How Instagram Can Encourage Eating Disorder Behaviors

Woman using her phone to check Instagram

Instagram is one of the quickest growing social media platforms, especially among the millennial generation, with approximately 90 percent of users being under the age of 35 [1]. As a platform that has doubled in growth in terms of users in the past year alone, this social media platform clearly is leveraging a new form of communication and self-expression.

Some of the appealing features of Instagram include the choices of filters available, from which a user can select to alter the appearance of their photo. Users can also live stream or upload snippets of their day via Instagram stories.

The Power of Social Media

Anyone that is familiar with using Instagram can testify to the power of this popular application and the manner in which conversations are sparked over a wide array of subjects. From food to fitness and everything in between, if it’s photo-worthy, it’s being snapped and posted on Instagram.

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Many celebrities curate their own following on Instagram as well, with people eager to get a glimpse at their inside lives. According to the Instagram Press, over 40 billion photos have been shared, with an average of 80 million photos being shared per day [1].

Even with the diversity and means of connecting and community with a wide range of individuals on social media, Instagram can be a tricky place to navigate for someone who might be susceptible to an eating disorder. Consider how social media has become a place to also carefully create an image for others of how we want to be perceived and known.

Hiding behind screens and filters gives us a false sense of who we are. For example, a person engaging on a social media platform, like Instagram, may utilize filters to shape a crafted image that may not resemble reality. However, when we are ingrained in social media on a daily basis, we come to believe that what we are viewing and submerged in is our reality.

Triggering Negative Behaviors

It is important to understand that eating disorders cannot be blamed on any one thing, like a social media platform. However, it is important to consider how the use of something like Instagram is affecting you. For example,

  • Man using computer to view Eating Disorders Victoria support websiteWhat kind of accounts are you following?
  • Are you preoccupied with food and/or fitness on Instagram in a way that is obsessive or unhealthy?
  • Do you find yourself following certain diet trends or dieting recommendations because of someone or something you found on Instagram?

Catching these thoughts and behaviors early can help with appropriate interventions. Challenge the way you are using social media and take a break if necessary. Nothing is more important than your life and supporting your ongoing recovery from an eating disorder.


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


[1] Science Daily, “Instagram Behavior For Teens Different Than Adults”,

[2] Instagram Press,

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 3, 2017
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