“You are what you eat”. This sentiment is no more true than in the world of virtual personality display on social media. Social media platforms like Instagram offer users a unique opportunity to curate their life and make it public for the world to see. Personalities, social justice issues, online stores, artistic topics, and more find a home in an Instagram account specifically dedicated to that particular culture. One of the most popular cultures on Instagram is health, wellness, and exercise. Sharing pictures of food, exercises, wellness tips, “dietary supplements” and more is extremely popular on Instagram. With varying “hashtags” search terms, whole trends and cultures have been developed on Instagram contributing to a growing obsession with health, fitness, clean eating, and body image.
Numerous “Instagram stars” have come forward about how the tremendous amount of attention they received in positive response to their “healthy” “fit” bodies, lifestyle choices, and dedication to wellness caused them to develop an eating disorder. The pressure to be skinny, healthy, and fit became an unhealthy mental obsession which controlled and dictated what they ate, how much they exercised, and more importantly, how they felt about themselves. A combination of body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders, orthorexia nervosa is a new eating disorder which is characterized by mental illness caused by the obsession to eat “clean” and be “healthy”.
University of London researchers sought to highlight the relationship between Instagram use and orthorexia nervosa. 700 healthy females were surveyed about their social media use and their relationship with food as well as given an assessment of orthorexia. The research found that females who used Instagram the most had a greater association with orthorexia nervosa.
Orthorexia nervosa may not include the specific commonalities of anorexia and bulimia nervosa like binging, purging, or restricting. However, the extreme obsession on clean eating results in similar activities. The restriction comes in the form of not wanting to eat any food types which are “impure” or would damage the cleanliness of the internal body. Whereas other eating disorders designate “bad” foods, orthorexia designates “toxic” foods which aren’t “clean”. When toxic foods are consumed, exercise might be a form of purging, especially one that produces deep amounts of sweat. However, turning to self-induced vomiting or abusing laxatives is not common. Since these activities may be considered “toxic”, instead, someone with orthorexia might turn to juice cleanses, detoxes, herbal supplements, or an even more restricted diet in order to return the body to a “clean” state. Though a clean diet is a healthy diet, the body does also need fat and sugar, on occasion. Too much restriction can cause a backlash in the diet, weakening the system and causing illness. More importantly, when an obsession with clean eating causes mental strain, there is a significant problem. The need to eat clean beings to interfere with relationships, social activities, and the ability to fulfill daily roles.
Cottonwood Tucson excels in behavioral health treatment, specializing in co-occurring disorders. Eating disorders and compulsive internet use disorders are common, in addition to other mental health issues. Our internationally acclaimed programs have been proven for over 20 years, offering hope through healing. For information, call us today by dialing (800) 877-4520.