“Fitness and Health” – two words found among Instagram bloggers committed to healthy living and lifestyle. Every other day we look at their new posts motivating ourselves to achieve more, to be like them.

How Common Are Eating Disorders?

Every 62 minutes, at one person dies as a direct result of eating disorders. Eating disorders are more common than you might think. The lifetime risk of anorexia (which requires a specific set of criteria for diagnosis) is around 2% (1) and has actually stayed the same according to many studies. However, the lifetime risk of developing eating disorders in general (“Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified”, EDNOS) is almost 5% (2) and seems to have increased over the past years! These are numbers based on people who are diagnosed, and therefore incomplete. Our guess is that eating disorders are twice as common is we think, because so few people seek help…

Why Are Eating Disorders Increasing?

Why this is happening is hard to show in studies. It could simply be that more people are seeking help compared to before, but another reason could be that social media is making things worse…

Being bombarded with one body image of “thin and healthy” can disordered our image of what a “healthy body” is, making us think that only lean and toned bodies can be healthy. With this comes lowered self-esteem, and, in the long run, compulsive eating or exercise disorders. 

Viewers Beware!

As the social media posts are made by everyday persons that we might meet daily, rather than far off celebrities or models, we might feel more competitive and guilty for not living the same lifestyle, or looking the same as our peers. A study by Cash, and Butters (1983) found that women who saw photos of attractive peers had lower self-ratings compared to women exposed to images of professional models.

Posters Also Beware!

On the other hand, it’s not all about not only those who are watching. People who are making posts are also in danger of eating disorders. Another study found that women posting “fitspiration” images on Instagram had significantly higher risk of getting bulimia, anorexia and compulsive exercise disorders.

All things considered ,,fit and healthy” fashion movement has made a enormous impact on peoples lives in recent years, making us feel more responsible for our bodies. Even though we should be careful not to overcome its primary intentions and keep a sober mind not to fall into extremeness.

Seek Help! Good News!

Sweden is to our knowledge the only country with a national registry for eating disorders (RIKSÄT). According to this registry. Over 50% of people who seek help are free of their eating disorder on follow-up! So please, GET SUPPORT if you think your eating disorder is becoming a problem. No matter where you are, the support is available.

Mirror-mirror is an organization to help you take the first step: https://www.mirror-mirror.org.

If you are one of our Swedish followers, click here for help: http://www.umo.se/Att-ma-daligt/Atstorningar/Sources (DOI):

1. 10.1007/s11920-012-0282-y

2. 10.1002/eat.22006

3. 10.1002/eat.22559

4. 10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.06.003

5. 10.1002/eat.22403

6. The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action thanks Scott J. Crow, MD, and Sonja Swanson, PhD, for their diligence and dedication in researching and compiling these latest statistics on the mortality rate. September 25, 2014

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