Eating disorders and social media connected

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Social media and Facebook are starting to have an impact on eating disorders. A study done by Florida State University suggests that college women who spend at least 20 minutes on Facebook daily are more likely to develop an eating disorder. (Photo illustration by Sarah Hill.)
Social media and Facebook are starting to have an impact on eating disorders. A study done by Florida State University suggests that college women who spend at least 20 minutes on Facebook daily are more likely to develop an eating disorder. (Photo illustration by Sarah Hill.)

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

Many would argue that this statement is false, but others, including some BYU students, find that “fat-shaming” quotes and pictures found on social media are enough to make them develop eating disorders.

College women who frequent Facebook and spend at least 20 minutes on it daily are more likely to develop eating disorders, according to a new study from Florida State University that was published in the “International Journal of Eating Disorders.”

BYU French teaching major Awna Streibel, who formerly battled an eating disorder while in high school, has seen how spending time on social media can affect women’s perceptions of their bodies.

“Pictures are a large part of social media,” Streibel said. “During my eating disorder, having all these pictures of others and myself on social media acted as a tool in my over-analyzing of small, insignificant appearance details.”

As women spend time on social media websites like Facebook and Instagram, comparisons between different body types, clothing styles and lifestyles are quickly made.

Streibel admitted she has gone back through her photos posted on social media before and thought about what pictures she “looked better” in. This kind of behavior stems from the messages being sent through social media websites.

Quinten Croft, who formerly studied dance at BYU and has suffered from an eating disorder, believes the main message being sent to women through social media is body shaming. Body shaming involves women attacking other women on social media based on their size. If a woman is too fat, she is no longer attractive. If a woman is too skinny, she is told she is sick and needs help.

“I think body shaming is getting worse with phrases like, ‘Real women have curves,’ or, ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,'” Croft said. “None of these phrases are okay because they are all projecting expectations of what one person feels is beautiful instead of saying something like, ‘Healthy is beautiful,’ or just, ‘You are beautiful.'”

Other messages like “thigh gaps” and “thinspo” have been appearing on social media websites encouraging women to try to attain a specific look—none of which are healthy. The more these messages are shared on social media, the more women are being affected by negative perceptions.

Although social media can influence college women to participate in unhealthy eating habits, others are using it as a place to find inspiration to become healthy. Provo resident Tiara Lewis is one of those women.

Lewis has battled with Bulimia Nervosa for the past six years. However, she holds Challenge Groups through social media that allow her to share her desire to become and stay healthy.

“These groups are basically to hold everyone accountable for doing their workouts and eating right every single day,” Lewis said. “I have been able to connect with others through these groups who have struggled with eating disorders as well, which has helped me stay focused towards recovery.”

Students looking to recover from eating disorders can find help by calling the National Eating Disorders Association Hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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