The Academy of Eating Disorders recently published a study that determined a positive correlation between Instagram use and orthorexia nervosa.1
When you look at this photo, what thoughts or feelings come to the surface? What do you see?
Maybe you envy her body or hair.
Maybe you envy her dedication to her fitness routine, her unrelenting commitment.
You may begin to question our own diet and exercise routine.
You may be moved to exercise for a little longer or a little harder than usual.
You may be tempted to restrict food.
You may start to feel uneasy and discontent about the size of our jeans or the number we see on the scale.
You may start to internalize negative thoughts about our bodies, just by taking a look at one picture of a person that we have never personally met.
Here’s the problem with that type of thinking: A picture can only reveal so much.
This is a beautiful girl. She certainly does look strong and committed to her workout routine. She looks both fit and athletic. She does look like she has it all together, at least when it comes to her fitness game.
What we can’t tell by looking at this picture is who she really is.
We can’t tell from a picture if she truly is healthy and happy.
We can’t tell if she has a balanced relationship with food and exercise.
We can’t tell what her family and work life look like.
We can’t tell.
And why should we be able to be? This picture is only a snapshot, one moment into the life of one person at one period of time.
How easy is it for us to look at a picture like this and assume we’re doing something wrong? And how hard is it on our already-weary souls to think about these things on a daily basis? How do we move into a place where we acknowledge another woman’s beauty without degrading our own?
We take a step back, lock our screens, and look up.
I’m as guilty as anyone of spending too much time on my phone. It’s natural for me to turn to social media sites in between meetings, or surf the web when I am bored. It’s bad a habit that I need to work on.
However, one of the best decision that I have made in regards to social media was the decision to unfollow any toxic fitness, friend, or family accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. In the beginning of my eating disorder recovery, I immediately unfollowed all fitness-related accounts/blogs for my own personal sanity and recovery. I then slowly began to do the same for friends and family members that posted pictures or videos of their workout routine. Some friends and family members posted videos of themselves lifting weights or completing a tough cardio circuit. Others had apps that automatically posted their daily running routine and total calories burnt.
It was too much, too toxic for my recovery and my thought life. It didn’t matter how many coping mechanisms I tried to pull out of my tool box; the fact of the matter is that the more time I spend scrolling through fitness account or comparing myself to my friends at the gym, the more time I spend thinking about my weight, body, diet, and exercise routine in a negative way.
But my life is too short to spend time comparing myself to others on a 2-inch screen, and so is yours.
“Losing weight is not your life’s work, and counting calories is not the call of your soul. You surely are destined for something much greater.”
- Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity. 2017;22(2):277-284.