Thinspiration: the social media diet

“I will be looking through magazines and wishing that I looked like those people. At some points I will go to any length, whether it is starving myself to get to that point,” said junior Hailey Crosby.

The reality today is that society causes people to question their confidence in their body image, but online blogs are helping to encourage certain unhealthy behaviors.

One of the prominent problems that teenagers face is of their self-esteem. Some try to exercise and eat healthier, some try to ignore it, and some turn to thinspiration and fitness blogs. These blogs are a community of people who can instigate eating disorders in teenagers.

Shelley Bustamante, Students Offering Support (S.O.S) Coordinator and Crisis Counselor said, “[Thinspiration and fitness blogs] are triggering more eating disorders because of the anonymous comments that people have heard about their physical appearance and weight.”

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) has stated that in the United States alone, eight million people have some sort of eating disorder.

At Carlmont, S.O.S has a program called Mirror Mirror, which educates freshman about eating disorders and their prevention in the Life Skills classes.

Crosby, president of Mirror Mirror, said “[Social Media] has a huge effect on teenager’s body image. You see all these models who are stick thin and it is not sending off the proper image. It is not healthy to be at that weight.”

Many popular social media websites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Yahoo, and Pinterest have worked to keep their websites clear of pro-eating disorder related materials, but websites such as Tumblr still have problems doing so. According to a 2006 survey, around 58 percent of these groups take care to conceal their true purposes.

Some of these groups do have good intentions, such as fitness blogs that work to motivate each other to eat healthy, exercise proper amounts, and be fit.

Senior Jannah Perry said, “[I run a blog] so that I can live a healthier lifestyle. I struggled with body image a lot of my life, so I have one and use it for support.”

Even with good intentions, the problem is not entirely because of fitness blogs. Although those do have the possibility of exacerbating or causing an eating disorder, it is mainly the ones that advocate eating disorders as a healthy lifestyle.

Bustamante said, “We have to do more with this topic because we are seeing more of it, and it permeates every aspect of their lives. There needs to be more in-depth training for parents so they can realize how their comments and interactions with their teens will affect them.”

A study conducted by The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests that only one-third of eating disorders are not properly diagnosed and treated.

The cause of eating disorders depends on the person, but Bustamante states her professional opinion.

“So much of eating disorders is about self-esteem, wanting control in a chaotic environment, and wanting to be perfect. It is one of the hardest things to treat, so it is good to nip it in the bud quickly,” said Bustamante.

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