From Fitspo to Hell No

Hot Bod: that was the name of one of my Pinterest boards when I was a freshman in college. It had pictures of females who had the body that I wanted more than anything. They could wear tight sports bras without that dreaded armpit bulge and spandex bottoms without a fresh-baked muffin top. For a few years, this was what I was chasing. I thought the fitness inspiration from this board would help me do a few more workouts a week and push myself harder at the gym, but all it did was set me up for disappointment. 

Aside from repinning incredibly fit women, I also pinned “clean eating” recipes and smoothies like there was no tomorrow. I thought to myself, “if I could just eat “clean” 100% of the time maybe I could look like that, and I’d finally like myself.” It’s interesting to reflect on what I thought having this dream body would get me. My self-esteem clearly wasn’t high, and I felt like my value to the world came from looks instead of what I actually had to offer. If I didn’t have a coveted thigh-gap, what could I possibly be worth?

Mike Wazowski: the OG of thigh gap goals

It has taken me years to overcome these thoughts, and I have slowly but surely learned that what I think, say, and do genuinely mean so much more than a lack of a muffin top ever could. I’m so fortunate in that I never lept over the edge from disordered eating and mild food anxiety to a full-blown clinical eating disorder, but I don’t take for granted how little it would have taken to get me there. Maybe I was only a few more “Hot Bod” pins away.

Social media is a blessing and a curse, and I’d be willing to bet most people agree with that sentiment whole-heartedly. I love social media because I can send pictures of my dog son to my mother (his proud grandma) instantly, and I can learn about concepts and ideas I never would have had access to before by following amazing dietitians and psychologists. 

Social media has a dark side, however. More and more of us are beginning to open up our peepers and notice this when we see how social media can negatively affect ourselves and others. Sometimes when we are lonely, sad, or feeling nothing in particular we spend hours rotating between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and now apparently TikTok. Whatever that is.

This makes me uncomfortable

Because the average person spends so much time on social media, it ends up having great power over us, whether we realize it or not. It starts to influence our thoughts, behaviors, purchasing decisions, and more. This can be good or bad, depending upon how you use social media, so I have developed a three step system to help your social media feed be a good influence on you.

Three Steps Toward Social Media Bliss

  1. Evaluate and Reflect on Your Usage

Pay attention to how you feel after you spend time on a social media site. Do you feel enriched, like you learned something new? Do you feel more connected to your long-distance friends or family members? Or do you feel like a worthless piece of garbage because you don’t have a six-pack like a bodybuilder or you haven’t traveled to 20 countries like the influencers you follow? 

In my opinion, anything that makes you feel like a worthless piece of garbage should be altered if possible or eliminated altogether. Delete the Facebook or other social media apps from your phone, and see how you feel after a few days of staying away. You might be pleasantly surprised by all the free time and headspace you have by not checking it every day, hour, or even minute. From here, you can decide next steps and how to proceed with your social media feed from here. 

You be off the grid too… at least partially. Long beard optional.

Maybe you could try deactivating these accounts for a long-term off-the-grid experience, or you could simply try reducing the number of times you look at certain websites or apps. What might your goal be here? Maybe it’s going from checking ten times a day to one, or once a day to once a week. Often, we have compulsive habits to open these apps, and we await a dopamine hit with every notification unconsciously. If you can make your social media use less automatic and more mindful, you’ll get more out of it anyway. 

The best way I have found to reduce how often I open an app is to eliminate the push notifications. I do this for Snapchat, so I’m not alerted as soon as someone sends me a snap. Instead, I check it a few times throughout the day at my leisure, so it never really feels urgent like it used to. I also deleted the Instagram app from my phone, so I actually have to visit from my mobile web browser. I have to really want to check it in order to jump through these hoops. Take some time to experiment and find what works for you. Figure out if you want to quit these apps altogether, or if you just have some small adjustments to make.  

  1. Go All Marie Kondo on Your Feed and Banish The Things That Don’t Bring You Joy

If you’re like most people, quitting social media altogether seems unrealistic and unnecessary. If this is the route you’re taking after your internal reflection, take a few minutes to clean up that feed by deleting and unfollowing people and pages that make your blood boil or make you feel less-than. This may mean you’ll unfollow people you knew in the past if they regularly post about politics, weight loss supplements, juice cleanses, and pyramid schemes. These aren’t good for your mental health, and you’ll feel so much lighter after hitting that unfollow button. Yes, this is true even if you follow some people because you actually like getting angry, but you don’t want to admit it. 

“Hey, we haven’t talked in a while, but I have this great new opportunity I wanted to send you” – Someone you barely knew in high school trying to sell you on their pyramid scheme

Sometimes you simply can’t unfriend or unfollow someone because they are a good friend or family member, and this action would raise eyebrows. If the person in question posts things that don’t help your intuitive eating and body acceptance journey, many social media sites have a way to take their posts out of your feed without having to delete the person from your friends list. 

