The problem with -spo

Trigger warning: Contains discussion of body image. Relates to mental heath, disordered eating and exercise patterns.


Image of a print from Living Styles

I first encountered the -spo concept in the form of thinspo. As someone who (unfortunately) has wanted to lose weight for most of their life, I thought anything that would inspire me to exercise a little more enthusiastically or eat that little bit healthier could only be a good thing. And when you put it like that, yeah, it is. Sometimes we all need our butt kicked into gear a bit. The problem I found with thinspo was that it got very extreme very quickly. The messages went from “take care of your body” to “YOU NEED TO SEE BONES” in approximately 0.4 seconds. For a newly pubescent lil lady, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Eventually, as I came towards the end of high school, fitspo came along. Now bones were okay but lean, mean, squatting machines were better. Again, the images and messages around fitspo varied greatly but reached pretty scary levels of obsessiveness (although, die-hard fitspo-ers would say that “obsessive is just a word that the lazy use to describe the dedicated”). For a young woman emerging from the cosy cocoon of high school, this was just another unreachable standard I felt the big wide world demanded of womanhood now.

And that’s the thing with -spo, regardless of whether it’s to do with your body or your home, your food, your children, your parties or your outfits: it sets the bar at an overwhelming height (I’m all of 5ft. tall, so perhaps this mental image is particularly scary for me). It seems so unreachable that you risk becoming obsessed with constantly bettering yourself and others at the expense of all else in your life. On the other hand, these images of perfection can seem so far from where you are that you become despondent and give up completely. I haven’t included any -spo images for this exact reason. I don’t believe they provide me, or anyone else for that matter, any deep or lasting benefit.

They’re also fleeting. They come flying at you: thick and fast and seemingly relentless. They’re in front of you for but a moment, but they can damage you for a long time. They are extreme, and they offer you nothing but an extreme reaction. Love or hate. Embrace or resent. Inspire or depress. They do not and cannot offer you any real support because they themselves are not real. They are far-removed from your life and may well be far removed from the way the people in them see their own lives too. We’re all guilty of presenting a brighter, shinier picture of our lives on the internet, and perhaps it’s worth thinking about the reality behind the -spo. Seek out real life connections with people whose values align with yours. Real life role models and mentors can offer you far more than any -spo could; they will show you the diversity of the meaning of ‘success’ and that complete ‘perfection’ does not actually exist. Appreciate what you have and do what you can with that. Be kind to yourself; from little things, big things grow. Be your own lifespo.


If any of the issues I’ve discussed in this post concern you, please reach out for support. There are fantastic services available if you are struggling with issues of mental health or body image.

For Australians:

And for South Aussies in particular (because I know you make up the majority of my readership):

Ethel’s back, back again!

Last week I brought you a little intro to one of my fave cafes (and one that I should visit more often), E for Ethel. I interviewed owner-operators Amanda and Dan one afternoon way back in May and we chatted for so long that I decided to split my article about it in two. Now, I’m uber excited to bring you part two!

Pic from E for Ethel's placemaking story - click through to read!

Pic from E for Ethel’s placemaking story – click through to read!

Lauren (me): Have you found the Adelaide business community to be a supportive one? How have you found building partnerships and relationships with other local businesses?
Dan: Yeah, I’d say there’s a lot of businesses out there that are supportive of new businesses. A lot of the newer businesses are really supportive actually, so there’s definitely a community feel. And lots of people were able to share tips and hints and that was good. Knowing there’s support there is nice.
Amanda: And we had all that before we opened as well, you know. We would just go to cafes and do research and hang out and chat to owners and a lot of them are people we work with now in terms of suppliers because they were really open and willing to share and willing to sit down and just chat about stuff. There is definitely an older business mindset that isn’t as supportive to small businesses and businesses like ours – I think they think we’re just crazy hippies or something, but that’s okay. Definitely within our circle, we’re surrounded by businesses that are really supportive.
D: The council has been a great support and their networks have been really supportive, which is good.
A: Yeah, Adelaide City Council have been really good and especially through their Placemaking initiative. Melbourne Street‘s been identified as one of their pilot projects for the Placemaking program, so it means there are a lot of opportunities and there’s a lot of support out there and big conversations happening which is really cool. It just feels like there’s about to be a change down here and it’s a real chance for the community to make it their own and for businesses to start doing new stuff, so it feels good.

L: Great! So what sorts of areas do you see opportunities for growth and new businesses/ventures in Adelaide, or Melbourne Street in itself even?
A: Melbourne Street needs so much more!
D: Yeah, with Melbourne Street we feel like it has a lot of potential but it just needs a few key businesses.
A: It needs a newsagency – the one that was just on the corner out there has been closed for a couple of years now – and it needs a little local continental kinda deli.
D: Maybe a few cool bars.
Amanda: Yeah we’ve got all these big pubs, which have their place and they do their thing but yeah, some little cosy bars would complement them well. Hopefully some of the stuff going on in the CBD will start to branch out and happen up here too.
D: I think part of the Placemaking thing is determining what areas need and working towards that; actively seeking it out rather than just taking what comes.
A: They’re also helping in negotiations with landlords too which I think is really important for small business because quite often you don’t know what you’re signing up for or what you’re stepping into and sometimes that can work really well and sometimes not so much. But the council have been really supportive in that regard which is great.

L: What are some of your favourite local businesses?
D: Well, we love Sarah next door at Clarity massage. She’s become a friend of ours just through everyday interaction and seeing each other around. There’s a lot of people like that actually. Justine who was in here before, she’s from a hairdresser’s just out there.So yeah, it’s just grown from people who come in here and say hello. We like to offer support to those around us. We’ve been quite lucky I think. Most people we’ve worked with have been really supportive and have a more collaborative mindset.

L: What do you think is the importance/role of small business and keeping things local in a society dominated by big business, and a city that’s undergoing so much change in itself?
D: I think we need small business so much; it keeps things personal. I think you need small business to balance out all the big businesses. It’s a bit tricky these days because the big businesses are just getting so big that it’s hard to compete but there are always ways around that. Doing things slightly differently, offering something that people can’t get from bigger companies all helps. People still need connections. It’s nice to go into a place and know that the people are going to be nice and friendly and know who you are. I mean, you can get that in bigger businesses but it’s a lot harder. You’ve got a bit more freedom to move around within small business, to make things your own.

What a quote to finish on – thanks Dan! If you’d like to see E for Ethel‘s placemaking story about Melbourne Street, click here.

I just want to say thanks again to both Dan and Amanda for being so welcoming and open and sharing their story with me. If you know of a local business/person/initiative that you think I should focus an article on, please do leave a comment below and I’ll try to get onto it on the ASAP!

Until next time, lovelies,
L x