Researchers are looking more closely at the relationship between your social media habits and your eating habits

By Macaela Mackenzie
Updated: May 24, 2016

When you post a gym selfie or tweet about crushing a new fitness goal, you probably don't think much about the negative effects it could have on your body image-or that of your followers. You're posting to celebrate your bod and the heard earned results of those sweat sessions, right? Good for you!

But according to researchers from Georgia College & State University and Chapman University, it might not be that simple. The relationship between what we share on social media an body image is a bit more complicated. (Make sure you know The Right (and Wrong) Ways to Use Social Media for Weight Loss.)

In their paper, "Mobile Exercising and Tweeting the Pounds Away," the researchers explored how checking out before and after photos on your fave fitness stars' Twitter account or coming clean about your own weekend pizza binge (#sorrynotsorry) affects your tendency toward eating disorders and compulsive exercise.

The researchers had 262 participants complete an online questionnaire that included prompts about their exercise and eating habits as well as how often they used traditional blogs and microblogs (like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). They also asked how often they used these sites on their mobile devices.

What they found was that rather than serving as an inspirational way to share or check progress on our fitness goals, the more we check out content related to nutrition and exercise on our feeds, the more likely we are to develop disordered eating and compulsive behaviors. Yikes. The correlation was particularly strong for mobile use in particular. Considering the insanely Photoshopped or seemingly- impossible-to-achieve fitness content clogging up our newsfeeds, this isn't all that surprising. (This is Why Fitness Stock Photos Are Failing Us All.)

What was surprising was that these same negative effects on body image weren't found with traditional blogs about eating and exercise. The bottom line? Take those #fitspo selfies with a (major) grain of salt. If you're looking for fitness and nutrition content, choose verified sources over social media feeds. (Psst... Check out The Healthy Girl's Guide to Reading Food Blogs.)


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