Influencers and Pseudo Recovery
To be honest, I don't know how to start this post, and I don't know where it's going to go. What I do know, though, is that there are some things that have been bothering me, and I need to get them out. If you watch my stories then you will already know the gist of what I am going to talk about here- influencers, pseudo recovery, and when "health" goes too far.
This whole strain of thoughts has been brewing for a while, but yesterday was the line. My friend tagged me in a post by a yogi on Insta with 500k + followers, who's claimed to have never had an eating disorder, where she is making broad generalizations about eating disorders and pushing her restrictive way of eating. On top of that, the words are positioned under a video of her emaciated body twisting into yoga poses and not showing a single roll or flaw.
If you read the post, you'll see that she suggests not reintroducing refined sugar to people who have eating disorders when they are recovering, which in turn does so many horrifying things. 1. It glorifies the way that people with eating disorders eat (which, should be noted, is a generalization in itself. People with ED eat all different types of ways). 2. It normalizes orthorexia as a pseudo recovery.
I love the community that I am a part of on Instagram and I am very thankful that I discovered it, but things like this concern me. I know that I have the tools to be able to sift through what I see on Instagram and discern between healthy and not healthy, due to my experiences, where I am in my recovery journey (which is ongoing even 2 years weight restored), and my coursework, but many people will take what they see on Insta as fact. Especially when it is coming from these huge influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers. They have all these followers so they must be the smartest and know what they're doing, right? No.
I can't stand behind someone who normalizes orthorexia to an audience that is mostly made up of those who have a past with ED, and that is mostly young girls- a population that is historically susceptible to eating disorders.
Another example I saw of this was by someone who literally has the word "balanced" in her handle, but was pushing "water fasting." This girl is looked up to by so many people for "recovering" from orthorexia, which only makes me sad since she is clearly not recovered and her followers see what she does as "recovered." They think that they can be recovered and go every Monday with no food and just water. That's not recovery. That's not balance. That's disorder.
The "science" she uses to back water fasting is horrific too- none of it is real. She claims it "detoxifies the liver" and "rids the body of impurities," when in actuality it just starves your brain, heart, soul, and body. But this science, to her, keeps her disorder socially acceptable. It gives her an excuse to keep going, which in turn damages her following.
Water fasting may be an extreme example of what influencers are pushing these days that pass as health, and pass as things that can be done when recovered, but they happen on a smaller scale as well. I'm sure you've seen the 7 day sugar detoxes on Insta. The goal of these detoxes is to cut out "added sugar," but the challenge itself defines added sugar incorrectly. Fruit is not added sugar- it's a food from nature that innately has more sugar than vegetables. That does not make it a "bad" food. How are we at the point where people are shaming FRUIT of all things?
I'm not trying to say that we should all go around eating spoonfuls of sugar, but I am trying to draw attention to how disordered so much of what goes on on Instagram really is.
The "healthiest" way to eat is to eat with true balance- not the type of balance preached by the girl who drinks only water for a day each week.
Think of two kids at a birthday party. One is never allowed refined sugar at home. He gets to the birthday party, heads straight to the cupcakes, and eats 5. The other kid is from a home where nothing is off limits. He's allowed to have dessert when he wants it , whether that be a frozen banana, a piece of chocolate, berries with whipped cream, or ice cream. He doesn't even care about the cupcake table when he gets to the birthday party. He has fun with his friends playing games until it's time to sing, then he eats half of his cupcake and realizes he's satisfied. He goes back to playing because he knows that whenever he wants a cupcake again, he can have one. It's not off limits.
"Rules" and guidelines for "healthy" eating that we see in media turn us into the first little boy. When we are him, all we think about is food. When are we going to eat next? What are we going to have? Is it healthy??? If it's not healthy, how can I get back on track tomorrow?
We need to be more like the second little boy. We eat to live, we don't live to eat. I believe that food is the most powerful preventative medicine, and I believe that every time we eat is an opportunity to nourish our bodies and minds, but we need to drop the obsession. Yes, I prefer my peanut butter to have one ingredient- peanuts, and I prefer to cook my food in avocado oil or olive oil. But if I want peanut butter and the only one I can find has a little bit of palm oil in it? I'm still going to eat it. And if I'm out of avocado oil? I'm going to borrow some of my roommate's canola oil. It's not the end of the world and it doesn't make you unhealthy.
Obsession makes you unhealthy.