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Podcast Transcript

Episode 11: Welcome Back For Season 2!

[Bouncy theme music plays.]

Sam: Hey, I’m Sam!

Ashley: Hi, I’m Ashley and you’re listening to All Bodies. All Foods. presented by The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders. We want to create a space for all bodies to come together authentically and purposefully to discuss various areas that impact us on a cultural and relational level.

Sam: We believe that all bodies and all foods are welcome, we would love for you to join us on this journey. Let’s learn together.

Ashley: Alright. Hello, hello! Hey, Sam, how are you?

Sam: Hi, Ashley. I’m great!

Ashley: Good!

Sam: Here we are, season two.

Ashley: Here we are. Everybody, we’re back! It’s season two and we are so excited. Thank you so much for joining us again, we just had an incredible time really recording and talking to everyone on season one and we wanted to bring it back.

Sam: Yes, we’re back again. With a great lineup, I must say.

Ashley: We have some incredible guests that are going to join us this season and we cannot wait, yeah, to kind of get rolling. So, thank you all for being with us again. And today, we’re going to cover social media and mental health, maybe bring in some body image concerns, kind of talk about all of that. Sam, you actually presented at this past year’s Renfrew conference on this particular topic, and I would love if you could just open us up today and maybe share some of what you’ve learned with your research.

Sam: Yeah! So, I’ve presented on this a few times. So, at The Renfrew Conference in 2022, and I also presented on this at The Renfrew Conference in 2021.

Ashley: Yeah! It’s important.

Sam: It really is and well, um, it was interesting to me, I wasn’t sure how many clinicians, dietitians, or mental health providers would even be interested in hearing about social media, and eating disorders, and body image. But it was so well attended, it kind of shocked me. And I, yeah, I think it just goes to show how much people do want to learn about the ways in which social media impacts their clients, especially clients who are in recovery or struggle with body image. But even how social media affects ourselves.

Ashley: Yes!

Sam: Because yeah, it’s not just, I mean, it’s, it’s really about all of us, it’s not just about how social media impacts our clients. But we all know social media has an impact on so many areas of our lives. We’re all on it!

Ashley: Yeah. Yes, I mean, it’s really, it’s really—

Sam:  Well, most of us, anyway, I should say.

Ashley: Most of us, yeah. It’s really, though, a part of our identity, I feel like, as our culture, as humans. I mean, I feel like we all know, if we’re not on it, we at least know multiple, multiple, multiple people who are on social media.

Sam: Oh, definitely, definitely. Well, what are you on Ashley?

Ashley: So, currently, I am on Facebook and Instagram and I will say I do—I do have a TikTok, but it’s, you know, I don’t really know TikTok.

Sam: Yeah, maybe you just kind of scroll around there a little bit?

Ashley: Just scroll through it. Do that, do the Instagram Reels. I love to watch stuff with puppies.

Sam: Well, who doesn’t!

Ashley: I know, right? You know, back in the day, I had a twitter, I had—Sam, do you remember this? I’m gonna date myself for a moment, but I had a MySpace?

Sam: Oh, yeah! So did I, so did I.

Ashley: The OG social media.

Sam: Oh Ashley, you would have been in my Top Eight back then.

Ashley: I know, your Top Eight with your song that was playing in the background as everybody read through your profile.

Sam: It was a full sensory experience.

Ashley: It really was.

Sam: I’m ashamed to say but there’s part of me that misses Myspace.

Ashley: You know, I think it’s still around for some people.

Sam: Is it?

Ashley: I think so, I don’t know.

Sam: No, I think it’s gone. Yeah, I’m not sure, I’d have to look into that.

Ashley: I was gonna say, I want to check my old handle.

