Social media takes a stand against diet culture

How the body positive movement is combating toxic dieting.

By Maddie Roberts

The diet and weight loss industry is one of the biggest players in the global market. In a 2021 report, the global weight loss industry market was valued at $224.27 million US dollars. Diet culture, defined by body image researcher Nadia Craddock, is “a set of social expectations telling us that there’s one way to be and one way to look and one way to eat and that we are a better person, we’re a more worthy person if our bodies are a certain way.”

Diet culture is deeply ingrained in our society, especially during college years. Almost 50% of Americans have tried to lose weight in the past year. Social media platforms enable toxic diet culture to reach wide audiences. Sites like Instagram and TikTok are places where harmful diets tend to appear. There are posts of the “perfect” body all over them, from advertisements to edited pictures. There is an established link between viewing these types of images on social media and negative outcomes, including body dissatisfaction, lower self esteem, and body-image anxiety. 

Despite all of this, many on social media have taken a new approach. Recently, there has been an increase in social media movements revolving around body positivity, particularly as a remedy for diet culture. They are centered around accepting one’s body no matter what it looks like and appreciating its functions of life. The movement includes all bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin color, gender, or disability. Research has shown that viewing body positive social media can have positive effects, including increased body satisfaction. The main goal is to increase the amount of people who have a healthy body image. A healthy body image means feeling comfortable in one’s own body.

Many brands are supporting body positivity to promote inclusivity.

Many social media companies have curated statements supporting body positivity, and searches for body positive content have increased. The hashtag #bodypositive has over 18 million posts on Instagram. Registered dietitians are sharing posts on social media explaining the harm of diet culture and fad diets. They explain ways to rethink our relationship with food and our bodies. Social media users can consciously follow more body positive content creators to avoid toxic and unhealthy diet culture messages. The body positive movement is growing, and if used properly, social media platforms can help support it. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with eating, body image, or disordered eating, there are resources available at Syracuse University: 

Barnes Center at the Arch Counseling (315) 443-8000 

Barnes Center Registered Dietitians 

Orange Recovery Community 

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