QUESTION: I first discovered intuitive eating through social media – I spend a lot of time on different platforms. I like the photos of amazing meals and get a lot of inspiration from the different workout posts and videos I see. Do you think staying connected on social media is something that I should keep doing?
ANSWER: Social media is here to stay so my take on it is that we may as well learn how to navigate a landscape full of mixed messages. On one hand, it can provide a community of like-minded people who support intuitive eating and a non-diet approach; at the same time, it creates a lot of confusion or frustration when the people who are posting are confused themselves or unintentionally promoting a diet mentality. The short answer here is that social media can both help AND harm – keep reading if you want to learn more!
Social Media Influencers
We live in an interesting time where social media gives a platform to many voices. Some are well qualified and educated on the topics they speak of, others amass a huge following (and growing level of influence) despite no real credentials or formal training. And it’s not always obvious. It’s hard to tell at a glance who is enormously popular because of their content and the information they share vs. who attained that status through their appearance or personality. So I encourage anyone spending time on social media to dig deeper if they wonder what someone’s qualifications are. Social media enables anyone to create a “brand” but try to remember a large following doesn’t always mean their messages with support your healing journey.
That being said, there are some very influential voices that are strong advocates for a non-diet approach. If you enjoy using social media, connecting with accounts that align with your values and share encouraging messages can be helpful. There is a growing body of outspoken activists who are tackling diet culture and challenging the diet mentality. If that’s something you prefer to see, start filling your feed with diverse voices and images of diverse bodies. If you want a short list of where to start, check out the 250+ accounts followed by Libre Connections on Instagram, featuring a wide range of people you might find worthy of connecting with.
The “Wellness Diet”
It’s also worth noting that diet culture of the past was much more obvious “in-your-face” weight loss promotion. These days, it’s a more subtle form of “lifestyle” wellness…AKA the wellness diet. This is the act by which diet culture masquerades as a non-diet, intuitive eating approach but behind the initial feel-good message, they still promote dieting behaviors or the thin ideal. It’s something to be aware of as they can look very similar, even using the same language, phrases, or hashtags.
A few red flags to watch out for to help you recognize the “wellness diet”:
- Labeling of foods as good/bad, healthy/unhealthy
- Mention of calorie counting, macro tracking, “cheat meals” or “cheat days” or any form of cleansing or detoxing
- Elimination of foods or food groups for any reason other than personal preference or medical necessity
- Before and after photos or other forms of “fitspo” (fitness inspiration)
Those are just some of many, but you can read more about why I’m not a fan of before and after photos HERE.
The One Type of Detox You Might Need
It’s not related to your diet! The messages and people we surround ourselves with can have a huge influence on our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, our health, our body, and so much more. So the one type of “detox” that I endorse is a social media detox. There’s a couple of ways you could do this:
- You might need to take a partial or total break from social media as a whole. It can feel overwhelming and distracting to keep up with social media. If you feel like social media is adding more stress or anxiety to your day you could likely benefit from disconnecting for a brief period of time to “reset” your barometer for the types of messages you want to see. This might be short, like a weekend or a few days, or a little bit longer but there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Don’t let the pressure to participate or FOMO keep you from making a choice rooted in a self-care practice that’s right for you.
- You might need to unfollow or disengage with certain accounts that don’t support your healing. It’s never a bad idea to check in with who you’re following and engaging with to see if it needs an update. Unfollowing accounts that cause you to feel guilty, inadequate, or jealous may not be helping you in rejecting the diet mentality and working towards body acceptance and peace with food. Social media is often the root of the comparison that robs us of our joy, so remember that most of what you see in your feed is a highlight reel – it doesn’t show the outtakes or behind the scenes that reflects reality.
A temporary break can be helpful to allow you space to process your own needs and values. Returning to social media once you have some clarity can really change your perspective and guide you towards influencers or accounts that share the types of messages you wish to have present in your life. I personally learn a great deal about intuitive eating, social justice issues, and more by engaging on social media. I have a chance to ask questions, start conversations, and connect to new resources I may not have found otherwise, but the good can be outweighed by the negativity and cattiness. Just proceed with caution and set boundaries around self-care to protect your emotional and mental health!
[Tweet “What’s the one type of detox this dietitian supports? (Hint: It has nothing to do with nutrition)”]
So in summary, social media can be helpful but it’s important to first ask yourself why you feel compelled to be present and engaged, and what you want to receive from it. What have you learned about social media and intuitive eating? Do you find it helpful?
[Tweet “Intuitive Eating FAQ: Does social media help or harm?”]
And if you’re looking for more support for a non diet approach and intuitive eating, be sure to check out my Intuitive Eating Workbook. It’s full of resources and tools to help you kick the dieting mentality and find food freedom!