We don’t talk about this often, but we are constantly surrounded and influenced by social media. Many individuals pursue social media sites for the latest diet craze or superfood to help achieve a perfect body and perfect diet. Studies have found a link between social media and disordered eating particularly orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating only healthy foods that can lead to nutrient deficiencies, anxiety, depression and social isolation. Additionally, most of the content that influences this comes from individuals with little to zero background in nutrition.
In a study by Turner and Lefevre (2017) published in the journal of Eating Disorders found that 49 percent of people who followed health food accounts on instagram had orthorexia. Many people use social media safely as well, to find healthy eating tips, and healthy plans, however, many times that pursuit becomes an unhealthy preoccupation which can lead to self-punishment.
Disordered eating can affect everyone; men, women, boys, girls. Adolescents are at highest risk for falling victim to this type of eating because so much of their knowledge is learned through the internet and social media. On the other hand, adults are at a very high risk as well depending on what their social media feed looks like. If their feed is full of unrealistic messages and advice from the wrong influencer, it can really impact your self esteem. These influencers make you think that you’re doing something wrong because you don’t look or feel like them as a result of having different priorities. Anyone can fall for these triggering images and messages, so below are a few tips to check if your “healthy eating” has gone a bit deep.
You avoid dinning out. You don’t dine out because you don’t trust anyone cooking for you since you can’t tell what ingredients are going into your food.
You obsess over ingredient in your food. You spend a lot of time obsessing over food, especially its quality and purity. You become consumed with how it was prepared, stored, and its expiration date to make sure its as fresh as it can be. You pretty much strive to only put pure and healthy foods in your body.
You never eat dessert. A healthy eater still enjoys dessert on occasion, or even a little every day. If you don’t dare to ever touch dessert unless it’s made from “clean” ingredients and obsess over its ingredients and nutrition information then you may be at risk.
You stay away from any food viewed as unhealthy. Healthy individuals may limit added sugar or saturated fat, on the other hand, those with orthorexia avoid this completely. The type of foods avoided vary from person to person depending on what they count as unhealthy.
You avoid outings that involve food. You are so obsessed with healthy eating that you isolate yourself and avoid parties, meetings with friends, or anything that may end up in going to a restaurant or activities where food may be served.
When obsession with healthy eating takes a toll on your life and happiness, it might be to re-evaluate and seek for help. If you think your social media use may have went just a tad off track, you can reevaluate some triggers. Be mindful of which accounts are truly motivational and which ones share great information with positive messages. Those account will make you feel good about who you are. For example, bloggers that live a completely different lifestyle than you, can make you feel like a failure. A fitness blogger that is in her 20s, cannot always relate to a mother of three kids who works full time. Bloggers that follow a similar lifestyle as you, are more likely to set realistic motives for you. Unfollow accounts that make you feel overwhelmed and down because you cant meet the same expectations.