Sam: Yeah, I don’t think I’ve been on Myspace in quite some time. But yeah, I’m on Facebook also. That was, like, the first thing I ever got on, back in, oh my gosh, I think it was like 2006 or 2007? But I got on Facebook, and then Instagram, and now I’m on TikTok. And that probably takes up most of my time because, as you know, I run Renfrew’s TikTok account, putting out mental health content. So, I’m on there, of course I look around, so I’m using it as sort of like an audience member, but then I’m also creating content, which is really two different experiences,

Ashley: Right, yes.

Sam: But I think there are pros and cons to both sides of—whether you’re just kind of like passively scrolling or if you’re actively putting content out there, there’s like a whole set of stressors that I think come along with each of those things.

Ashley: Yes, yes,

Sam: Yeah, for sure. So, I presented on this and it was—the topic was social media literacy and eating disorder recovery. That was my first presentation. And then my second presentation was more about just the impact of social media on eating disorders, disordered eating, eating and body image. And I did a lot of research—I didn’t conduct my own research, but I sort of did a deep dive into the research that’s out there, and I really wanted the most recent stuff I could find, specifically about Instagram and TikTok. Because right now TikTok is the biggest, fastest growing app out there. So, if you are a mental health provider and you’re working with adolescents, teens, I strongly believe that you need to at least understand TikTok, you need to understand the lingo, or your client’s gonna look at you like you have two heads, because you have to talk about this in session.

Ashley: Yeah.

Sam: If you’re not talking about it—

Ashley: Yeah, yeah, I was just gonna say it’s almost like it’s a rite of passage for a young person to, like, finally get, you know, their Instagram, their TikTok, their phone with the apps on it, right? And so, I think exactly what you’re saying, like, you have to know this language and this lingo, especially if you’re working with young people, because it’s it really is a part of their identity.

Sam: Yeah, I think—well, first of all, I mean, we, what we do know, adolescents and teens are spending a lot of time on social media. And I think that ever since, well, I think the pandemic made that worse for sure. But this is how people are communicating, it’s how they’re expressing themselves, it’s how they’re killing time when they’re bored, it’s how they’re getting information. I mean we, I’m sure many of you out there listening, have heard about teenagers, you know, going on TikTok and self-diagnosing, you know, saying like, “Oh, I think I have Borderline Personality Disorder. I think I have ADHD,” and there was, like, a influx of people wanting to be assessed for all of these different conditions. And it’s good in a way, I mean, creating awareness is a good thing. But I think, also, it was creating a lot of anxiety, and you really can’t… you can’t diagnose yourself to begin with but, you know, but you certainly can’t do it in a 30 second TikTok video. When, you know, they share these warning signs and, you know, there’s so much overlap in mental health, you know, whether it’s trauma, or anxiety, or depression, or eating disorders. So, it was kind of confusing I think for everyone out there, and I think it’s important for providers to have conversations with their clients about, “What are you seeing online? Well, first of all, what apps are even on? Are you just on them as, like, user 32566 or are you on there with your name, creating content?” Because those are two different experiences.

Ashley: Yeah.

Sam: So, one of the things I taught in my workshop was helping clinicians know the lingo. So, it’s like, “Do you know what an FYP is?” You know, it’s your For You Page on TikTok where you’re getting fed videos that the algorithm thinks you would watch.

Ashley: Right.

Sam: Yeah. And so, here’s the thing with TikTok, which I think has been different from Facebook, certainly, and different from Instagram, before Reels, of course. But when you’re on TikTok, you know, you might be following— let’s say you follow 100 people and they’re your friends and family or who, you know, whatever, and you’re friends with them and you’re gonna see their videos. However, the For You Page is going to show you content from strangers.

Ashley: Yes.

Sam: Big creators, small creators, might be people you know, might be famous people. Like, who knows? But that algorithm is learning your behaviors and using that to feed you the kind of content they think you’re going to engage with. And no one really understands the algorithm, it’s like, there are theories about the things that matter to the algorithm. But what we think is true is that, you know, the videos that you or your client are watching the whole way through, the videos that you’re commenting on, the videos you’re sharing and saving, the people that you follow—anything like that, the algorithm will pay attention to and then it will be sure that you see content just like that in the future.

