you feel rather than just for the way that it changes your appearance. In my case, for my first few years of training,
literally the only purpose I saw for working out was in terms of how many inches of muscle
it was going to put on to my body. And when I started to enjoy the process itself
and enjoy working out just for working out itself because it feels good to be physically
active and because of the effect that it had on my mood and my wellbeing that really was
a game changer for me. Now, not always but most of the time I genuinely
look forward to go into the gym. And I’d derived just as much satisfaction
from how it makes me feel as I do from how it makes me look. And that sort of diffuses my focus between
the two and I become a lot less preoccupied and less obsessive about my aesthetics compare
to everyone else is. So that’s all I wanted to say on that, guys. I hope it was helpful. Feel free to share your thoughts on this in
the comments below. If you enjoyed the video then make sure to
hit the like button and subscribe. My official website is over at
and I’ll talk to you guys again soon.


  1. Nicely put sir!!! Stop comparing yourself to other people. Just get in shape and be happy with yourself.

  2. another great video. thanks sean!

  3. Sorry Sean cant watch you anymore you are to massssifff i get jealous :'(

  4. Spot on

  5. The whole industry is full of shit.

  6. fake nattys are everywhere i mean everywhere

  7. what kills me is the girls with naturally big or surgically enhanced asses posing as "fitness models"
    people believe it too and buy their $80 workout plans
    it's so sad

  8. The whole fitness industry is bullshit

  9. Perfect upload Sean, thank you. The best illustration of what you just explained you will see in a Calum von Moger training vid. He has a perfect but enhanced physique and all around him training average Joe's

  10. I like the substances of your content, and how you get straight to the point! So many content creators spend 15 mins to say a 2 minute point! If I want real info I'll search your content first! If I have one criticism, you tend to come across as overly rehearsed and lacking character. This video seemed more "real" and it was nice to see.

  11. I think half of the people are smart enough to realise Bradley Martyn is not natural but the physiques that confuse the majority are people who compete in physique. guys who are 21 years old and shredded at 200lbs and 6 foot…. people really believe you can obtain that at such a young age XD. there are YouTubers who are shorter and weigh 180 lean and have been training for 10 years. this is why people don't even try to work out. they stop after a year because of the expected results social media put on them. and for the people that keep on working out they experience body fat issues. they may have a visible 6 pack but because of maybe their obliques are overdeveloped.. they consider themselves fat. great vid Sean and great advise to look at the real world instead of social media.

  12. Your hair is growing back.

    These are the types of videos I love seeing. Thank you so much.

  13. Sean, thank you so much for this video. It struck a chord and was a great reality check!

  14. Thank you for this. It helps so much!

  15. Well said sir.

  16. Good video. Looked at body dysmorphia sympathetically & provided sensible advice. Thanks, Sean.

  17. 4:30 it's like how porn changes the way people see sex

  18. real talk Sean. thanks for tellin it straight, these kids need to hear it

  19. Sean, once again you have produced a very insightful and intelligent video for all of us……We appreciate what you do and HOW you do it! Thank you for your consistent videos as of late. I always look forward to them, bro!

  20. Thanks Sean, great information as usual.

  21. We all want to be fucking amazing… But we already are… Good talk Sean! Thanks

  22. Well put Sean. Big faN of your stuff.

  23. How do I know if I have this Sean? Somethings I think I do but other times I feel quite comfortable and confident…

  24. great video. due to social media people think that if you don't have shredded 6 pack abs at 200lbs you're out of shape

  25. Inspirational and helpfull video Sean. I feel like social media should be almost illegal because it's a big lie! people do everything to get a "like" because it makes them feel good (endorphines and dopamine level increase )

  26. Really wise and real life based piece of advice! Thanks Sean. I really like the part your talking about working out for the love of being active. That's the real key to making this life-long habit a blessing. Everything that takes long time effort should be viewed that way. I have been watching your videos for a long time to get information on excercises and study English. You may not have thought about it, but your way of speaking English demonstrates what well-spoken English is like to non native speakers like me. Not just pronunciation but also word choices and logical structure.  Many Thanks!새해 복 많이 받으세요^^  (meaning Happy new year in my language, Korean) A fan from South Korea.

