It sometimes feels like social media is an avocado green blizzard of information on healthy eating and fitness; No sugar, no dairy, post work-out carbs only, seasonal, fermented, super-food, whole grain, flexitarian, gluten free, healthy fats, protein shake, tea-toxing, coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk, soya milk, whole fruit, juiced veg, turmeric latte, activated charcoal (black toothpaste), butter in coffee – the list is endless and tiring!
A new trend every week promises to rid us of toxins, help us lose weight, gain muscle and make our lives better. The rise of general public interest in health and fitness has led to an explosion of personal trainers and food bloggers achieving cult status on social media. But consider that the information social media influencers are sharing is part of the perma-beautiful, high shine fantasy filtered world.
‘Why Wait?’ is the theme for Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018 because it takes on average 3 years for someone with an eating disorder to seek help. With strict eating habits encouraged in mainstream culture, it is even harder to recognise, and perhaps much easier to hide, an unhealthy relationship with food and body image.
There are many pros to health and fitness information becoming more widely available, like more people having the knowledge to make healthy lifestyle changes. You can easily follow free regimented plans, filled with prepped food and HIIT workouts from influencers like ‘The Body Coach’, or Kayla Itsines. Committing to eating habits like portion control, for example, can help to make you aware of the quality and quantity of food you are eating. But how healthy is it to stick to a strict plan, if it might lead you to beat yourself up over ‘falling off track’, or becoming so obsessed with the numbers that you’re dreaming of your macros?
Influencers in food and fitness preach what they believe to be the best options for your health, but we are not always aware of the medical soundness of this information. These messages may also have a negative impact on individuals who are already suffering from mental health issues. Some health food trends have sprung from special dietary advice for people dealing with intolerance, or even a serious illness. For instance, Deliciously Ella adds a gentle disclaimer to her site to remind fans about this: “I eat the way I do as it helps me manage my illness, but I don’t want Deliciously Ella to be prescriptive in any way.” Cutting out food groups that were not previously harmful to you may help you find the cause of health conditions like fatigue, but in some cases, it could be an unnecessarily restrictive habit, on the brink of obsession.
Research from the charity Beat highlights that ‘34% of adults could not name a symptom of an eating disorder,’ with ‘66% of sufferers thinking that their friends and family wouldn’t be able to spot an eating disorder.’ Whilst an eating disorder may be triggered by longstanding mental health problems, an obsession with seriously controlled healthy eating may trigger feelings of anxiety, guilt, or uncleanliness over eating food they regard as unhealthy. Orthorexia is not yet clinically recognised but refers to an unhealthy obsession with eating ‘pure’ food. With this in mind, be wary of the difference between current lifestyle trends and the symptoms of an eating disorder – in case you or anyone around you is suffering in silence.
Whether it’s you, or a friend or family member, the awareness week is a much-needed reminder that it’s normal to feel scared about talking to someone – but there is always support available.
If you’d like to support the Why Wait campaign, read more, or to raise awareness please go to:
More information: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/
Join the conversation: #WhyWait #EDAW2018