Ashley: Gotcha.

Sam: So, even if you are commenting something on a video because you disagree with it, you know, let’s say you go on a video and you’re like, “This is disordered eating, this is not healthy;” the algorithm doesn’t really care that you don’t like it, it cares that you’re commenting on it.

Ashley: I see, I see.

Sam: Right? Because what the app cares about is:

  • Are you engaging with this content?
  • Are you spending time on this platform?
  • What are the types of videos that are going to keep you here longer?
  • What are the types of videos that are going to keep you typing?
  • What are the types of videos that keep you scrolling?
  • What are the types of videos that are going to keep you engaged?

Sam: And so, you might see that you end up seeing content just like that over and over again because the algorithm knows you, and it knows it’s going to rile you up. So, I think it’s important for clinicians to understand the For You Page and understand the content that is coming up, because some of it, yes, obviously, is really harmful if you have an eating disorder or you have body image issues. Like, obviously, you know. Folks who are putting out what I eat in a day videos, folks who are, you know, encouraging each other to engage in disorder behaviors, like, yes. But, there are not so obvious, subtle ways that social media can really mess with us. And you might not know it, your client might not know it, but if you have that information you can help your clients engage with social media differently.

Ashley: Mhm.

Sam: So, to give you an example, you know, I, you know, I think—well, first of all, there’s so many filters and editing apps out there, and so—

Ashley: I have to say in general, that is super surprising to me. I just didn’t realize the amount of, right, of editing that happens continuously, I guess.

Sam: Oh, yeah.

Ashley: I was at a concert the other night and I saw somebody pull up their phone, I was sitting behind them, and they were taking a video of the show but they pulled it up through an app I had never seen before, you know, and they changed the filter before they even started recording. And it was, I just was so—I don’t know, it was just so shocking to me a little bit. But yes, those filters, like, constantly seeing things through a different lens or a filtered lens is available, I mean, almost everywhere it feels like.

Sam: Oh, 100%. And these filters are built right into the apps, so you don’t even have to go to a different app to activate a filter. So, I think, you know, back in the days of Instagram, filters were more just like, “Oh, let me change the hue or the color of this,” or “Let me make this look retro,” or something like that. But with TikTok now, I mean, it’s like AI is working overtime because you can change your entire face, literally. Like, they have these filters that are so realistic that it’s like, “Oh, see what you look like, see what you would look like if you had Kylie Jenner’s face.”

Ashley: Right

Sam: Right? Or, “Here’s an app to look tan with makeup on,” and you literally cannot tell that, I mean, for many of them—I mean, some of them you can, but for some of them, it looks so realistic until you look in the little, you know, in the left hand bottom corner, you see that they used a little filter. It’s so little. But when you look there, you can say to yourself, “Oh, they used to filter,” and then it gives you the option that you could try it if you want, just with a click like, “You like that person’s face? You can try it on your own face.” And so, these filters are one thing, but then also there’s editing apps, like Facetune and things like that, where you can smooth out your skin, you can, you know, change the size of your face, you can make your eyes bigger, you can do all this stuff. And the research that I came across, it was, you know, I was really curious about, you know, are these behaviors harmful when we’re messing with a picture of ourselves?

Ashley: Yes, yes.

Sam: And there was a study by Wick and Keel in 2020, and what they found was posting edited photos, so when you edit yourself and then you post it online, in their subjects resulted in increased anxiety and increased shape and weight concerns. And not only that, it reinforced urges to exercise and restrict. And it’s like, how is it that doing that affects all those things? But it does! It kind of makes sense when you think about it because you’re, I mean, ultimately, you’re sending yourself the message that you’re not good enough.

Ashley: Right. Well, you have to— exactly, you have to fix yourself, right? You’ve got to, like, enhance yourself and then you put it out there and then, you know, I mean, I understand that then you could be like, “Oh, well did this person like it? Do they like it? Do they like it? Do they like it?”

