Social media fitness influencers, well-known for their use of lifestyle tips that include exercise, contribute significantly to everyone’s lives.
According to the BBC, many of us feel like we present ourselves as healthier and more active on social media.
The #Fittness hashtag has been used nearly 18 million times on the platform by these influencers and their millions of followers.
However, while physical activity and balanced eating are certainly important, the dark side of the fitness obsession can pose a serious risk to people striving for perfection. Orthorexia nervosa, or addiction to ‘healthy’ food and excessive exercise, is a medical condition that is coming to the fore alongside the ‘#fitspasion Instagram’ fad.
It can lead to malnutrition and mental health complications, and those in the long recovery process are vulnerable to frequent breaks.
Research by scientists at University College London in 2017 found that higher Instagram use was associated with an increased likelihood of developing orthorexia, especially among followers of “healthy eating” influencers.
“Fitness doesn’t mean you have to work out every day or weigh your body,” says Jen Brett, a survivor and fitness influencer.
Social media use is increasing among adults and has previously been shown to have negative effects on body image, depression, social comparison and eating disorders.
University College London conducted an online survey of social media users based on health food accounts.
Studies suggest that the healthy eating community on Instagram has a high prevalence of orthorexia symptoms, with higher Instagram use associated with increased symptoms.
These findings highlight the implications that social media can have on psychological well-being, and the influence social media ‘celebrities’ can have on hundreds of thousands of individuals.
These results may have clinical implications for the development and recovery of eating disorders.