Written by Alexa Riobueno-Naylor, MEDA Undergraduate Intern
In a recent article on the Eating Disorder Hope blog, “Is Instagram Helping or Harming My Recovery Efforts?”, contributing writer and author Crystal outlines the potential negative effects of Instagram on recovery. More specifically, she describes recent research out of the University College London which suggests that Instagram usage is associated with increased symptoms of orthorexia . There is no doubt that the images we see on social media sites such as Instagram have a significant impact on how we think about our bodies and our health.
Scrolling through Instagram can be a triggering experience, even for individuals who have not experienced eating disorders. It’s possible to scroll through hundreds of images in a minute, all of which are idealized—portraying ideal beauty, ideal bodies, and the ideal life. It is not often that you see pictures of celebrities or even your own friends that are un-filtered, raw, or honest. Viewing these images can be not only damaging to how you see yourself, but also to how you see others.
It has been well established that culture plays a primary role in the development of body image. We learn from the society around us how to evaluate ourselves and others based on outward appearances. This, in turn, has fostered a sense of normalcy surrounding body dissatisfaction. None of this information is breaking news. But how do we begin to challenge the ways in which we conceptualize bodies as good or bad bodies, based on their outward appearances?
According to the body-positive activist Jes Baker, we can do so in the same way that got us here in the first place—through social learning. Baker states in her book “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls” that “the word fat is not inherently bad. The only negativity that this word carries is that which has been socially constructed around it; our aversion is completely learned.”
It is possible to un-learn the socially constructed ideas that we hold related to bodies. Jes Baker is only one of many body-positive activists who have been working to challenge and re-shape how we think about bodies by providing diverse, honest, and un-touched images of bodies of all shapes and sizes. Many body positive activists have taken to the popular photo-sharing site Instagram, to share their empowering images to thousands of their followers.
Crystal states at the end of her article that “there are many positive Instagram accounts and users who do actively promote eating disorder recovery, intuitive eating, and body positivity. Consider filling your feed with these types of individuals, who will positively support your recovery efforts and encourage your healing journey” . There are, in fact, so many amazing Instagram accounts to follow if you’re looking to find more messages of body positivity and eating disorder recovery on your feed. One of the truly wonderful things about social media is that you have the power to decide the kind of images and messages you see as you scroll through your Instagram feed. Why not take the time to create a body positive and diverse environment which could have a real impact on how you see yourself and others?
Author, activist, and former model Nikki DuBose describes how she worked to reclaim social media as a safe space in her article “Creating a Safe Social Media Space to Maintain a Healthy Body Image.” By re-designing your Instagram feed, as well as other social media sites that you may use around pro-recovery messages and messages of body-positivity, you can also create an empowering and safe social media environment for yourself.
Re-shaping what you see on Instagram may not happen overnight. Consider following a few of the Instagram activists recommended below, and be honest with yourself about the sorts of potentially triggering accounts that you may be following, and consider un-following them. You may be surprised at how much more empowered and positive you feel while scrolling through Instagram after making a few of these changes.
See below for links to our recommended Body Positive Instagram Accounts:
: Turner, PG; Lefevre, CE; (2017) Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity 10.1007/s40519-017-0364-2. (In press).
: “Is Instagram Helping or Harming My Recovery Efforts?”, https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/instagram-harming-recovery-efforts. Accessed June 6th, 2017.
: “Creating a Safe Social Media Space to Maintain a Healthy Body Image.” https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/social-media-healthy-body-image. Accessed June 6th, 2017.