Sam: Yes, right.

Ashley: And so, you keep checking back for those likes. And I mean, I can totally understand where that increased anxiety would come from, and body image concerns.

Sam: Totally. And it is the most powerful reinforcement schedule, intermittent reinforcement, where it’s like, you look at the app, you have some likes, then you wait for a minute and then you get another notification, and then you get some more likes, and then you check again and you see some comments. So, it’s like, it’s as powerful as, like, gambling, you know? It’s that, it has that really powerful reinforcing quality where you’re getting these hits of dopamine, you know, over and over again in an intermittent way. And so, one of the most interesting things about this study to me, and this, I really encourage providers to share this with their clients, because just like you said, Ashley, it’s like, “Why do people do this? Why does anyone do this if we know that it’s going to make us feel bad?” Well, there’s a hope that you’re gonna, like, you’re going to get likes and comments on it, right?

Ashley: Right.

Sam: And so, in this study they found that actually there is no evidence that posting an edited photo actually resulted in more likes and comments.

Ashley: Oh, wow!

Sam: Yeah! Because that’s the belief that drives the behavior. It’s like, “I’m not good enough, let me fix myself and that way I’ll be more accepted, I’ll be liked, and I’ll get more engagement on my photo.” And granted, like, this is one study, we can’t make broad conclusions from only one study. But it’s interesting that that’s what they found. So, as an experiment, to encourage your clients to post a photo as-is, just to see what happens. And I, you know, I really do think, and I hope this is true, but it seems like, especially with TikTok and Gen Z, it seems like things are shifting, where it’s way more cool to just post yourself as-is, hair a mess, completely undone, like, in bed, like, brushing your teeth, whatever. And, and it’s, I think people are just getting sick of these, like, the picture-perfect days of Instagram, where it’s like the whole feed even had, like, its own color scheme,

Ashley: Right, yeah.

Sam: You know?

Ashely: Yeah, I know!

Sam: And it’s like a grid, and it’s like, “Oh my gosh! How do you even do that? You need like some kind of software to do that!”

Ashley: Yeah!

Sam: But I think people are just getting sick of it.

Ashley: Yeah, which I kind of have a funny story about that, Sam. So this, I guess, last year, so, I think you probably know this—in February every year there is National Eating Disorder Association Week, NEDA Week, we call it, where we bring awareness to eating disorders, and at Renfrew specifically, we partner with a lot of our local colleges and universities. And so, this past year, 2022 NEDA Week, I went to a bunch of different local colleges and universities and did some talking circles, and so connected with some of their students, specifically on social media and the impact it has in our culture. And I do want to say this too, when talking about this, we’re like—there’s and impact. It’s not just negative, it’s not just positive, right? It’s just, it’s just there, righ? It can be all of the above, really.

Sam: Right.

Ashely: And so, anyway, I had some really great conversations with some students, and then I went to this one school and had some had some other providers come along with me, and I’m telling you this thinking about Gen Z. I had some other providers come along with me, and the students showed up and we had this great— there were probably like 15 of us in there, and we were just having really good conversations, and I kind of asked the students at one point, “So, what social media are you on?” Or what, you know, like, “Let’s talk about filters,” because we were talking about this, “Can we do filters for fun and not to necessarily change ourselves or change things?” Every single student in that circle answered that they did not have social media anymore.

Sam: Really?

Ashley: They didn’t have an Instagram. They didn’t have a TikTok. For their own, for their wellbeing, and I don’t necessarily think they were all friends, but each one of those students had decided to not engage in that, thinking about—

Sam: Amazing!

Ashley: I know! Just kind of, again, just kind of thinking about being their natural selves, being present, just being who they are, they had chosen to not engage. And I was like, “Well, I hope we can have a good conversation about stuff,” you know. It was so interesting to me.

Sam: That is fascinating. And that, you know, really could be the way things are shifting.