  27. Wish I cud hit d like button twice✌🏻😊

  28. Hi Sean,
    Great advice, and I couldn't have said it better! This is very helpful to those struggling with body image issues. Thank you for putting this out there 🙂

  29. this is 100% truth

  30. Love your no B.S. videos! Keep up the great work!

  31. This was by far your best video ever Sean. I think you nailed it. It's funny because just last week I got tired of looking at all of these muscle bound dudes on FB and I stopped following all of the guys that just posted pictures (and advertisements) and I only follow those who give great (real) advice. I feel much better abut myself and I look at my work outs in a completely different light. I'm not there yet, I still look at myself as over weight, but I think I'm heading in the right direction.

  32. Talk evolutionary biology to me Sean. -_^

  33. Ur macro calculator is not working on ur website, I have used it for over a year now and it is by far the most accurate macro calculator ,was wondering if or when will it be fixed as it is not working ?

  34. Good content Sean, as always. Saluted

  35. How can someone sane dislike Sean's videos?

  36. Great video Sean.i always like your way of thinking and how you explain and give advice.Keep up the good work!

  37. Kind of random but you are a great talker, no cuts or editing, super concise.

  38. Thank you so much 🙂 for the video is really worth watching , God bless 🙂

  39. thanks for this. although i was anorexic for about 7 years i really can distance myself from all those "perfect" girls. i dont diet. despite i focus on myself and on my goals. getting stronger. i have a bf % of about 19. other girls would start dieting. i don't think about it. hm weird writing 😁…. however i also deaboed most of those photoshopped girls as i don't want to feel really shitty or fat. cause i'm not!

  40. i love the way you tackle issues Sean….
    You go direct to the point,honest and your tips are the best.
    Love the great work you do,it really helps

  41. Great content here Sean, arms looking swole as well, how big are they?

  42. Alright. That's it. I'm getting a pizza.

  43. The world needs more people like you. I believe it will be an eye-opener for a lot of teenagers, who are still growing and can't look at a social media from various different angles just yet, it's so easy to believe in impossible when you're really young and inexperienced. Those false claims that you can add muscle gradually til the day you die just won't die any time soon or that it's possible to achieve certain physique naturally, of course some people get it more easier and some don't, and some people lie. BTW I like your videos and your speech you're honest and you speak so fluently.

    Thank you, Sean.

  44. Best advice from me: Compare yourself to yourself a month ago, or two months.

  45. Your information is always on point! Question…. in your opinion is it best to stay pretty lean like 10- 12% body fat and train to build muscle?

  46. Great point to look at the people around!
    I was stressed by the same “fitness media” phenomena that made me feel
    terrible and frustrated as I could not match. I gave up and then it went to
    another extreme of neglecting myself (sort of dead-end). At certain
    point changed my total approach for the nutrition and joined Sean’s program –
    lost 60 pounds and gained a good portion of muscles over the last year. I am 42
    and got used to the idea that I cannot cope with the 25 year old guys way of
    life – when you can train, eat whatever, drink, party and look good. But I
    started to notice that I look better that almost all the people around my age
    that I know. I train in a couple of gyms as I fly for my business and see a lot
    of people (airports, hotels, malls, companies, etc.) – nothing close to the
    fitness mags screenshots. During the last year I have seen may be a dozen of
    really perfect shaped guys and another dozen of ladies but 99.99% are not there
    (with all my 4-5 weekly workouts I consider myself being around 15% top of the
    common people). And here is another great point – do it for the way of life and
    fun! From then on I look at the fitness model pictures on rare occasions but
    never got myself trapped with the idea of looking like this.
    Sorry for the long comment

  47. Hey Sean, what about Collagen Powder??? What's your take on it???

  48. In a fitness industry full of fake natty you are a true voice man, keep grinding.

  49. Bottom line: Delete your Instagram and Facebook, live a happier life. An impossible task for a millenial or Gen Z, but "take your head out of your phone" as Sean says. People look at me like im nuts when I tell them I dont have any social media applications. But a person shouldnt need likes or notes to feel good about themselves. Its a nasty addiction

  50. So you mean I cannot become like Rich Piana naturally?!

  51. I remember when I cared so much about the 6pack, because those top tier guys have that ripped 6pack… but, I have come to terms with walking around with a 4pack and having a little bit of belly fat. I feel much healthier this way.

