In the era of Instagram and widespread social media use, many people are constantly seeking out the next big health trend. Whether it’s a keto diet or a new workout routine, health fads seem to come and go faster than ever in the digital age. However, while increasing resources to promote health may seem beneficial, there’s also a dark side. Disordered eating and harmful habits could be encouraged by bizarre viral health trends for a significant percentage of the population.
The Best Of Intentions
Social media has dramatically shifted people’s perceptions and expectations when it comes to both beauty and health. For some, this shift has resulted in positive changes, including more resources being available to take care of one’s health. For example, look at orthodontics; previously, the only option for straightening teeth was to go through a series of expensive orthodontics appointments and treatments. Now, plenty of people are able to adjust their appearance through companies that operate largely online and ship resources to patients. Today, some four million Americans are wearing braces, according to the American Association of Orthodontists.
Similarly, nutrition and fitness needs are being more easily addressed, and more resources are available online for those looking for them. Digital communities can make self-improvement easier and are often an invaluable resource. Unfortunately, not all the changes technology has made to wellness and health have beneficial.
The Rise Of Orthorexia
As social media has changed the face of health trends, certain types of disordered eating have been on the rise. Orthorexia, a form of disordered eating with an emphasis on so-called “healthy” habits and diets, has caught the attention of medical professionals in recent years partially due to its role online. While orthorexia is not yet classified as a disorder by medical professionals, it may be soon as people go to more extreme lengths to ascribe to what is considered the newest “healthy” lifestyle.
The difference between a healthy lifestyle and orthorexia can be hard to define, but often the difference occurs in the extremes someone goes to and how much anxiety they experience over their diet. For example, someone living a healthy lifestyle may simply look to eat more greens by including microgreens in their diet. Microgreens are a tiny form of edible greens produced from very young vegetable, herb or other plants. Meanwhile, someone with orthorexia may find that a diet shift is not enough, and may seek to gain extra vitamins through extreme measures. For example, a vitamin that’s taken by mouth gets broken down in the stomach and digestive tract and is limited on how much can be absorbed. If, however, the vitamin is given through an IV, it’s absorbed at a much higher percentage.
Other symptoms can include incredibly stringent diets, overexertion during exercise, and intense anxiety around food and exercise. As more health trends become popularized online, those with orthorexia and other eating disorders can feel pressured into intensifying their habits, which can be directly harmful. While increased wellness resources are a benefit to some, others are finding themselves pressured to eat less and work out more at unhealthy rates.