Ashley: Yeah, yeah.

Sam: It could be. And at the same time, then you look at stats like TikTok being the fastest growing app—

Ashley: Right, right.

Sam: So, there definitely are folks that are still on it and will probably be on it for quite some time.

Ashley: Oh, sure.

Sam: But it was refreshing! How shocked you think you’re going to be having a conversation about filters and they’re not even on it. So, that’s amazing.

Ashley: Right! That’s really what we kind of went in doing. But anyway, I thought that was kind of fun.

Sam: Yes, yes. So, yeah, there’s this new app, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It’s called BeReal.

Ashley: Okay…

Sam: And this is, like, the new thing. This is so new, actually, that I didn’t even put it in my presentation because I’m just sort of learning about it. But BeReal is a new app where it gives you a notification and you have two minutes, I think, to quick post a picture of whatever you’re doing, no filter, no editing nothing. And it’s a shot of your face and then a shot of whatever you’re looking at.

Ashley: Oh!

Sam: And it’s called BeReal because you just have to post whatever you’re really doing. Like, no matter if you’re on the couch watching, you know, reality TV, like, that’s what you have to post! And you just are real about it. So, I’m hoping that there is going to be a shift, not only on these platforms, but the types of apps that are getting put out there, that just that things are just more accurately representing what we really look like, and what we’re actually doing, and that we’re not always looking at these filtered, you know, images of people doing these amazing things, and perpetuating all kinds of oppressive systems, you know. It’s sort of like the really popular influencers were really all looking the exact same. They were even wearing all the same outfits, and going to the same places, and I think people are just wanting, you know, representation and just a more realistic view of what the world actually looks like. Body sizes, skin color, everything—genders. So, you know, one of the things I always encourage my clients to do is make sure that your feed has lots of diversity so that it reflects what the world actually looks like.

Ashley: Yes. I love that!

Sam: And yeah, to pay attention to like, “Who are you following?” Like, “Let’s just take some inventory here. Who are you following? What are they like? Are they all the same size? Are they all the same race? Are they all the same gender? Let’s diversify things so that it’s just closer to what the world actually is.”

Ashley: Yes, yes. Definitely.

Sam: Yeah. I think social media literacy is so important. That helping our clients see, like, what’s actually feeding their eating disorder, what’s feeding their body image—not only what they’re seeing, but what they’re doing on these apps. So, anyway, I could probably talk for hours about all of this.

Ashley: I was gonna say, well and just, yeah, what’s feeding the eating disorder, what’s feeding the body image, but also, I think you can also say, “What’s feeding that piece of anxiety” as well. I mean, I think there are some incredibly wonderful aspects of social media, and we have kind of highlighted some of the more challenging aspects of social media, but simply knowing—what you’re saying basically is, to providers or to those that are getting support, know what you’re following and know why you’re following, you know?

Sam: Right.

Ashley: And know the impacts that social media can have on us. Maybe turn the notifications off, right? Um don’t let them buzz on your phone. Turn them off, maybe turn comments off. When you were talking about the FYP, the For You Page on TikTok, it was just getting me thinking, like—so, on Instagram,  typically the people that see your posts, I guess if you’re public anybody can kind of see the post if you add a certain hashtag or whatever, but on TikTok with anyone kind of being given your information, you know, if that’s part of the algorithm, anybody then is allowed to comment, right?

Sam: Yeah.

Ashley: And that means those comments can come from—and they can be positive and negative—and they can come from literally anyone across the world.

Sam: Oh, yeah.

Ashley: So, knowing the impact that that might have on us as well, because, I mean, I’m even feeling anxious thinking about that, that somebody could post—that I might post something, somebody doesn’t like it and they might say something negative. How long will that sit with me then, Sam, you know? Like, that would sit with us for so long, and maybe we try to correct that or fix that by posting something else, you know? And I don’t know, there can just be this endless cycle of maybe seeking some validation, you know?

Sam: Totally.

