Social Media, Diet and Teen Health

Before I started working on this website I thought I had a pretty accurate take on social media. Now that my activity has increased I’ve discovered a side that although I knew existed, hadn’t fully understood.

On the positive side, there is a wonderful support network and a feeling of belonging when you really get into it. Most people are kind and interesting and have a genuine desire to entertain, advise or connect.

But, rather worryingly, there are a few big personalities with huge followings and consequently a big influence, who seem to have slyly fooled us into thinking they have our best interests at heart when it comes to diet and health. Initially, I too found myself being sucked in. It is quite disturbing how the drip feeding of images of these truly ‘phenomenal overachievers’ worms its way into your head. I found myself willingly pressing  ‘like’ without thinking – partly and shamefully because everyone else was.

This is what our children are up against

I am not sure whether these people are just trying to increase their celebrity status (without considering the damage they are doing) or if they have some sort of mental health issues themselves and actually believe that the way they are leading their lives is normal and something to be proud of.

Either way, it makes me very sad. These people intentionally give the impression they – a). Care and b). Know.

They sound so convincing that you start thinking ‘if I can be like this popular, knowledgeable person then I should give it a go’. If this is what my daughters are up against then no wonder they and their friends have warped body images and come out with some weird ideas of what they should and shouldn’t be eating. The misleading, unrealistic advice impacts heavily on people, in particular girls and women during vulnerable periods such as adolescence and post-pregnancy.

At the end of the day, the biggest problem here is that we have lost sight of what normal eating is. These personalities promote diet and exercise regimes like I have never seen and make us think it is the norm. They are living odd lives and eating strange things – it’s nothing short of bizarre.

Where did eating go so wrong?

So the overriding issue for me, aside from the psychological damage it is doing, is why do we have to keep complicating things? Where did something as simple as putting food in our mouths to survive go so wrong?  Why in this time of anorexia and obesity do people have to keep telling their followers to omit entire food groups, eat expensive ingredients, lunge to within an inch of their lives and drink ridiculous volumes of water when biology shows it’s unnecessary?

If you look at the science behind it then there is proof that weird eating is unnecessary. The research around health, diet and longevity shows that something along the lines of the simple Mediterranean diet is the best. A diet which is famously good for us and not dissimilar to the diet of many in the UK. It consists of olive oil, legumes, cereals, fruits and vegetables, lots of fish, some dairy products, moderate wine consumption (yay!), and less non-fish meat.  Then spread this roughly between around three meals a day with a couple of snacks thrown in and minor adjustments after periods of increased energy use or times of celebration. Sound familiar?

The perfect body these people portray is NOT achieved without extreme or weird behaviour. ‘Normal’ eating doesn’t come into it. Most of these celebrities and social media influencers spend their lives working on their appearance. It is their job and their life (which in itself is sad and makes me worry for their mental health now and in the future) and to use it to pass their insecurities/fame-hungry needs on to the general public is unforgivable.

If they have to work THAT hard to get the body shape they portray then surely that is not THEIR body shape? Why do they have to involve us? Learn to deal with it yourself and leave the rest of us alone.

The majority of social media successes are conscientious

I have to reiterate here that I am only talking about a small group of people. The majority of social media successes are amazing and offer something of immense value. There are some wonderfully influential women promoting sensible diet and realistic body image which is brilliantly supportive and for them I am grateful. I also have to mention that for many people normal eating is not as easy as it is for the rest of us and this is not about them and their struggles, although they too have to put up with the stream of unrealistic advice.

Luckily neither of my daughters have anorexia, yet, but they constantly talk about how they wish they looked and who they would like to look like. They both have friends who have been affected by life-changing eating disorders and they spend a lot of time telling me about what they should and shouldn’t be eating in order to get the perfect body, perfect skin, perfect weight, perfect happiness.

Most of this so-called useful information comes from social media. The normal, balanced diet which has worked perfectly well throughout history seems to have been forgotten.

DEFINITION: A balanced diet  (Oxford Dictionary) – A diet consisting of a variety of different types of food and providing adequate amounts of the nutrients necessary for good health.

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Mother of Teenagers