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  • Writer's pictureLouise Atkinson

Is social media ruining your diet?

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

We are all constantly bombarded by ‘ideal’ images in newspapers, magazines, on TV and especially online and this can swiftly lead to stress, body dissatisfaction and over-eating. Logically we know many of these images are teased and stretched, doctored and Photoshopped, but as you flick through Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, your subconscious mind remains gullible. It can be a struggle for even the most body confident not to compare those images to what we see in the mirror every day and end up feeling dissatisfied.

For decades, newspapers and magazines were blamed for publishing pictures of rake-thin models perpetuating an impossibly skinny ideal. But you can multiply that exposure exponentially if you’re a keen social media addict, spending hours each day flicking through images of perfection on your phone. Social media makes it so hard to be happy with your body and your weight, and so hard to achieve a happy, healthy weight.

Social media puts pressure on men too. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have identified a condition called ‘muscle belittlement’ whereby men think that they’re less muscular than they really are. This distorted belief is thought to lie behind unhealthy eating patterns, the use of performance-enhancing substances (muscle-building supplements and even steroids), low self-esteem and, in extreme cases, depression.

Yes, social media can bring joy and friendship. But it can also be very destructive and frighteningly addictive. Studies now show that the more time you spend sharing, liking, tweeting and hashtagging, the greater your risk of unhappiness is likely to be.

Social media food fads, which make food a fashion item (avocado toast anyone?), create yet another pressure. Popular posts elevate food way above its status as a source of sustenance, to create desire wrapped up in an ever-changing fashion buzz which can be impossible to keep up with.

If you subconsciously find yourself deriving self worth from 'likes' and comments you could be breeding a dependence on external sources of validation that leaves you feeling bad. Social media can be isolating and, ironically, can make you feel disconnected and alone. If this triggers stress, you'll be struggling to contend with increases in levels of the hormone, cortisol, which can result in weight gain.

Glossy pictures of appetising food or cooking play a dangerous role too. If you choose to fill your social media feed with delicious images, you could be triggering hunger - and mindless over eating. Studies show that looking at pictures of food triggers a rise in levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which will encourage you to eat, even when you’re not hungry.

Shrinkology uses robust psychological research principles to divide us all into six 'types': GOURMET, SOOTHER, SCRAMBLER, TRADITIONAL, MAGPIE and REBEL and knowing your type can help you understand your susceptibility to social media cues and your subsequent behaviour around food. Why not take the QUIZ to find out what type you are?

If you think your social media use could be making weightless tricky, our book, The Shrinkology Solution is packed with type-specific clever tips and tricks to help you make positive change.

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