Ashley: Or trying to get some needs met. And again, on the same token, there can also be some really incredible things coming out of it, and I’m sure you’ll talk about that too. But I just, I have one more story. I was talking to a friend about social media and about, kind of some positives that have come out of her life because of social media. And she’s a fat activist, and one of the first things that she started doing was diversifying her feed. And she also, it was also important for her to see people in bodies like hers.

Sam: Yes, yes.

Ashley: So, she could see them living their life in bodies like hers. And the first time, so she lives in a larger body, the first time she wore a crop top was because she saw somebody on Instagram wear a crop top in their body. And it felt so good for her to see that, and so encouraging, that she then engaged in that really, you know, like positive, encouraging behavior for herself and did something, I guess originally, that had been out of her comfort zone. So, all that to say, it can also be such a beautiful platform as well, you know.

Sam: Oh, absolutely. And I wouldn’t be on it creating content if I didn’t feel like, you know, there are good parts of social media. But yeah, there are—so, just to give you some examples of the way, I think, social media has been helpful to folks that I found in the research, you know, it can be a place to be creative. You know, I mean, there are people, there—such amazing talent. Sometimes I’ll come across on TikTok of, you know, people who sing, people who play the piano, and these are people who maybe wouldn’t normally have access to an agent or, you know, have the opportunity to really get their music out there, and these folks are going viral.

Ashley: Yeah, that’s incredible.

Sam: And it’s creating opportunities! I mean, it’s really, it’s amazing. And so, creativity and self-expression, I think, can really be such a beautiful thing on social media. And just, it’s sort of a more equal playing ground for folks. It’s like, you don’t have to be famous anymore on these platforms to go viral. It’s kind of amazing. You don’t even need to have a lot of followers to go viral. Like, anyone can really theoretically go viral, even if you have 10 followers, it doesn’t really matter. So, that’s a really cool thing. And I think that also, there’s so many folks out there who are destigmatizing mental health, talking openly, there are therapists on TikTok and Instagram who share their own struggles, who are really open about the fact, like, “I’m a therapist in therapy,” or “I’m a therapist on medication and there’s no shame in this.” And it’s that sort of self-disclosure that I think, for a long time we were taught as clinicians, like, “You must be a blank slate. Don’t you dare share anything about yourself.”

Ashley: Right, right.

Sam: But I think, of course we all know that there’s a certain amount of self-disclosure that can be so healing and helpful for people, and there are therapists sharing with the world that, like, “Guess what? I’m a therapist and I have depression, and that’s okay. And I have my own therapist, and my therapist has their own therapist,” you know? And “Here’s what I do to take care of myself,” and “Here’s what I struggle with.” And just sort of the reminder that we’re all human, there’s no shame in mental health and we all deserve to get the support that we need. And I think also accessibility is such a major issue.

Ashley: Yeah.

Sam: You know, people can’t get appointments with therapists, psychiatrists, their insurance doesn’t cover what they needed to cover. And TikTok especially can be a place where people can get tips and tools for free! Grounding skills, you know, ways to regulate the nervous system. You know, people who are really needing some support and guidance. I mean, there are kids out there who maybe their parents won’t even let them go to therapy, but maybe they’re allowed to have a TikTok and they can follow some qualified mental health providers who are sharing tips and tools. There’s even a hashtag like #TherapyTips, #TherapyTools. I think the tricky thing is making sure that you’re following people that are actually qualified licensed mental health providers and who are on the platforms ethically.

Ashley: Yes, yes.

Sam: You know, who are doing things in an ethical way and are not overstepping. And so, you know, there’s some gray area there because I know there are folks on there giving, like, psychology tips and it’s like, they’re not even, they don’t even have a degree in psychology or, you know, they’re just out there saying that, “Oh, this is a psychology fact,” and I’m thinking, “No, it’s not, but if you say it in a really convincing way…”

Ashley: Yeah.

