Updated: Dec 21, 2019
Curating your social media feed to be a safe and inspirational place, and coping with triggering content that pops up.
Katie Peterman, Psy.D.
A simple scroll through social media can be the fuel to a fire of food and body shame. Representations of diet culture pop up explicitly and elusively in posts from friends, family, celebrities, and advertisements. It’s not uncommon to close your apps feeling worse about yourself than when you logged on. Seeing the carefully filtered selfies and staged food pictures of others can lead to downward comparison and a spiral of perfectionistic thinking. On the flip side, social media has also become central in the fat-positive movement and can often provide a deeper sense of community, allyship, and body acceptance than one can find in the outside world. Given the stark risks and benefits of social media, it is something to navigate with caution and care.
Pay attention to your reactions
Social media feeds can be so mesmerizing. It’s not hard to click your way down a triggering spiral without even remembering how you got there. Intentionally tuning in to how we feel while we’re online can be helpful in identifying how the content we are viewing is affecting us. What does it feel like in your body when you’re looking at this particular post? Is there anxiety? Shame? Interest? Relief? Joy? Once we have awareness of how we feel, we can take care of ourselves appropriately when we’re experiencing a difficult reaction. This may mean talking with our support network about the thoughts and feelings that were triggered, treating ourselves with compassion, and turning our anger outward toward the systemic issue of diet culture rather than toward ourselves.
Unfollow, de-friend, block
Even if someone is a wonderful person, they may still be putting content on social media that is getting in the way of your well-being and recovery. It is completely okay to unfollow them temporarily or permanently. It is often important to leave online groups that promote a certain diet or “plan” or body ideal. Keep in mind that “success stories” and “after pictures” rarely portray the whole story. Behind the scenes, many people struggle in ways that they do not share with their followers.
There might be times when it is hard to be on social media at all. Comparison to others or diet culture messages may feel overwhelming. It is valid to trust that it is too much right now and take some time away from certain apps altogether and plan to reengage when you feel ready.
Create your own Body Positive bubble
When we surround ourselves with content that supports Health at Every Size and body diversity, social media can actually serve as a place of refuge from the diet culture and body negativity we come across in our daily lives. We have the opportunity to see beautiful representations of bodies that that come in all sizes, including our own size, and to witness people living courageously and fully with a wide range of cultural and gender identities. This is a powerful way to improve body image. These accounts also give us the opportunity to learn new perspectives on what it really means to heal from food and body shame, and perhaps hear stories that resonate with our own experiences in powerful ways.
Below are some of our favorite Instagram accounts. Additionally, Jes Baker has an amazingly comprehensive master list of body positive resources that includes various soical media sites.