How Does Social Media Influence Body Image?
Social media can have an impact on your body image and relationship with food, due to increased exposure to thin and toned body types and particular diets
Studies show that 88% of women compare themselves to images they observe on social media, with over half of them emphasising that the comparison is unfavourable.
Studies also show that 65% of men compare themselves to images they observe on social media, with 37% of them indicating that the comparison is unfavourable.
This is extremely problematic as this can lead to lower self-esteem, an unbalanced diet, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals and possibly eating disorders.
What Is Body Image?
The perception you have of your physical self and the thoughts and emotions that result from this perception is known as body image.
There are 4 important factors that can determine body image:
- Perceptual body image (how you perceive your body)
- Affective body image (how you feel about your body)
- Cognitive body image (how you think about you body image)
- Behavioural body image (how you behave as a result of your body image)
Visual body processing of others’ bodies also involves processing of your own body, and body image is related to perception and mental representation of a body.
It is crucial to acknowledge that how you experience your body might not always reflect reality. A distorted perception of your own body can manifest as body image distortions, which might result in eating disorders.
The Influence of Social Media on Body Image
You are more likely than before to be influenced and experience body shame due to the constant exposure to particular body types on social media.
NEGATIVE SOCIAL PRESSURES AND COMPARISON
Social media allows you to feel like you have a personal connection to the people that share certain content (e.g. thin/toned bodies and healthy food) which makes it easier to be influenced.
The selected exposure and influence of particular content can make you believe that a thin/toned body type or a certain diet is more natural than it actually is.
On social media, particular body types are prioritised as ideal body types and this may lead society to view these body times and specific eating behaviours as more attractive and healthier than other ones.
The majority of social media allows the users to like content produced by others; often idealised bodies and certain trendy diets receive many likes. In other words, certain bodies and diets are perceived as more attractive.
This also encourages the objectification of bodies, whereby bodies that are observed on social media are processed like objects and not human bodies.
These social norms may impact how you view your body because humans have a general need to gain approval from others and avoid their disapproval. As a result, might conform to the social norms related to appearance.
Social media users often choose to share the best parts of their life with the world. We may begin to feel that we are not good enough, compared to the people we see on Instagram.
This experience, coupled with photoshopped images promoting thin ideals, can lead us to feel that by having the ‘ideal’ body image, we may feel more worthy and happier in ourselves.
#FITSPIRATION AND THE HEALTHY EATING MOVEMENT
On social media, and especially on Instagram, it is expected that you will remember images more than words due to the image-focused nature of the social network.
You are likely to be exposed to different trends on social media that can have a damaging effect. For example, the #fitspiration tag on Instagram is used to show pictures of thin and toned body types.
Although the intention of this tag is to inspire you to become more healthy and fit, research on the #fitspiration tag on Instagram shows that these objectifying features of bodies have a negative impact on people’s body image and self-esteem.
Recently, the “eating healthy movement” has also become popular on Instagram. This might be well-intentioned on the surface, but can have negative consequences for your physical health.
Some influencers might not provide any scientific evidence when they encourage you to cut out particular food groups, or to follow a certain diet to achieve an ideal body type, which can lead you to forming uninformed and unhealthy eating habits.
SOCIAL MEDIA, BODY IMAGE AND EATING DISORDERS
The effects of social media on your body image can lead to serious negative consequences for your psychological and physical wellbeing.
Our thinking patterns can become hijacked and we may begin to notice exaggerated or imagined flaws in our physical appearance. This is called Body Dysmorphic Disorder, where we may find ourselves constantly checking for flaws, and finding it hard to shut out negative thoughts about our bodies.
We may also develop disordered eating behaviours, in an attempt to reach our idealised body shape ideal. We may struggle with Anorexia Nervosa, where we may try to lose weight by restricting the food we eat and overexercising.
The healthy eating movement on social media has also been linked to Orthorexia Nervosa, which is characterised by an obsession with healthy eating and limiting ‘bad’ foods, which can lead to malnutrition.
Eating disorders can lead us to isolate ourselves from our friends and families, because we may not feel understood. We may find ourselves spending more time on social media, and falling deeper into a cycle of negative comparison, guilt and low self-worth, and further eating disordered behaviour.
There may also be negative consequences for your physical health. Cutting out food groups can also result in an unbalanced diet and deficiencies win key minerals and vitamins.
Malnutrition can cause our bodies to crave certain foods for energy. In addition to psychological symptoms, nutritional deficiencies can lead us to feeling exhausted, dizzy and unable to concentrate. In serious cases, malnutrition can cause us to develop fragile bones, hair loss and more.
Body Image Treatment
Our experienced team of therapists can help you redefine your relationship with your body image and eating. Therapy sessions might include:
- Understanding underlying triggers, emotions and experiences that influence your body image
- Challenging negative thoughts you have about yourself and your body
- Learning how to experience your body without judgment and internalising social pressures
- Developing greater self-worth and healthy coping mechanisms to deal with challenging emotions
Our mind and body are connected, and often the foods we eat influence our mood, and our mood influences our eating habits.
Our integrated programme, MindHealth, combines psychological and nutritional support to help you improve your psychological relationship with body image and food, and help you optimise your physical wellbeing.
We offer a free 30 minute session with a therapist, for you to see if there is a good fit before moving forward with support.
Book a free 15-minute assessment call with our friendly Client Support Team to arrange some support. We will listen to your story and explain how our services can support you.
Let Us Help You Feel Better.
The EmotionMatters Team.
Online Therapy & Counselling
Learn more about Eating Disorders
Here are some articles and blogs about eating disorders