Is Instagram entertaining you or destroying you?

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University of Idaho Coordinated Program in Dietetics

Imagine yourself scrolling through all kinds of “fitness inspiration” accounts on Instagram. You are looking at men and women who spend the majority of their time trying to look “cut,” “tight” and “shredded.” After about 30 minutes, it would be no surprise if your day is ruined. Actually, in an Australian study published by the New York Post, that is exactly what happened. Through their research they found that after merely 30 minutes of scrolling through Instagram, women are dissatisfied with their body and view themselves negatively.

Disordered eating is a common result of feeling body dissatisfaction. Do not be mistaken, disordered eating is not the same as an eating disorder. Disordered eating is a behavior, while an eating disorder is a diagnosed mental illness. While it is difficult to finalize all of those who experience disordered eating, it is generally diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder.” Disordered eating is far more common that one would think, and can be a direct result from deciding to diet because of body dissatisfaction.

How do you know if you are a disordered eater? According to the Eating Disorders Victoria, the behaviors and attitudes of disordered eating are:

• Binge eating

• Dieting

• Skipping meals regularly

• Self-induced vomiting

• Obsessive calorie counting

• Self-worth based on body shape and weight

• Misusing laxatives or diuretics

• Fasting or chronic restrained eating

Do any of those sound like you? While dieting and obsessive calorie counting are encouraged in the media and by celebrities who are “fitspiration,” it can be dangerous for your mental health. The Eating Disorders Victoria also tells us that “dieting is the single most important risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Girls who diet moderately are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who don’t diet, and those who diet severely are 18 times more likely.” This can happen in men, too; 25 percent of those suffering from an eating disorder are male, and plenty of men are on social media, dieting and dissatisfied with their bodies.

Consequently, males are just as much at risk for disordered eating as females. What can you do to check yourself? Here are some mindfully uplifting ways to view food that you can work toward if not otherwise doing so:

• Have a positive attitude toward food

• Don’t label foods with judgment words such as “good” “bad” or “clean”

• It’s OK to overeat occasionally

• It’s OK to under-eat occasionally

• Eat some foods just because they taste good

• Crave certain foods at times

My personal favorite? Treat food and eating as one small part of a balanced life. Food is a gift, not a curse; enjoy it!

• • •

Michelle Little is a senior in the University of Idaho Coordinated Program in Dietetics.

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