Eating disorders and disordered eating are increasing at a fast rate in today’s society. According to a 2009-2010 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases study, two in every three adults are considered to be overweight or obese. The cause of this alarming trend is due to several changes that have progressed in recent years. The food industry has greatly changed as well as the environment itself, but one facet that has greatly advanced is social media.
Since the invention of this technology, people have been posting and connecting with different types of people at all hours of the day. Most people are checking their social media accounts consistently, seeing the posts their friends and followers have displayed on their pages and walls. Some of these posts are harmless—mere accounts of daily habits—but others can be extremely negative, especially for people with eating disorders.
Here are 4 types of posts that are triggers for those suffering from an eating disorder.
Everyone knows that during the holidays, there is a multitude of wonderful food to consume. The extra intake of unhealthy food naturally causes an increase of body weight. There are several posts during the holiday season that broadcast this fact. This makes people with eating disorders panic because they feel expected to eat extra food that causes them to gain weight. People with binge eating disorders now also have all the necessary food at their disposal to indulge in an excessive amount of binges with little to no control. The constant reminder of the idea of overindulging can cause those suffering with an eating disorder to be overwhelmed and eventually cave into their disorder.
2. Diet trends
Diet fads are present at an all-time high on social media, as well as exercise routines and physical workouts. A lot of the diet craze actually hits in the month of January right after the holidays. People with eating disorders are hyperreactive to trends in dieting and exercising. People with anorexia will continue to restrict further and exercise more. When they try some of the routines or workouts posted online, they will often take it to the extreme. They will exercise to an unhealthy level causing distress and possibly damage to their already under nourished bodies. Individuals with bulimia will continue to binge and purge. These people will also exercise to unhealthy levels. People with binge eating disorder will jump onto every diet bandwagon in an attempt to lose the weight they have gained after the holiday rush. They will allow their weight to seesaw as they commit for a certain time period only to fall back into their disorder once they feel the urge to binge. It is very hard to resist the urge to act on these behaviors, however, when these diets and workouts are posted all over social media.
3. “Summer bodies”
Every person is subject to the societal pressure of having the ideal, perfect body. In advertising and social media, stick thin models grace every billboard, TV commercial, and online post. This unnecessary expectation triggers people into self-starvation and other disordered eating behavior in order to achieve a skinny appearance. Unhealthy dieting is also promoted with the prospect of losing the imperative weight to have a celebrity body. This advocacy usually increases around the summer when females and males are expected to show more skin at the beach or pool. This body type, however, is not healthy for some individuals, and part of what makes the world fascinating is the variety consistent throughout the population. People with eating disorders should try to avoid these posts on social media as much as possible. Part of recovering is accepting the flaws with your body, not starving or purging them away. Everyone’s body is different and unique. Instead of conforming to a standard created by others, people should embrace the singularity of themselves.
4. Condoning starvation
With the increase of social media, there has also been an alarming rise in pro-ana (anorexia) and pro-mia (bulimia) pages. These sites have forums and discussions that actually encourage others to continue in their disorder, and also provide skills for ignoring hunger, inducing vomit, and using laxatives and diet pills. These pages also post pictures of severely affected individuals causing the guilt of other individuals who are not as thin. These sites are a source for the promotion and aid of spreading eating disorders. These types of posts on social media are deadly and should be completely avoided at all costs.
Social media is a wonderful invention that has allowed humanity to connect with each other at an unprecedented level. Every invention, however, has its benefits and its costs. This is not to say that people with eating disorders should avoid social media entirely—the ability to process through triggers and emotions is part of recovering. Certain posts and sites, however, should be avoided for the prevention of relapse. With the right filter and mental aptitude, social media can be utilized without harm for people with these disorders.