Don’t get me wrong: I love scrolling through my Instagram feed on a regular basis. Looking for blog post inspiration, and meal ideas on my foodie account, and at travel locations, friend’s photos, and my favourite photography accounts over on my personal IG. But a little while ago I noticed something. I noticed that the more time I spent on social media- predominantly YouTube and IG- the worse my relationship with my body was becoming. Even supposedly healthy accounts carried loaded pictures: muscle building and six packs require dedication, yes, but we can never know the reality behind that one snapshot.
Six packs, new IG stars pushing low-carb/high protein/ fully raw/ clean eating/ cutting/ bulking, workout videos and gym shots from the same people every day…it can make you feel a little inferior at times. And so I decided that if I was ever going to shift the focus from how my body looked to what it could do, I would have to sort out my social media/body-and-mind relationship. Because believe it or not, I have found that social media can be a valuable tool in improving body image and overall feel-good-factor- it all depends on who you allow onto your social media feeds…
Below are a few of the ways I adjusted my relationship with IG and YT, and although I can’t say body love is going to be pouring out of every orifice any time soon, perhaps body neutrality just might. And I have to say, my focus has shifted. Now it’s about what works for me diet-wise (I can’t do low carb in any way shape or form, I need my fish, and I graze throughout the day), and where my body is improving in strength (6 months ago I struggled to squat with 10kg, today I moved up to 25kg; I am working up to performing my first pull up; and I can now complete HIIT workouts without collapsing in a heap).
Of course, one of the best things you can do is to cut down on your social media time, and engage in other hobbies. I now log out of social media accounts unless I actively decide to go and take a look at what’s going on. I hope that this helps you if you’re struggling, and don’t forget: if you think you have an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder, or anything else, then head on over to a doctor’s surgery.
Lets begin with Instagram:
- Before you do anything else: unsubscribe to any accounts you follow that make you feel bad or inferior. Bad and inferior can be different things. I would class bad as anything pro-ana etc. I would class inferior as accounts that are meant to be inspiring, but that make you feel awful about yourself.
- Unfollow any accounts that show no variety. For me, this meant unfollowing accounts that didn’t show any foods that are sometimes demonised in the health community e.g. bread. Accounts that are 100% clean eating to the point of exuding soap bubbles are also the ones I avoid. Simple, but effective. Following actual cooking accounts help me as well, as they brings the fun back into food.
- If you follow accounts for “body inspo”, look for bodies that are as real as possible. Look for bodies that are functional, not just aesthetic. e.g. unfollow an account that is just abs pictures. Follow an account that shows a body doing something functional such as a yoga pose you want to work up to. Look for people who make you feel like going out there and doing something, be it that yoga pose, lifting a new weight, or trying a new dish.
- Find some body positivity accounts, because they’re great for morale. Choose ones that accept every size, not just conventionally accepted ones. I avoid the ones posting memes of ‘only dogs want bones’, and also the flipside arguments.
- Find positive quotes accounts while you’re at it, unrelated to health, fitness, or body.
- Be sceptical. Some accounts are trying to sell you something- be it a certain protein powder, cook book, or workout programme. Some companies find that someone is marketable, and so work with them. Make sure that the person promoting something is doing it for the right reasons, and if what they’re promoting isn’t for you then don’t buy into it.
- Think outside the box. I found that following feminist accounts helped (if it isn’t for you, skip this one). Certain types of feminist accounts, going along the same vein as Naomi Woolf’s The Beauty Myth, made me angry enough, and sceptical enough, of the bodies that mass media push and why. These accounts also push equality, and so promote doing away with misconceptions around both women and men’s bodies. Just as we shouldn’t be expected to have a certain body type, neither should men.
- Again, unsubscribe to triggering channels. Even if you love them, but know that on some level they have a negative impact. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never watch them again, it just means you’re taking a step back for now.
- Use the ‘not interested’ option on recommendations. At one point I started to have a lot of vegan and also diet related videos popping up. I love vegan food. But I also knew that the vegans pushing these videos weren’t doing it for the right reasons. By associating veganism with a diet and a “look how skinny I am”, it was mildly annoying to say the least. Coming from an understanding of restrictive eating, eliminating any food groups was not an option. Which leads nicely on to…
- Be discerning with who you watch. To use the vegan example again (sorry guys): I went and found vegans who showed me great recipes and made me feel I was making a bit of a difference on the ethical front. I leaned more towards vegetarian and pescatarian channels. I found channels that helped me to make small changes and small positive impacts, but that didn’t decide to tell me I should go kill myself for eating dairy.
- Be realistic regarding YouTuber fitness people’s lives. The majority of YouTubers I watch for health and fitness are personal trainers. I get sound advice, but I also had to realise that my life isn’t the same as theirs. They workout for a living. I don’t. Hence, they are more muscular than I am.
- Find people on a similar wavelength. My favourite YouTuber started making Food Diary Friday videos a few weeks back, and I find these incredibly helpful, as we are on a similar wavelength. I eat healthily, but am not looking to eat clean or remove food groups, or give up treats. Many food diary videos don’t contain an awful lot of food in my opinion, and so I went and found videos where people were eating a similar diet to me, and a similar amount.
- Weed out your “Watch Later” playlist. Now you’ve done all of this hard work, don’t let videos you stuck on this playlist a few weeks ago trip you up. Weed it out and fill it with better inspiration.
- Find non-body related videos. Sounds simple, but I didn’t even realise how few other videos I was choosing. I now watch BookTube (I didn’t have a clue this existed before, but now all of my recommendations are for this), TED Talks, and non-body self improvement (think meditation, careers, discussion videos etc). Oh, and a lot of GoT clips I shouldn’t have seen yet.
There you have it, simple ways to use media to your advantage. If anyone has any other tips, or favourite accounts for IG and YouTube, then leave them in the comments below…