Updated: Jun 25, 2020
There’s a rising trend on social media these days. You’ve seen it. You know it. And you’ve probably participated in it (I know I have).
The trend is this 👉 Posting pictures of food on your IG feed and stories.
It’s become common - normal - for people to showcase their breakfast, lunches, dinners, snacks, coffees, cocktails, YOU NAME IT, on social media for all the world to see.
People share mundane afternoon snacks... to elaborate new recipes... to Pinterest fails.... to popular trends (heyo whipped coffee and celery juice).
From first glance, this seems harmless. Entertaining and informative at its best… annoying at its worst.
And for many, that's ALL it is.
But for people who have a clinical eating disorder or are battling disordered eating (which is wayyyyy more people than you realize), pictures of meals and snacks all over our IG feeds can be triggering and harmful.
Today’s blog post is a little different than normal. It’s in letter form and it’s an opinion piece. Meaning… you may disagree with me and that’s okay.
(yupp, this is what you're called according to Google)
👉First, let's define what I am and am not talking about.
If you’re in a profession whose job revolves around food (restaurant owners, catering companies, chefs, etc.) it makes total sense for your account to be full of food pictures.
Make this clear and evident on your profile from the start. This transparency allows people to make an educated decision about whether following you will support their relationship with food or not.
👉 Second, posting pictures of your food isn’t wrong.
You’re entitled to post anything you want on social media and I’m not here to police you.
I want to share the perspective of someone who has battled disordered eating myself and as a professional who has worked with countless individuals with eating disorders.
I don’t judge you for posting pictures of your food.
But if I’m being honest, chances are I’m not following you. And if I was following you at some point, I’ve unfollowed you/hidden you from my feed to protect my own mind and thoughts.
I do this begrudgingly because I value a lot of the things you have to say and I find it unfortunate that I can’t learn your wisdom or hear about your life without getting a play by play of what you ate that day.
I get it. It’s become normal. We live in a society that’s hyper-focused on food and nutrition and it’s natural for this to carry over into our habits on social media.
I have a question though...
Why are you telling me what you’re eating?
Why are you showing me what your plate looks like?
Are you trying to educate me?
Do you want to feel seen or validated for your food choices?
Are you trying to help others on their food journey?
Is it because you’re updating us on all you’ve done today?
I’ve found that many people post pictures of their meals “just because.”
👉Because other people are doing it. 👉Because you get positive feedback from it. 👉Because it seems fun. 👉Because you like documenting all hours of your day online.
If this is the case, that’s okay. Perhaps you’ll read this and continue on just the way you have been. Or maybe you’ll resonate with something I say and switch things up a bit.
The point is not that you feel guilty or “wrong.” The point is that you're informed. Informed of the ways disordered eating dominates our society and the ways social media plays into this.
The truth is:
While some people are praising you for your food choices, others are being triggered by it.
For every person that’s saying “thanks for the recipe,” others are saying “wow I can’t afford that” or “she eats so much healthier than me” or “oh so that’s what intuitive eating looks like” or “I don’t like that food, but everyone else seems to.”
Here’s the deal: I promise you there’s someone in your social circle who’s currently struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder whether you know it or not.
People struggle in silence. People struggle alone.
They may not have told you about it and you may never know that they’re hurting. But I promise you, someone you know IS hurting.
You can make social media a less food & body-centric place by limiting how often you post pictures of your food.
You may be thinking this sounds extreme. And perhaps it is. But it’s also the truth.
👉 A quick note: If your account is private rather than public, not all of this applies to you. Because private accounts typically aren’t trying to be influencers and they typically don’t attract random people.
Also, with a private account, the hashtags you use are irrelevant and you won’t show up in searches. If you have a private account, no matter what hashtags you use, you’ll only show up in the feeds of people who have chosen to follow you.
With a public account, however, someone can use the hashtag #edrecovery, post a picture of their food, and then all of a sudden they are showing up in the IG feeds of people following this hashtag.
Which are people who don’t need to be seeing pictures of food.
