How Your Social Media Habits Affect Your Weight And Self-Esteem
Social media profiles of fitness models and foodies are some of the most popular profiles across the various platforms available. While these two types of individuals might seem like they appeal to totally different audiences—with one posting videos of their workouts and the other displaying photos of decadent food—they actually share a lot of the same followers. That’s just a testament to human behavior: we want to improve and work hard, but we also want to have fun and enjoy ourselves. So looking at photos of someone’s ab muscle progress one moment and photos of a cheeseburger pizza the next actually makes sense. But the relationship we have with social media doesn’t end the moment we step away from our computers or our phones, especially when it comes to our fitness and dieting habits. Here is how certain social media habits affect your weight and self-esteem.
The decadent foodie page
The decadent foodie has food with things like a fig glaze, black cherry reduction, truffle mousse, and scallop crostini in the name at (allegedly) every meal. This can leave you feeling like your meals are a bit uninspired. In fact, it may make you want to treat yourself to more fancy meals out. But bare in mind that some of these decadent foodies are paid by restaurants to post these photos, or at least get to eat for free in exchange for the press. Second, you should know that they often only have a few bites of each item. If anyone actually ate brie and Kobe beef at every meal, they’d be quite overweight. So don’t try to mimic these decadent foodies.
The healthy foodie page
The healthy foodie knows how to make bread using nothing more than raw cauliflower and sesame seeds, milks her own nuts to make dairy-free cheese and can turn a carrot into the perfect faux spaghetti. It’s hard not to feel bad about your diet choices when you look at the healthy foodie’s page. So then you may try to mimic her meals but you wind up realizing you’re really hungry. Then you gorge on real bread and cheese. Take some of the healthy foodie’s tips to have a more balanced diet, but don’t try to replicate the healthy foodie.
The fitness competitor page
Fitness competitors are all over Instagram. They have to be—often their number of followers determines whether or not they get fitness modeling jobs and sponsorship deals. The fitness competitor’s body is insane. She may have a waist so small you could put your grip around it, and shoulder muscles so ripped you could imagine she could lift a boulder. Following these pages could inspire you to dedicate four hours a day at the gym. But you still have a life outside of fitness—the fitness competitor doesn’t. She is paid to go to the gym and you aren’t. She does her socializing at the gym, and you don’t. Becoming fitness-obsessed can leave one broke and lonely.
The body transformation page
Then there are the body transformation pages. These do not show the story of a fitness competitor with a body similar to the original Barbie’s. These, instead, show the story of perhaps a mom getting her pre-pregnancy body back, or an obese person getting into healthier shape. When you look at these pages, you may compare yourself and think, “Well I’m much further along in my goals than that person is. I can afford to slack off a bit…”
The partier’s page
The partier apparently doesn’t have a job because she has mimosas at breakfast and beer at lunch and cocktails at dinner and aperitifs at bed time. The partier makes you crave your college days and may make you think, “What’s so wrong with a glass of wine at lunch? Even during work. It’s very European!” Yes, but what won’t be European is your waist size if you start boozing at every meal. And don’t forget the partier neglects to post photos of her hangovers and her expensive bar tabs—those exist too.
The constant vacationer’s page
The constant vacationer is always on a yacht or by a pool or at the beach. The constant vacationer makes you want to give up your go-go-go lifestyle and sneak into a country club pool. She makes you want to cancel Pilates, and stop taking on extra projects at work during the weekends—shouldn’t you just be sunbathing? Isn’t that what life is all about? Don’t get sucked into the constant vacationer’s gaze. It will leave you smelling like sunscreen and wishing you’d gone to Pilates instead of drank rum out of three coconuts.
Depicting a perfect life
Let’s talk for a moment about your own page—about what you put out there and not just who you follow. Are you attempting to depict the perfect life on social media? Many individuals are. You only post photos of your apartment when it looks perfect and has adorable throw pillows and art strategically placed. You only post photos of yourself with your hair and makeup done and your outfit on point. A desire to depict a perfect life to strangers is often a sign of a private life that is falling apart. The more you fake a perfect life online, the more pressure you can feel to meet that life offline. But that amount of pressure can lead to adverse effects like stress eating. Show the online world who you really are, so you don’t collapse under the pressure of being someone else.
The curvy girl’s page
There are a lot of plus-sized models with popular Instagram pages. It’s wonderful that they embrace their bodies and are proud of who they are. But be wary, on your own end, of following anyone who promotes any extreme body type—ranging from extremely thin to extremely overweight. Your body should be your own journey and shouldn’t be influenced by anyone claiming that curvy is the right way to be, or thin is the right way to be. Watch out for hashtags like #curvygirlsdoitbetter or #realwomenhavecurves getting into your subconscious. No one type of woman does anything better and no one type of woman is the decisive “real woman.”
The skinny girl with pizza
It’s amazing how some very slender women on social media seem to eat nothing but pizza and nachos, all while wearing a crop top flaunting perfect abs. But they don’t only eat those things. Or if they do, that slice of pizza was the only thing they ate that day and they ate nothing but salads for days before. Don’t be fooled by these photos and believe you can go on an all-pizza diet to earn a six-pack.
Your favorite clothing brand
You follow your favorite clothing brand because you love their clothes, but who is wearing the clothes? Models. And unless your favorite brand happens to be one of those more progressive ones, those models are probably a size zero or two. Seeing how differently your favorite clothes look on them compared to on you can mess with your self-esteem.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Instead of hitting the gym and eating healthier to lose this baby fat, I can just get really good at using makeup to contour my face to look slimmer, my arms to look more defined and my abs to look tighter.” Your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers do not care how good you are at makeup.
The societal expectation rants
You may have some friends who are pretty vocal about their hate of societal expectations, particularly when it comes to beauty standards for women. While you want to support your friend, try not to get sucked into reading too many of her rants. Your fitness decisions shouldn’t come from a rejection/hate/rebellion of anything, nor should they come from worshipping anything. They should come from within.
The publicized eating disorder
If you have struggled in the past with disordered eating—which is quite common for women—you may need to distance yourself from those who are now going through it. This may seem cold, but it’s similar to how recovering alcoholics need to stay away from people who are still drinking heavily. Disordered eating is an addiction, and reading your friend’s posts about her struggle with an eating disorder could trigger you.
Staring at your phone, and not your plate
The simple act of scrolling through your social media platforms means you are not looking at anything else—like your plate. If you look at a restaurant today, you may find half the patrons are on their phones. That means they are not being mindful of what they are eating, how quickly they are eating or how much they are eating. Put the phone down and focus on your meal.
Staring at your phone, and not the road
This isn’t a PSA about driving safety but rather about mindful exercise. You may not realize it, but the second you start scrolling through Facebook, you start walking far more slowly—whether that’s on the beach or on a treadmill. Stopping your reps to read a Tweet means fewer reps per minute, and you only had 30 minutes to spend at the gym today.
Perfecting the selfie
Who needs to get in shape when you can just perfect the selfie angle, right? Once you realize you can just pose like this, bend like that, and place the camera here to make your waist look small, your arms look thin and your face look chiseled, you may lose all motivation to get in shape. This is especially true if you live online more than you live in real life. Stop perfecting the online selfie and improve your real-life self.