Social media and health and fitness

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Photo by Natalie Rozmus

A healthy veggie and grain bowl from Rozmus’ Instagram account

Taylor Lester

Social media has become a part of many people’s everyday life. It has now even become a part of how people stay healthy and fit. Social media is used by some individuals to find recipes, workouts, and tips, to help themselves live a healthier lifestyle. 

As social media has become more relevant, so has fitspiration: a term used to describe a trend on social media and the internet where people post images and advice about fitness. But, the term and posts that define it are not always inspirational.

There is immense pressure on social media to fit the ‘ideal’ looks. For example, women are expected to be toned and thin, and men are expected to be strong and muscular. 

 An article from the Santa Clara University Scholar Commons written by Sarah Mason stated, “The need to be thin is shoved down our throats through blogs, social media, and advertisements at such a young age that it is difficult for women not to compare their body image to others.”

This pressure on people of all ages can put people at high risk for eating disorders and addictive exercise behaviors. 

According to a study from The US National Library of Medicine Institutes of Health, individuals who engage with fitspiration content are at a risk for compulsive exercise and eating behaviors along with psychological distress. This kind of content also may portray unrealistic appearance goals that individuals try to achieve. 

The content relating to fitness on social media can also be misleading and false. This can be dangerous and lead people to do things that are not good for their bodies and put themselves in danger.

A nursing student at the University of Iowa Nicole Buie, who has grown up with social media, shared how she sees its impact.

 “When it comes to body image, when you see someone post something, you start comparing yourself to them. It can definitely hurt your mental health,” Buie stated. 

Sophomore Bridget Boyle shared that there are people that help others on social media, but it is not always a positive place.

“There are some people who promote healthy eating and try to prevent eating disorders and share how to stay positive and stay away from that. But, there are also people that don’t think about how what they post might affect others. Sometimes seeing what others post can affect you in a negative way, it can affect your confidence, mental health, and more,” Boyle stated. 

Although there are a lot of negative effects of social media, there are people that have overcome their own struggles and are helping others. 

High school student from North Carolina Chloe Taylor, has a food account on Instagram with 22 thousand followers. She posts recipes, outfit ideas, workouts, and more. Taylor spreads awareness about important topics to her such as mental health and eating disorders. 

Taylor started her food account to keep herself accountable in eating disorder recovery. She never expected to be helping as many people as she is. 

Taylor stated, “The greatest thing I have learned from this account is that I can help others. When I made this account I had no idea how many people I could impact and help fight their eating disorders. It has been amazing seeing so many people’s journeys to food freedom.” 

There are many other individuals in this world that are making social media a positive and encouraging place.

Junior Natalie Rozmus has a food and fitness account on Instagram. Rozmus made her account to help keep herself accountable and show others that you can be healthy and still eat sweets. 

Rozmus thinks it’s important to remember that social media does not always portray the full picture. 

“When looking at different Instagram accounts you have to keep in mind that people mostly only show the best parts of their lives. If you can understand that, it can be a healthy experience. If you look at everyone’s Instagrams…and you don’t understand that not everyone’s lives are perfect, then it is really easy to get caught up in why your life doesn’t look like that too and then it can become really unhealthy,” Rozmus stated. 

A study in Sage Journals showed how fitness content on Instagram affects its users. The study explored the community of people on Instagram who are helping each other reach their goals. 

 Sage Journals stated, “This community offered participants a sense of support and sharing in each other’s health and fitness journey. Participants felt a sense of accountability through a shared commitment to strive towards their health and fitness goals.” 

The health and fitness community on social media platforms like Instagram also tend to connect to sports communities on social media. Social Studies Teacher and Cross Country Coach Anthony Gonzalez uses social media to connect with experienced runners and help his runners learn from them.

Sarah Whipple, former Oregon runner, talked to Nazareth’s Girls Cross Country Team after Instagram connected her to the team. 

“A great reference is Sarah Whipple, who is a former Oregon runner and one of the best decorated runners out there. She talked to our team because we DMed her and she wants to continue to connect with future athletes. It’s a great way that people support people,” Gonzalez stated. 

Social Media can connect people from all over the world over common interests, like wanting to eat healthy foods and workout or learn more about a sport. It connects people to their families, friends, and introduces people to new friends. There are so many amazing positive effects of social media that impact people every day. 

Although, the negative effects of social media can drastically outweigh the positive effects at times. Social media can cause people to compare themselves to others, and put them at risk for eating disorders and addictive exercise behaviors. 

Nazareth’s Student Assistance Program Director Cathy Kokontis, believes that anyone who is struggling with the negative effects of social media should limit their time on it.

“Limit the amount of time, take some time every day where you don’t go on social media for one hour. Or take a day where you take a break from it. Understanding and talking to people, maybe a trusted adult when you come across things that are upsetting,” Kokontis stated. 

Social media can be a very positive and helpful place. But, if social media is having a negative impact on you, take a break from it, talk to someone, and know you are not alone. Remember that you usually only see the best parts of other people’s lives on social media.