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Christy Brissette, MSc, RD Headshot

Is Social Media Destroying Your Body Image?

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So, you're following some supermodels, celebrities, fitness models, personal trainers and other women with slammin' bodies on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Do you find the images motivate you to eat better and work out harder, or do they make you less happy with your body and want to go on a crash diet?

Is social media good for our body image or is it harmful?

The answer: it's just like the awkward Facebook status... "It's complicated." Social media can be healthy or harmful to your body image depending on how you use it.

Here's an e-card that sums up the conflicting messages we see on social media:

2015-11-10-1447195262-1171763-1329104079415_1741283.png

(Card created by aylab1 via someecards.com).


No wonder we're all confused about what a healthy lifestyle looks like!

Social media is a place where the best and the worst in people is on display. People with distorted versions of health have latched on to disturbing trends such as #ThighGap, #CollarboneChallenge and #thinspo.

Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites have banned the use of #thinspiration, #thinspo and other potentially harmful tags for promoting or glorifying self-harm. But can we completely avoid the negative effect social media can have on our body image?

Teen role model Demi Lovato has opened up about her struggles with anorexia and bulimia and how social media played a role.

"Social media started impacting my life when I was about 14 years old. I would check it obsessively, reading comments and wondering if people noticed that I'd gained or lost weight. I allowed social media to define what I thought of my body. And now I realize that no matter how thin you are, someone will call you fat.

No matter how beautiful you are, someone will call you ugly. But you can't spend your time worrying about that. You're just not going to please the world."

Even if you are looking for legitimate fitness and health-based information, what you see can make you feel like you're not doing well enough.

As an experiment, I searched Instagram for "motivation," "healthy" and "fit," and most of the images that appeared were about losing weight. Many showed celebrities who had slimmed down and glorified their new thinner physiques.

How often do you see articles along the lines of Celebrity Weight Loss: Before and After or slideshows shaming stars who have gained weight? How often do you see ones talking about health and fitness separate from thinness?

Are there other, more important reasons than being thin to work out and eat well?

Of course! Beyond better energy levels and mood and lowering the risk of a whole host of chronic diseases, research shows that we're more likely to stick to exercise programs if we're motivated by something inside us versus outside appearances.

For example, finding an activity you enjoy that makes you feel good means you're more likely to stick to it compared to taking up a type of exercise to lose weight. The same is true for trying to eat healthier. Most people stick with it because eating better makes them feel better.

I'll be sharing the positive aspects of social media for inspiring healthy eating and exercise as well as health at every size. Plus, I'll provide tips on how to use social media in positive ways and avoid negative messages that can distract you from your health goals.

Does social media inspire you to take better care of your health or does it discourage you? Have your say below and on my Facebook page, 80 Twenty Nutrition.

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