  52. exposed the truth Sean! 😀 keep it up

  53. The "dark side" of social media. Vegan Gains…enough said.
    I don't worry about someone on social media having more muscle then I do. I have made RADICAL gains in strength and muscle mass in the past few months and gone from obese to a beast in a relatively short period of time without the use of pharmaceuticals. Do most YouTube muscle gurus have more mass and definition then me, you bet they do, but I am old enough to be their dad so that does not bother me a bit, all I focus on is being the best version of me possible and that is good enough for me.

  54. My 12 year old nephew asked me that I go to gym daily and had been going since I was 22 but still why I never had fully visible six pack abs all the time. I told him, what he sees on TV and social media is not true, grow up, join gym and spend few years working out and then he'll understand why.

    Thanks for the Video Sean

  55. Classic legendary Sean Nal video…

  56. Dude. That was one of the smartest most helpful information I've ever heard. It hit me hard and in a different context. Thanks Sean

  57. Brilliant.
    Absolutely brilliant.
    I trully love when you make videos like this. The entire world should watch this.

  58. Thanks Sean.

  59. I wish fitness models were more honest about their training, drugs, supplements and specially their pics!!! I think the main reason why they alter their pics is just because they have to compete against other models too…. some stretch marks here and there will be awesome to see every once in a while….and as usual very good video!!!

  60. really good video sean!

  61. best advice….Ur great dude..

  62. I did some Instagram purging a few days ago. It's feels freaking fantastic!

  63. I actually started doing this…..I don't say I am fat perse…but I say that I do have fat…..I really don't see myself as others see me, it's nuts

  64. I used to be overweight and after finishing my cutting phase was terrified of getting fat again so I took forever to bulk. Finally doing so now and I feel better than ever, sometimes I still feel fat but then look at myself in comparison to the rest of the population and I feel way better. My family, who kept mentioning how skinny I was when I was cutting, says I look much better too.

  65. hands down this is the best fitness channel on youtube. This content is insane

  66. lol i like how everybody is complaining about instagram and snapchat and i stopped using this apps but they aint saying shit about the fake models wtf??? just unfollow them thats all.

  67. Quality advices as usual Sean. Keep being this awesome. Also the hair gains though :DDD

  68. Wow, I just found you on YT. You are amazingly insightful and this topic is so right on. I underwent cervical surgery 12 months ago, and have been recovering since. I discovered this entire YT, Instagram world of "perfect" bodies while recuperating. For me they are inspirational, but at +60 unattainable no matter what, but I feel very passionately about younger people thinking these guys and girls are "real", it is just not the case except for the genetically gifted.

  69. Good video as usual, can't agree more.
    Allow me to ask an off-topic question; could you tell me which mic you're using in this video? Thanks.

  70. You speak the truth bro. New subscriber!

  71. thats what average female deals with throughout their lives whereas for guys only when they spent a lot of time and efforts on their body

  72. Intrinsic motivation is the key. Don't draw motivation from all these social media fitness peanuts. The fitness models don't want to motivate you, they want their egos stroked and money from you. They want as much money as they can to fuel their drug use, materialism and lifestyle. These unenlightened people think they are gods gift to humanity, spreading goodness and beauty where ever they go, when really they leave a pile of destruction.

    If you are feeling unmotivated by these social media fitness models, remember the extreme measures they take including drugs, severe calorie deficits, cosmetic enhancement and not to mention hours of hair and make up. Then behind closed doors there's for guys there's the shrunken balls, internal organ damage, premature aging, low sex drive, mood swings, fatigue and loss of loved ones. As for the ladies enlarged clits, facial hair, acne, deepening of the voice and fake body parts (lip injections, breast implants, some butt implants etc).

