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  • Sara

How Social Media Affects Our Relationship with Our Bodies

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

An account from a real social media user:

I downloaded social media for the first time at 13 years old. After having asked (begged, really) for some time, my parents finally gave me permission to use social media, and I was ecstatic. I downloaded everything: Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Pinterest. At first, everything was great. I got to watch funny videos, share what was going on in my life, and talk to my friends. But, over time, this started to change.

I was still using social media for all of the things I had originally intended to do when I downloaded it, but I started to come across tons of models, fitness influencers, and people who promoted disordered eating. However, at 13 years old I had no clue what toxic diet culture and fatphobia was; all I could think was ‘I want to look like that’ and they are telling me how to do it. At first, I just admired these people, but then it turned into more of an obsession. I started to research all my questions on Google. How do I lose weight fast? How many calories a day will make me lose weight? What exercises make you have a thigh gap? Plus the millions of other questions that I had about weight loss. My social media feeds became filled with models, exercise, and diet plans, while I would also constantly watch videos of “perfect” people to see what I needed to eat like them, and ultimately, look like them.

At first, it was all just on social media, and I wasn’t acting on anything. However, as my self-esteem continued to drop due to thinking I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t look like the photoshopped images on my feed, I started to try to lose weight. After about a month of only letting myself have “good” food and exercising, I saw very little change (probably because I was 13, didn’t need to lose weight, and had no clue what I was doing). I became so frustrated with myself because I couldn’t lose weight. So, I figured if I just don’t eat at all I definitely will.

It seemed easy the first couple days to not eat anything, but then it became more difficult, so I started to constantly look at pictures of people I wanted to look like to motivate myself to keep going. This went on for years without anyone knowing.

I didn’t recognize the fact that I had a severely damaged relationship with myself and food until I got into my current relationship with a partner who helped me heal. I also started therapy. While I wish I would’ve gained more confidence and recognized my unhealthy habits sooner, I am so glad I have learned how to accept myself now.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I wasn’t allowed access to social media until I was an adult. Would the same thing have happened when my brain was more developed? It doesn’t matter now because it has already happened, but I think it is something every parent should consider when their teen is begging them for social media accounts.

Social Media and Disordered Eating

If the previous account resonates with you, you’re certainly not alone. Today, millions of people have social media accounts. Millions also have eating disorders. The impact of these accounts on disordered eating is often not fully recognized by those who are knee deep in both. But there is a strong connection between the two – an undeniable connection that is difficult to break once one gets caught up in it.

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have devastating effects on a person’s health, relationships and overall quality of life. Although anyone can develop an ED, they are most common among adolescents and young adults, so the association between EDs and social media is likely not surprising. This is when most people create accounts.

Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook consist largely of images of idealized bodies and lifestyles. For people who are vulnerable to developing eating disorders, this constant exposure to “perfect” images, as outlined in the user’s story, can be extremely triggering and lead to a preoccupation with food and body image.

In addition, social media can be a breeding ground for comparison and self-criticism. Constantly comparing oneself to others can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. People tend to project only the very best aspects of their lives on these accounts, removing anything that isn’t attention-grabbing or doesn’t paint themselves in a positive light.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please seek professional help. Treatment can be effective in helping people recover from these illnesses and live happy, fulfilling lives.


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