TikTok and Its Effect On Your Teen

TikTok and Its Effect On Your Teen by Rebecca Manley, MS, CTC, CCTP, MEDA Founder

Dieting is the most common precipitating factor in the development of an eating disorder. In the United States alone, 30 million people struggle with an eating disorder and every 62 minutes someone loses their life due to direct complications of their eating disorder.

As a teen coach, recently I have had increasing numbers of clients talk about the weight loss posts suggested to them on TikTok AND how these posts are harming their mental health and well-being.

41% of TikTok’s 800 million monthly users are between the ages of 16-24. This age group is already at a heightened risk of eating disorders and to encourage them to diet further is can be detrimental to their long-term mental and physical health. By promoting dieting and weight loss, as well as before and after transformations, TiKToK is perpetuating dangerous weight stigma, which is the second most common type of discrimination after gender. Weight stigma can increase body dissatisfaction, a leading risk factor in the development of eating disorders.

Adults think with their prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part, which helps with decision making, good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. On the other hand, teens tend to process information with the amygdala, the emotional part of their brain. In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are not fully developed until age 25 or so.

TikTok exposes tweens/teens with developing brains to weight loss messages constantly. Currently, children of any age can view these harmful messages and videos. TikTok accounts #dailyweightlosstips has 560 million views and #weightloss transformation (fat phobia fuel) has 28 million.

Many of these viewers are watching the videos, comparing themselves, which may lead them to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as skipping meals, using fad diets, drinking home-made weight loss concoctions, drinking diet teas or excessively exercising. Our teens are not aware of the health risks associated with these actions. Dietary supplements, like teas and powders, are associated with serious health risks and side effects including organ failure, testicular cancer, heart attack, stroke and even death.

What can you do to protect your child?

*Talk with your child about the dangers of dieting and engaging in diet culture.

*In addition, watching weight loss videos and engaging in unhealthy weight loss behaviors leads to body dissatisfaction. The result of these behaviors can result in the development of a deadly eating disorder. They certainly result in lowered self-confidence and increases in anxiety and depression.

*Be a positive role model and talk about your body in an affirming way.

*Focus on health not weight in your house. Don’t push your child to eat and don’t push your child to restrict.

*Promote body positivity and diversity in your home and community.

*Discuss the importance of appropriate activity with your child. Emphasize the importance of moving for pleasure and how it helps our bodies feel better. Do not equate exercise with weight loss.

*Monitor your child’s social media use. Children under the age of 11 (6th grade) should not be engaging in social media.

*Slowly add social media to your child’s technology diet. Add one app at a time. See how they handle one before adding more. In addition to people, consider following a nature, cultural or arts app.

*Friend or follow your child on all social media outlets.

*Sign the TikTok petition at https://bit.ly/3cwTqdS to ensure that children under the age of 18 are unable to post or view videos under all weight loss categories.

If you think your child maybe struggling with an eating disorder or poor body image, MEDA can help. Contact us at info@medainc.org or call us at 888-350-4049.  THE SOONER THE BETTER

What is self-compassion?

What is self-compassion? by Meagan Mullen, MA, MHC, MEDA Clinician

Most of us are familiar with our inner critic—you know, the voice that seems to pipe up whenever you’ve made a mistake or feel like you’re not good enough. If you struggle with an eating disorder or another mental health issue, you’re probably pretty familiar with this voice!

Sometimes it can be loud and angry, other times it can be a little more covert—almost sweet and persuasive. Getting a good picture of what this voice is like or how you notice it in your own head can be extremely helpful, especially if you’re interested in moving away from it.

Reflection question: how do you notice your inner critic? Does it yell at you? Does it call you names? Take a minute to get an image for that critic.

Enter self-compassion! A great definition of self compassion comes from Dr. Kristen Neff:

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I -comfort and care for myself in this moment?

We all have those moments where we feel inadequate in some way, shape, or form. Unfortunately, our society is one that encourages us to have a harsh environment in our minds. You know the drill, no pain, no gain. We’re taught, growing up, that we should be hard on ourselves if we expect to see change, success, or even growth. But let me ask you this: has beating yourself up all these years actually done you any good?

Sure, some of you might be able to pinpoint a time where you were tough on yourself and did end up finding success of accomplishing a goal. But what if I told you that you can find success, happiness, and all of those amazing things while still offering yourself kindness?

That’s how self-compassion works.

Some people might confuse self-compassion with excuse making or laziness. They might think that if they don’t push themselves, they’d never accomplish anything. But let me make this clear: self-compassion isn’t “I don’t have to try,” it’s “I’m going to try, and if I mess up, that’s okay. I’m human. I can try again.”

Reflection question: Have you ever been able to offer yourself compassion? If yes, how did it feel? If no, has anyone else ever offered you compassion? How did it feel?

Shifting towards this perspective is hard for so many of us, especially if you identify with traits of perfectionism or struggle with mental illness. It can often be helpful to remember that our inner critic is trying to help—as wild as that may seem. That inner critic voice inside of us thinks that if we shame ourselves or beat ourselves up, we’ll stop making those mistakes and finally get it right.

But it doesn’t really work that way. When we’re feeling down, embarrassed, or like we’re struggling, that inner critic (though sometimes well intentioned), doesn’t make us feel any better. That inner critic probably thinks that being so hard on us will help us avoid the pain of failure. But guess what? We still make mistakes, and when that does happen, the inner critic only makes it worse. Here’s another example: think about a young child. If a young child is struggling to learn how to tie their shoes, screaming at them won’t make them learn any faster. Instead, it will create a panic response, incite fear and shame, and ultimately, put more distance between the child and the goal they are trying to accomplish.

Adults are the same, and another quote from Brene Brown helps put it in perspective:

What we don’t need in the midst of struggle Is shame for being human.

Reflection question: what’s someone you can tell yourself the next time you hear that inner critic? How might you respond to it or ask that voice to quiet down?

Changing any type of mindset is difficult, especially if it’s one that you’ve grown used to or have dealt with for a long time. As we take steps to offer ourselves compassion, we must keep the very crux of this blog post in mind. We’ll make mistakes. That inner critic voice might sneak in some days. That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up, just try again tomorrow.