I believe public accounts have a lot more responsibility to honor and respect what’s in the best interest of the majority.
Here are 4 key things to consider when you post pictures of food:
👉1. For someone with disordered eating, simply seeing food showing up in their feeds time and time again can be triggering.
Many eating disorder therapists actually encourage clients to get off social media altogether because there are too many references to food and diet-culture.
If someone is following you because you offer content about business strategies or fashion tips, they didn’t sign up for updates about what you had for lunch.
👉2. When seeing a plate of food, it’s very easy to compare the amount of food pictured. We do this automatically, often unconsciously.
I caught myself the other day scrolling through story after story of people showing me their dinner and I thought “wow, I eat a lot more than that.”
For me, this was a totally neutral thought. I wasn’t judging the people who were eating smaller portions of food and I wasn’t beating myself up for eating “too much.”
But I’ve done a lotttttt of inner work on all this. Most people haven’t.
The majority of the population will see someone else’s plate and immediately compare their portion sizes to their own. This isn’t a healthy habit for anyone to get into, but especially someone who’s trying to get away from dieting and restrictive eating.
👉3. When seeing a plate of food, it’s easy to compare the type of food pictured.
There’s nothing that brings out the “shoulds” faster than you telling me about your awesome smoothie full of 15 hard-to-pronounce, expensive, organic supplements while I’m sitting here munching on a crunchy, salty snack.
Important note: There is NOTHING inherently better about a smoothie than any other food. Nor do I think you SHOULD feel guilty or compare yourself. I’m just naming what I know actually happens.
Because we live in a world that still thinks skinny is good and fat is bad and we should eat vegetables but avoid gluten and has a gazillion food rules.
I WISH we could all post whatever food we want, at any time. But the reality is that diet-culture is still in full swing and your food choices can very easily trigger someone else’s comparison or diet-mentality.
👉4. When showing the packaging and branding of food, diet-culture can come front and center; it shows up in marketing big time.
If you’re showing me your pantry full of foods labeled “guilt-free, “low fat,” “Whole 30 approved,” or “keto-friendly” you are perpetuating diet-culture EVEN IF the words you use to describe food aren’t “diet talk."
So what to do with all this? Never show your food ever again?
Nah, I think that’s a little extreme for the general public. (If you’re in the intuitive eating or eating disorder profession, however, we need to talk.)
Here are 5 TIPS to make your food pictures less triggering:
Show food in a big bowl or casserole dish rather than plated to prevent showing your portion sizes. For instance, show your roasted veggies on the sheet pan they were cooked on or your cake still intact.
Show food without packaging or labels to avoid sharing brand names or certain ingredients.
Try talking about your food rather than providing visuals. Is it possible that you could tell us about this delicious meal or experience you had without actually showing the food itself? Not only does this take away the visual comparisons, but it also causes you to pause and reflect on whether this story about what you’re eating is really worth talking about.
If posting a picture, show the entire scene rather than just the food (like the farmers market pictured here). Show pictures of people eating together, having a conversation, playing music, dancing, watching a movie, etc. Show that the scene is about more than just the food. My sister-in-law has been making homemade bread during the quarantine. She’s done a great job of showing the love, excitement, and fun she’s having doing this new activity.
Avoid using hashtags that people in recovery from eating disorders are using so that those people can safely follow accounts without any potential triggers.
At the end of the day:
Your heart, passions, thoughts, and feelings are WAY more interesting than the food you eat.
I’m really far along on my healing journey with food, body image, and boundary setting.
I will unfollow you. But many people won’t.
They’ll get stuck comparing themselves to you.
Nobody wants that… right?
All I ask is that you take a moment, pause, and consider your motives when posting a picture of your food.
Is it serving you? Is it serving your community? Are you contributing to diet-culture? Are you being proactive in helping us move away from appearances and fixations on food as a society?
I want to know your thoughts on this. Feel free to shoot me an email or follow me on IG to keep the conversation going! ♥
Lots of love,