  73. This guy is the man, honest videos, good information, with a GREAT natural physique to back it up

  74. Great video

  75. Well explained! A major problem in today's digital world. Everyone is trying to look their best which leads to social comparison resulting in negative body image for the viewer. Just being aware of this issue helps a long way!

  76. im prob 20+% fat but i know im sexy i dont think the very low % fat females look attractive at all

  77. Exactly. The whole point is to see what they are doing but realize your own realities. I am not an IFBB pro and I have a life that keeps me busy. I am as good as I can get and staying realistic.

  78. Awesome video

  79. It's refreshing to find like minded trainers. Since I'm an old lady I don't go on instagram much. My motivation has always been to overcome my chronic health challenges. It's so true that our motivation needs to have depth and a promise we make to ourselves and our body that we always do our best to take care of it. Great video.

  80. A lot of female fitness models have implant or other surgical procedures too

  81. After I deleted my Facebook and Instagram, I lost weight and I don't feel depressed anymore.

  82. You are my favorite fitness youtuber by far Sean. Your videos are always very honest, no B.S., down to earth wisdom.

  83. You are gold for us. Thx

  84. This is aimed towards fitness, but I think that this advice can be true for any obsession. Thank you for the video.

  85. 100000 years lol 😂

  86. The problem is that its way too many Social-Media sites out at once Like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram Ect. Ect. Ect……. An the fakest people have the Biggest Followings. This generation Sucks… Great Video!

  87. if only people focused on becoming strong doing heavy compound exercises with the right technique, the current fitness industry system would slowly disappear.

  88. Great video and well said. I am a dad with 3 kids and have a nice physique…for a 50 yr old! I work out about 3 times a week and eat relatively light. I have a nice body when I compare myself to everyone around me. And yes, I look hot in the shadows and less so in full light. However, I'll never look like Sean Nal but that's ok! I don't need to…Sean works way harder than I do in the gym and it shows. Nothing to be ashamed about. Just love who you are where you are at and always strive to be better.

  89. I have a similar problem, no matter how much i train or how good i look, always when i look in the mirror i look smaller and smaller.

  90. You and Jeff cavalier are my most trusted and favorite YouTube fitness guru's. All your info and vids are fantastic.

  91. pop clen, inject tren

  92. I never feel big enough – not unless I carry 20%+ BF…and then I just look like a fatso! 😛

  93. Had a friend at 5.3 and 105 lbs thought herself fat!! she disappeared for aa week-end and came back after having her "fat" knees reduced. Sad! And she lifted and ran. Looked fine but couldn't get over the fact that people she was comparing herself to were not near what normal people look like.

  94. Hi Sean! Speaking about social media, one common distraction are phisiques made with CrossFit. Such an impressive phisique seems not possible to get done with traditional gym, or at least not the atletism that those men have. Have you ever talked about CrossFit vs gim comparison? Thank you in advance and very useful videos you upload 🙂

  95. I and others are surely thinking after watching this… I wonder if I can reach the extreme end of the bell curve if I took PED's?

  96. i only really care about my self this doesn't effect me at all

  97. no I think steroids but I do have a shitty body

  98. I’m glad I don’t feel this way even tho I don’t look buff like the fitness gurus I follow- I see them more as aspirations and teachers, kind of like you, Mr Nalawanyj

  99. That was not a man baby.

  100. What u see shared on social media with physique status is either skewed toward the more genetically elite side of the spectrum (i.e. ppl still look shredded at 15% Body Fat) and this makes the average more naive to this person think that this is what is considered “normal”. Not to mention they’re literally trying to warp your perception of stuff in the fitness industry to try to sell you something more often than not. These people don’t look like that year round, the photos are edited with the perfect angle and lighting, and these fake fucking naturals giving people false hope making money off of it need to gtfo

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