Body Image and Social Media

by Sarah Lucas, RD, LD

A quick search for #fitness on Instagram provides 272 million hits; #fitspo reveals 56.3 millions hits; #diet leads to 48 million hits. One of the trends I hear about repeatedly with my clients is the impact of social media on their daily lives. We are constantly inundated with posts regarding weight loss, thinness, nutrition, and daily workout routines. “Eat this, not that,” “lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks,” or “detox your liver.” These phrases are not necessarily harmful by nature, but they can be detrimental depending on a person’s mental health and where he or she is in the health journey.

Compare this with the pre-social media era. Prior to daily posts regarding health and nutrition, there were magazines that contained articles with meal plans and health tips. In those days, however, the advice was not at our fingertips. A person had to actively look into a magazine to seek nutritional advice; now, that same advice is next to a cousin’s engagement pictures or a friend’s vacation post.

So what can we do to avoid the triggers caused by social media? The truth is social media outlets can be both harmful and helpful depending on the content. I recommend going through the people you follow or accounts you actively look at and ask yourself if viewing those posts makes you feel better or worse and why. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others or feeling left out in any way, I would highly recommend unfollowing that account. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has teamed up with various social media platforms to remove or advise against following certain hashtags that can be triggering to those with eating disorders. NEDA recommends following and getting involved in the Pro-Recovery Movement by doing the following:

o Follow the National Eating Disorder Association on Facebook or Twitter
o Follow Easting Disorder Hope on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram
o Share your story on social media using the hashtag #prorecovery
o Follow body positive hashtags like #foodisfuel #EDrecovery #EDsoldier

The idea of social media is to bring people together, but we must know how to navigate these uncharted waters and do what is best for ourselves in order to continue using social media. Social Media platforms can and should be used in helping with recovery, not hurting it. Help to make social media a part of the solution!

Sarah Lucas, RD, LD, is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian.  She joined Living Bread in December 2017.  Sarah is a native of Memphis, TN and graduated from Furman University in Greenville.  Sarah went back to school at Winthrop University, where she received her Masters Degree in Human Nutrition.  Sarah worked at Greenville Health System as well as U.S. Renal Care before joining the team at Living Bread.  Sarah currently resides in Greenville with her husband and two dogs.