How Social Media Impacts Our Eating

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The number one thing I use social media for is food. I follow over 50 food and health accounts on Instagram, some of the hashtags I follow include #sweetpotato and #plantbasedfoods, and I have 1,485 recipe pins on Pinterest (yes, I checked). It is impossible for me to log online and NOT see food. I don’t mind it, as social media food content is where I get my inspiration for cooking and helps me keep up to date on nutrition information (I have a degree in nutrition, in case you’re wondering why I am like this). Having access to food content on social media has really benefited me, and it has really changed my eating habits and relationship with food. However, not everyone has a nutrition background like I do, and I know there are both pros and cons when it comes to food content online, so here are four ways that social media affects our eating:

PRO: Better Access to Healthy Food Prep and Recipes

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I’ll just say it: if it wasn’t for social media, I wouldn’t know what quinoa is or how to cook it. The only reason I even tried quinoa was because it became such a phenomenon online and I was seeing quinoa recipes and videos EVERYWHERE.

Social media gives us access to foods we otherwise wouldn’t know about or try. As Arnold says in his article, “Blogs and social media channels are leading people to be exposed to cuisines that they may have never seen before”. People are being exposed to new cuisines, new fruits, new vegetables, new spices, new cooking techniques; social media is bringing variety into our diets and our ways of cooking.

PRO: Easier Access to Professionals

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Image by  from Pixabay

Depending on your location or income, it’s not easy to have access to healthcare professionals, especially when it comes to food and nutrition. Social media gives these professionals a platform to share their advice and experiences with the world. Dietitians, chefs, bakers, and other food experts can help thousands of people with social media that they wouldn’t otherwise reach in their regular practices. From diet information to vegan recipe videos, it is now easier than ever to access accurate and helpful nutrition information from qualified professionals.

CON: False Information

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Image by pelambung from Pixabay

Now that being said, there is a LOT of fake food and nutrition information circulating the internet, especially from people who are not food and health professionals, and a majority of people get their health information from the internet. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to nutrition, and a lot of these people online use fear as a tactic to get their opinions across to their audiences. This can actually have the opposite effect for our eating habits, as it can cause us to restrict our diets or avoid certain foods due to fear and confusion.

Sometimes it’s easy to know when the information is wrong (for example, detox teas do NOT detox your liver and avocados do not cure cancer). However, sometimes it’s not (is coffee going to boost my metabolism or is it bad for my heart?). So here are some things to ask yourself when you come across health information online:

  1. What are the person’s credentials? Do they actually have any education in nutrition/health/food?
  2. What are their sources? Do they even have a source or is just their opinion?
  3. Is there much scientific evidence to back their claim up?
  4. Is this a trend? In my personal experience, if it is a trend, it’s usually not true.

And keep in mind, roughly 90% of health information shared from influencers online is wrong!

CON: Eating Disorders

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Image by Jerzy Gorecki from Pixabay

Although social media is not the main cause of eating disorders, it can really disrupt and influence our eating habits and is a contributing factor. In one study, participants who spent more time on social media were more likely to have concerns with eating and body image. With constantly being bombarded with dieting, exercise plans and beautiful bodies on social media, the fear of weight gain is real. And let’s not get started on the marketing of unhealthy eating habits!

 

Social media has positive and negative affects when it comes to our relationship with food, from being inspired to cook healthier meals to leading to negative thoughts and behaviours. In order to better use and understand social media when it comes to eating, I suggest:

  1. Be aware of how social media affects your relationship with food (is it positive or negative?);
  2. Be conscious of who you follow online;
  3. Know when to unplug.

 

One particular person I highly suggest you follow is Dr. Joshua Wolrich, a British surgical doctor who posts great content about our relationship with food and debunks a lot of the fake nutrition information on the internet (#nutribollocks is his hashtag).

 

Has social media affected your relationship with food?

Do you follow a great food or health influencer?

Leave your answers in the comments below!


Facebook: Social media affects everything, including your eating habits  http://bit.ly/36TtTZn

Twitter: How social media impacts your eating habits and what to do #socialmedia #foodrelationships #eatingdisorder  http://bit.ly/36TtTZn


Arnold, Andrew. “How Social Media Can Impact Your Consumption Habits.” Forbes, 14 Jan 2019, forbes.com/sites/andrewarnold/2019/01/14/how-social-media-can-impact-your-consumption-habits/#6bc5cddd2796

Forrest, Adam. “Social Media Influencers are Dishing Out False Nutrition and Weight Loss Advice 90% of the Time.” The Business Insider, 30 Apr 2019, businessinsider.com/social-media-influencers-give-bad-health-advice-90-percent-of-time-study-shows-2019-4

Gleissner, Greta. “Social Media and its Effect on Eating.” Huffpost, 5 Oct 2017, huffpost.com/entry/social-media-and-its-effect-on-eating-disorders_b_591343bce4b0e3bb894d5caa

10 thoughts on “How Social Media Impacts Our Eating

  1. Hi! This is a great article that I really enjoyed to read, being someone that tries to be health conscious but not having a professional background such as yourself looking at food and recipes online can be very intimidating. The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook and saw a video from Tasty Vegetarian (which I follow) and the video was about 4 warm fruit smoothie ideas. I thought “weird, but okay lets see where this goes”. Not even a minute into the video they had made the first smoothie and then they post the nutritional information, it said this smoothie had 480 calories in it, I was blown away! So I went into my little lifesum app, and put in all of the ingredients and amounts according to the recipe- the calories and nutrients I got were WAY different. Like 200+ calories different! Its things like this that can damage peoples perspective on food. Some people trying to lose weight may think “whoa that’s too many calories ill never drink that!” versus the people trying to gain weight may think “finally something I can drink that has plenty of calories”. Misinformation can be harmful.
    Im glad you brought the pros and cons of food and recipes online to light, it is very informative.

