Body Comparison on Social Media: How It Contributes to Eating Disorder Development


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At some point, we’ve all come across health and wellness content on the internet. Let’s explore how body comparison on social media contributes to eating disorders. 

How Does Social Media Affect Eating Disorders?

Social media is full of influencers who share their thoughts on health and wellness. This could be in the form of fitness videos, nutrition information, or recipes. While not all health content is bad, much of it promotes an unhealthy relationship with food. 

Research has shown an association between increased time on social media and eating concerns.1 Many social media accounts normalize disordered eating, such as avoiding certain foods, promoting diets, or encouraging detoxes. People who are healing from an eating disorder may be tempted by diet trends or body comparisons. This can make it more challenging to focus on their recovery and make choices that are best for their own well-being. 

Harms of Body Comparison on Social Media

Body comparison on social media can come in many forms. The most obvious and potentially most harmful are “before and after” pictures. These are touted as being inspirational, but all have the same destructive underlying message. “Before and after” photos imply that the person in the “before” photo was inadequate and that the person in the “after” photo is somehow superior. 

There can also be more subtle messaging on health accounts that can be damaging to someone’s relationship with food and self. For example, the “What I eat in a day” videos may, even unintentionally, hint at the idea that if you eat like that influencer, you will look like that influencer. 

These messages can lead to body dissatisfaction and may lead people into disordered eating patterns that further cause them to dislike and distrust their bodies. 

Tips for Managing Body Comparison on Social Media

  1. Take a break from social media. Even 30 days without social media may have a positive impact on your mental health.
  2. Avoid accounts with harmful messaging. If you follow accounts that promote weight loss, “clean eating,” restrictive diets, or body shaming, now is the time to unfollow.
  3. Follow body-positive or intuitive eating influencers. Not all health messaging is bad. In fact, there are some great accounts that actively promote a healthy relationship between food and your body. Consider following these accounts to start changing your perception of what a healthy body looks like.

Alternatively, you may want to unfollow health accounts altogether, both the good and the bad. Recovery can be exhausting, and you may need your time on social media as a break from thinking about food. Instead, follow channels that bring you joy or spark other interests. It’s okay to spend your time on Instagram learning how to DIY, paint, or garden.

Learn How to Make the Right Decisions for Your Recovery

If you feel consumed by your battle about food, Selah House can help. Our team of eating disorder therapists will help you to value your worth apart from your appearance. We will also equip you with the confidence and tools to make the best decisions for you. This includes eating in a way that heals your relationship with food and accepting that not all wellness trends are right for everyone—and that’s okay! To get started, give us a call at 866-324-8081 or complete our contact form





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