The good, the bad, and the ugly

The truth about the effects social media has on our health

Now you might be flush with smugness over sticking to your New Year’s diet, but will it really last?

Trends come and go, but eating clean, hitting the gym and staying fit is something that has now become stylish.

With more than 30 million hashtag trends on Instagram, snapping a picture of your green filled smoothie, poached eggs with avocado on toast, or even your Sunday tuber wear meal prep, has now become the latest fashion.

Instagram ‘Clean eating’ hashtag feed.

 I am all for new trends when it comes to the fitness world, I have always enjoyed exercising and do my best to eat what the media describe as ‘healthy’. One thing I love to do is stalk famous fitness gurus online and see exactly what they’re diets look like, what workouts they love to do, and how they are feeling through it all… as eating healthy all the time surely can’t be THAT easy.

Just this morning I read a headline which said: “Get Khloe Kardashians body in less than a week on the military diet.” I was fascinated to know what a military diet was – “The idea is to stick to eating just 1,000 calories three days a week , considerably less than the 2,500 cals recommended for men and 2,000 cals for women.”

Now let’s be serious living off 1,000 calories a day for most women is not enough to fuel their brains never mind their bodies. Daily tasks would become a struggle, and your immune system would eventually begin to fail causing serious health risks. It really is crazy the amount of fad diets and photo shopped images that are posted all over the web just to make money.

“The wellness industry is worth 2,000,000,000,000 globally” – Global Wellness Institute

That is a ridiculous amount of money that is spent encouraging people to buy the latest diet pill, or protein shake that will apparently help you “shed 10 pounds” and obtain your “dream body”. That is why the trend is growing all over the world, as women especially, want a quick fix to help them stay slim and will pay any amounts for it.

Claire Mysko, an award-winning author and expert on body image, leadership and media literacy, explains:

“While social media is not the cause of low self-esteem, it has all the right elements to contribute to it. Social media creates an environment where disordered thoughts and behaviours really thrive.”

In today’s society bloggers are very influential people, whether it is inspiring young men and women to get motivated and get fit, or encouraging plant based meat free, gluten free, vegan, and even joy free diets, their followers really do follow their every move.

That is why social media can be so dangerous, every day we are surrounded with messages about how we should look. They come at us from the TV, radio, computers, billboards on the street, magazines, newspapers, and even friends. These show unrealistic and even photo shopped bodies as symbols of success and happiness. We as a society have become accustomed to this endless stream of images that most of us are not even aware is happening, let alone the effects it is having on our self-esteem.

So after a little research I found out some astonishing facts.

“A third of fitness bloggers have been in touch with clinics in the UK about their eating disorders. A lot of them have orthorexia an obsession with eating foods that are considered healthy.”
– Emmy Gilmour, the clinical director at The Recover Clinic in London

These statics are shocking, a third of wellness bloggers who post daily about their diets and fitness lifestyles and those of them who offer and promote nutrition plans, are actually suffering from eating disorders themselves, surely this must be wrong.  But no, it is true – Bloggers are responsible for glorifying the restriction of calories and demonising foods your body needs by posting colourful food snaps on social media.

Give someone a blog, and they’re suddenly a personal trainer, pumping out workouts that promise “shape-up” results or “burner” sensations to target muscle groups. Famous fitness enthusiasts with thousands of followers are giving out nutritional advice when they have no qualifications to do so, just to earn some extra cash. This is becoming a growing problem, as it is misleading people who follow these fitness blogs and pay big bucks for a nutrition plan they are being told is healthy.

Nobody seems to question people’s nutritional qualification because if they have abs and a trim waistline in their photos, it must be good for you. But let’s be honest, is everything we see online and on social media completely true or is photo shop getting the better of us.

I spoke to local Teesside fitness blogger, Elleanor Mullen, 22, who runs her own fitness account on Instagram ‘Eat Well Ell’. She shares regular motivational quotes, the foods she eats, killer workouts and of course gym selfies.

“I have been a runner since the age of 10, and have always loved fitness; I work out 5-7 times a week and love to eat nutritious food.  I set up my Instagram around a year and a half ago and I find it fun and hope that it inspires people to eat healthily and not diet. There is a huge popularity to Instagram’s fitness obsession at the moment –
If it is just a fashionable trend, it won’t last but if the clean eating and exercise lasts, it is a lifestyle.”

Eat Well  Ell’s Instagram page.

“I do think social media can be a source of knowledge for people wanting to adopt a healthy lifestyle. However, sometimes people can take it too far and think that the images that people post is their lives all the time. This is not true. That’s why I try to post pictures on my Instagram that portrays my whole life and not just snippets. I’m not afraid to post ‘naughty’ treats. People need to understand that social media is not reality and one picture doesn’t show a person’s whole life and whole diet.”

But social media isn’t all bad. There are thousands of forums, and community groups on Facebook that help people start their fitness journeys, and motivate people to attain a healthier lifestyle. It can be encouraging, and a supportive platform where people can share their success stories and what worked for them. This then helps other people tackle their fitness journey. Lifelong friends can also be made through these platforms.

Eat Well Ell’s Instagram page.

Eat Well Ell supports this outlook on social media, she said:

“In my opinion looking at Instagram’s and other forms of social media that portray a healthy, balanced lifestyle and not fad diets should inspire people to improve their daily life, not to lose weight, but to become healthier. I actually had my eating disorder for around 4 years and making my Instagram and looking at others that promote a HEALTHY lifestyle has really helped me to keep on track nourishing my body instead of depriving it.”

So social media has become a two-sided battle , with some very inspirational people hooking onto the health and fitness trend, it can be a learning curve for those wanting to get on board the fitness train, and focus on attaining a healthy lifestyle to better their minds and body. But the other side isn’t that pretty, in fact it’s pretty ugly, with fake fuelled blogs, Instagram and Facebook pages ram packed with sales of the latest shakes and diet supplements, or even worse people editing photos to make themselves look thinner, which is having diverse effects on young people making them feel self-conscious and comparing themselves to images that aren’t reality which then lead to life threatening eating disorders.

But let’s just remember that everything you see online isn’t always real, or true for that matter, and remember life is for living, try not to listen to every opinion you hear and every blog you read and always be careful where you get your information from as social media has the tendency to give anybody a voice.

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