    • Thanks for your input 🙂 I love Tasty’s recipes and to be honest I’ve never really paid attention to their nutrition information, but I definitely will now. And you’re right, this wrong information can be very harmful.

  2. What a great post. I also follow about a million food-related social media accounts and hashtags; I don’t have any credentials other than “foodie” behind me, but social media has really allowed me to broaden my cooking skills and palate, and try new recipes, techniques and ingredients that I never would have known about otherwise.

    As someone who’s struggled with weight and body image issues in the past, it’s irritating to weed through ‘healthy meal ideas’ searches and have to pick out all the fad diet inspired recipes. It seems like every second recipe out there is based on a diet plan that isn’t sustainable or healthy.

    Thanks for the link for Dr. Wolrich. I’m now following #nutribollocks too!

    • Thanks for your comment 🙂 I agree, it is irritating to weed through all of the recipes, especially when there’s a fad diet that’s taking off; all of 2019 it seemed like EVERYTHING was keto and I’m hoping in 2020 it dies down a bit.
      Glad you like my recommendation, Dr. Wolrich just posted a new IGTV about weight gain and I really enjoyed it.

  3. This is an interesting post! It reminds me of the advertisement that instagram influencers always post called sugar bear hair that promotes healthier hair, although many claim it’s just a placebo. It is definitely important to research your facts online! Social media can spew fake information.

    • I HATE seeing those vitamins! For a while there it seemed like everyone was selling them. As far as I’m aware, they just stupidly expensive vitamins that don’t actually do anything and there are no studies that fully prove that biotin supplements help nails and hair grow (AND a lot of people don’t know that they can actually react to too much biotin negatively as it can lead to acne breakouts). Sorry, rant over haha

      • Well said! Young instagrammers automatically buy into the gimmick because celebrities like Kim Kardashian are promoting these bogus supplements!

  4. Great topic!
    Social media has definitely inspired me to be a better cook. Years ago I started following Tasty and eventually downloaded the app. I learned a few dishes that I use all the time and some that I never tried again (looking at you, creamy mac and cheese bake). Growing up we ate the same few dishes because it was what we had, or could afford. Beef, seasonal vegetable, mashed potatoes. We only really ate what we grew on the farm. If we had pork chops it must have been someone’s birthday. Things were SO so basic. Like… literally nothing was added. Classic Irish meals. So when I learned how to pan sear a steak with garlic and herbs and butter I was like… I can’t go back. I won’t go back.

    I think social media has had a really positive effect on my relationship with food. I’ve been opened up to a lot more options, and it made dishes I thought only a restaurant chef could do actually doable for me.

    Someone I trust to get information about food from and highly recommend is The Farm Babe on twitter. She focuses on the science behind food and farming. https://twitter.com/thefarmbabe

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • I love the Tasty app! I do wish that they had more of a variety of vegetarian meals, but their dessert recipes all look amazing.

      My family is the same, and my dad still eats the same way to this day: meat, potato, vegetable (which is usually only cooked peas, corn, or raw veggies). NEVER puts sauces on anything because he wants to ‘taste the meat’. We have two large gardens in the summer (mostly potatoes, corn and tomatoes), and it was a struggle to convince him to let me grow zucchini!

      Before I went to university, I’d never had things like tofu, quinoa, curry, anything hot or spicy, and I rarely ate rice. Social media and moving out really opened up my world of eating haha.

      I’ll check out Farm Babe, thanks for the suggestion!

      • Hey! I totally agree with this whole post and this comment as well! I had the same experience – my family was full of terrible cooks, growing up I thought meat was gross and actually stopped eating red meat as a whole just because I thought I didn’t like it…. turns out I just didn’t like the way my mom cooked it! LOL
        Moving out and being able to purchase my own groceries and food has changed my life so much, and it allowed me to learn more about healthy eating habits. Same with me, before university I didn’t even know what tofu or quinoa were…. let alone sweet potatoes – which are now my favourite!!
        Social media has helped my cooking and eating habits so much. I’m also a baker, so it’s helped me not only to develop my baking skills further, but to gain inspiration for a cake if I can’t pin down what I want!

        I also saw a comment about sugar bear hair…. ugh those are the worst. And that detox tea fad… ugh all of those poor girls drinking laxatives!!!

        Great post!! I think this is super fascinating! We don’t really realize how much social media affects our lives down to changing basic things like the way we eat.

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