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
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
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
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:
- What are the person’s credentials? Do they actually have any education in nutrition/health/food?
- What are their sources? Do they even have a source or is just their opinion?
- Is there much scientific evidence to back their claim up?
- 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
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:
- Be aware of how social media affects your relationship with food (is it positive or negative?);
- Be conscious of who you follow online;
- 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