As you scroll through your social media platforms, how often to you come across a very skinny or very fit woman? What about someone who has just meal prepped 15 dishes? Or sweaty selfies from your friend who run marathons? While your social media friends mean well, repeated exposure to friends, family or distant acquaintances touting unattainable goals or recommending specific eating goals that you know you just can't achieve can take a toll on your psyche.
Even the most confident among us might struggle with body positivity after seeing perfectly posed and possibly edited shots. And when you're working toward weight-loss or health goals, the struggle becomes even more of a challenge. For some, a social media detox might be in order; for others, they can't imagine missing out on the life updates and memes posted by friends. For the latter, it's time to learn how to embrace social media without falling victim to self-doubt or feelings of hopelessness.
1. Diversify Your Social Media Feeds
If you're only following one type of body on social media, you may be perpetuating an unrealistic thin ideal for yourself, resulting in feelings of shame, guilt and low self-esteem, none of which are motivating for making positive behavior change," says Kara Lydon, R.D., L.D.N., R.Y.T., owner of Kara Lydon Nutrition. Instead, Lydon recommends that you "start filling your feeds with a wide variety of bodies of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders and ability levels. This may help transform your motivation from achieving a certain body size to engaging in healthful behaviors rooted in self-care."
2. Create A Mantra
"Creating a mantra can help increase self-esteem and feelings of self-worth," explains Jessica Levings, R.D., a freelance writer and owner of Balanced Pantry. Levings recommends reciting this mantra before browsing online: "You can't change images and headlines, but you can change the way you feel about and treat yourself.
3. Be Aware of Red Flags
Rebecca Clyde M.S., R.D.N., C.D. of Nourish Nutrition Blog recommends that "if there's an influencer, a friend or a family member who constantly posts things that make you feel inadequate or like you have to eat differently or go straight to the gym to be happy or healthy, that's a red flag. Either unfollow or mute these people." Clyde warns that this type of info can be found especially on Instagram. Instead, seek out accounts with body positive messaging and a healthy perspective on finding balance. "You deserve to follow social media accounts that make you feel good about yourself. In turn, I'd recommend following people with a diverse range of bodies and body positive champions who share inspiring and realistic content."
4. Follow People Posting Real, Unfiltered Body Photos
"Cellulite, stretch marks, body hair, pimples and wrinkles are all normal! Everyone has them, but we usually don't see them in social media photos, which can make us feel like there is something wrong with own bodies," Alissa Rumsey, R.D., an intuitive eating coach at AlissaRumsey.com, explains. Rumsey recommends following people who are posting real, unfiltered body photos. These photos may appear shocking at first because you aren't used to seeing images of normal bodies, but over time the more you see, the more normal it becomes. This can then help you feel more comfortable with your own body.
Rumsey has also started an Instagram movement using the hashtag #WomenEatingFood that portrays women while they are actually chowing down on their favorite foods. The movement started when Rumsey posted a photo of herself on Instagram eating a sandwich. It wasn't posed or curated, just a woman on the beach unabashedly enjoying a delicious sammie. Although it didn't seem newsworthy, the post went viral. Rumsey noticed that social media rarely portrays women, especially in larger bodies eating real food, and encouraged followers to take selfies while eating food and use the hashtag. Today, #WomenEatingFood has over 1,000 posts and growing.
5. Take A Break
Know that it's okay to take some time away from social media. If you find that you are getting anxious or having a negative experience with all the images showing up in your feed, delete your social media apps (at least temporarily) from your feed. You'll actually find yourself having a lot more free time during the day, which you can use to spoil yourself by taking a long bath or enjoying a walk with a friend. Sometimes we need to be reminded to step away from the electronics and enjoy the now. You don't have to have a negative social media experience.
Create your own positive experience by being aware of who you follow, who follows you, how much you share, and what you see in your feeds. And if you don't like something you see, don't be afraid to block or unfollow someone who isn't inspiring you to be your best, healthiest self.