How social media promotes shame and body harm

Raise your hand if you have seen similar posts or comments show up on your Facebook or Instagram feed:

  • A selfie of a thin, idealized body with the message, “If I can do it, you can do it.”
  • A Whole30 post highlighting a friend’s great pride in her ability to restrict sugar
  • A photo of a grueling, borderline obsessive, work out with the words, “You need to dig deep to be beach body ready.”
  • A before and after photo that promotes weight loss by rejecting food for meal replacement drinks
  • “Got my workout in, so I can have a few more beers this weekend.”
  • A Sweat is fat crying” meme

We are regularly bombarded with messages that celebrate certain bodies as the standard for beauty, health and fitness. Sadly, ignoring body diversity, body appreciation and the importance of mental and physical wellbeing.

Thanks to diet culture, assigning value to thinness at any cost, these folks get likes, lots of them. On top of that, their comments include “You are my inspiration” and “Don’t stop! You’ve got this.” When someone tries to intervene with concern, they are swatted away with “Ignore the haters” or vicious remarks defending diet culture.

Taking up less space in this world does not make one more valuable.

Our culture routinely forces a narrow description of beauty in our face. It’s intentional and can generate a sense of not being “enough.” This “not enough” feeling is a psychological tool for financial gain. The worse you feel, the more likely you will pay for programs or products that promise an accepted space in society (i.e., thinner, fitter body).

There is nothing radical or unique about upholding dominant systems like diet culture.

As a client of mine recently said, “When I see posts promoting weight loss or someone’s fitness regime, it feels like a little ball of shamea jab that I “should” be participating in diet culture too.”

Ugh! Who wants to perpetuate this?

My hope is that folks who celebrate the thin or fit ideal do not seek out ways to make other people feel less than or encourage eating disorder behaviors. However, whether it is intentional or not, this messaging and behavior amps up food anxiety, body dissatisfaction and body shame.

Let me break it down for the folks thinking that I’m being too sensitive and that there is nothing wrong with acknowledging someone who is dedicated to “health” and who feels better about their body after weight loss.

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