We aren’t done with the reflection part of this social media exercise either, by the way. While you’re cleaning up your feed, think about why you followed these accounts in the first place, if applicable. When I followed fitness accounts, I was looking for motivation to get my buns to the gym so I could have a body like the ones posted. Maybe you have a similar story, or some other reason entirely. Take a minute to ask yourself what you had hoped to gain by following certain accounts, and make sure that from this point on you are completely intentional in what you choose to follow. 

  1. Replace the diet culture and fitness inspo accounts with anti-diet and body positivity ones

Now that you have unfollowed less-than-helpful people or groups, you might not have much left to look at on your feed. We established earlier that social media can be a medium for comparison, making people feel like they’re complete failures compared to those they follow. It doesn’t have to be this way- social media can help you get inspired, learn new things, and forge new connections. If you’re looking for accounts to replace the toxic ones you just trashed here some of are my Instagram recommendations:

  1. The Diabolical Dietitian – shameless plug to my Insta account, where I post anti-diet memes featuring my followers’ pets.
  2. Evelyn Tribiole & Elyse Resch – obvi had to include these because of their long history of writing about and promoting intuitive eating. Evelyn’s post on National No Diet Day knocked the wind out of me, and it’s well worth a read. 
  3. Becca Clegg – The psychotherapist and certified intuitive eating counselor Becca Clegg has a wonderful and hilarious instagram feed 
  4. Christy Harrison – host of the FoodPsych podcast, and advocate for anti-diet practices.
  5. The EveryMan Project – an account celebrating male diversity, including physical characteristics and body size
  6. Alissa Rumsey – registered dietitian and poster of #womeneatingfood Instagram slides, showing women eating delicious foods and enjoying the crap out of them
  7. Christyna Johnson – weight inclusive, anti-dietitian registered dietitian, posting frequent quotes about body acceptance, peace with food, and other encouraging messages.
  8. NEDA – the official Instagram of the National Eating Disorder Association has lovely quotes and profiles that provide helpful resources and information.
  9. Crisis Text Line – a 24/7 text line that people in crisis can text for free. Their Insta profile also offers mental health and self-care tips.
  10. Brene Brown – author and advocate for vulnerability and speaking one’s truth. She posts thought-provoking quotes and about her new podcast Unlocking Us.
  11. Find Food Freedom – hosts of the podcasts Drunk Dietitians and posters of hilarious videos regarding the perils of diet culture.
  12. Chidera Eggerue – author and Instagrammer who exudes self-love and confidence. Advocate of #saggyboobsmatter.
  13. Megan Jayne Crabbe – author and poster of hilarious and honest body positivity content.
  14. Diets Don’t Work Haes – Health At Every Size and intuitive eating advocate account that regularly posts helpful quotes and reminders to love your body.

Following some or all of these accounts will fill your newsfeed with body-positive, anti-diet, intuitive eating, self-care messages that will give you a boost of inspiration all day long. Let me know in the comments if you have other suggestions for social media accounts.

From Fitspo to Hell No

The way I use social media has changed drastically over the past few years. I used to pin all day every day about fitness and clean eating, and now I stick to funny memes, intuitive eating, and body neutrality/positivity on Pinterest. I deactivated my Facebook, created a new Instagram account where I only follow local restaurants/cafes and the accounts listed above, and avoid Twitter altogether. Saying “hell no” to toxic social media accounts has improved mental health because I no longer compare myself and my life to others. It’s like taking a breath of fresh air for the first time- I’m serious.

Your homework for this week is to take a long, hard look at how you use social media. That was just part A. Part B is to decide whether it’s helping you get closer to your loved ones or your goals, or if it’s just wasting your time and making you feel like garbage. Let me know what you find in your self-reflection journey in the comments, or use the contact form. I’d love to hear from you!

As Always, A Book Recommendation

Untamed by Glennon Doyle has taken the world by storm while we all self-isolate and stay hunkered down in our homes. I saw people giving this rave reviews all over social media, and I was fortunate to get my hands on it quickly via Amazon Prime.

Wow. That’s really all I can say about this book. Untamed is vulnerable, honest, and fierce in a way I haven’t seen in many books before. It’s easy to feel Glennon’s courage as she began to forge the life that she wanted instead of settling for what was expected. That courage feels contagious.

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It’s all too easy to find yourself caught in a life you fell into rather than a life you intentionally built. Most of us don’t choose to fall into diet culture, dieting and exercising are just what everyone else is doing, so we do it too. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Glennon’s story is an incredible example of what it means to create your own life, and we can all learn something from it.

As a proud Indie Bound affiliate, I get a small commission on books and products sold using the links on my website. It doesn’t cost you anything extra! I only recommend books that I truly love and believe in, and your purchases on Indie Bound through my website support both my work and small bookstores. Thanks!

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