Sam: But that’s the tricky thing. I think it’s important to do your research, make sure who you’re following, like, actually has, like, a website, actually has a license and they’re, you know, and they’re out there actually practicing as a mental health provider.

Ashley: Right, exactly, yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. And probably some of us really could benefit from doing a deep dive on our current following feed, you know, those that we’re following, and maybe checking that out, maybe making sure that everybody is a qualified provider.

Sam: Right. Especially, I think, with folks who are giving advice about food, it’s everywhere.

Ashley: Yes.

Sam: Personal trainers, you know, fitness fanatics. And I, you know, in my media literacy workshops and in my work as a psychologist, I remind people, registered—not only registered dietitians are the folks you need to be looking for, but anti-diet registered dietitians! It’s like, we have to really niche down here when we’re talking about eating disorder recovery. And, you know, unfortunately, there are so many folks on social media who are sharing “What I Eat in a Day,” or just—

Ashley: Diet tips—

Sam: Yes, or just demonizing food groups and, you know, “This is what worked for me, maybe it’ll work for you.” And the implication, of course, is, you know, “If you if you eat like me, you’re going to look like me,” and we know that’s not true. But yes, I think especially when it comes to food, we need to be very careful about where we’re getting our information from.

Ashley: Yeah.

Sam: It can be really—

Ashley: That’s a great tip, Sam. That’s a great tip.

Sam: Yeah. So also, just a little more about the way social media can help. There are lots of folks who create recovery accounts that I think are not only informative but inspirational. And, you know, just showing everyone that recovery is possible and that, you know, it gets easier. You’re not always going to feel so hopeless, or it’s not always going to feel so hard. And so, there are some really good accounts out there that, you know, help folks who are maybe in the beginning stages of recovery and it sort of gives them a peek into what life could be like. So that’s a really cool thing to see. But then, of course, media literacy is so important because you don’t want to be following a recovery account that’s sharing before and after photos, or that is saying, “This is what I eat in a day in recovery.” Those are, those can be really harmful messages when, you know, someone is looking for an account to give them some guidance and give them some hope, and it’s important that as clinicians were helping our clients be more aware of what’s actually helping and what might actually be hurting unwittingly. Like, you might not even realize the ways in which something might be strengthening your eating disorder or worsening your body image. So, and that’s subtle, you know, because there’s some posts, especially, like, before and after photos where you know, it’s a really, I mean, I think that there’s good intention, you know, the person is saying, “Look where I was back five years ago and look where I am now, and look how much happier I look. Look how healthier I look,” and at the same time, it really reduces eating disorders to just size, and weight, and appearance.

Ashley: Correct.

Sam: And everybody’s different, every recovery story is different, and it can be dangerous to start comparing in those ways. So, media literacy is about being able to think critically about the accounts that you’re following, you know, “Is this account actually benefiting me or is it hurting me in ways that I didn’t realize?”

Ashley: Yeah, that’s really helpful.

Sam: So, just to go back to what you were saying before, Ashley, about comments—

Ashley: Mhm.

Sam: You know, and how hard it can be to get negative comments. But I just also want to point out how hard it can be when you see a post, and then maybe you go into the comments to read…

Ashley: Oh, yeah.

Sam: What people wrote, like, “What does the public think about this person?” And that can be really damaging as well. So, I point out to folks that it’s not only the comments you get on your post, but how much time are you spending in the comment section of other videos or other pictures?

Ashley: Sometimes on social media, I feel like as far as comments, people just let them fly, you know?

Sam: Oh, absolutely. I mean, just completely emotion driven behavior. It’s like, no filter, just, you know, and the anonymous sort of identity of being behind a computer screen with a username of, like, only numbers.

Ashley: Right.

Sam: It’s something, you know, it might be something you’d never say to the person’s face, but somehow there are folks out there who conjure up the courage to say it online as if it’s not gonna be as hurtful. But it’s so painful.

Ashley: Well, with all—I was gonna say, with what you’re saying, that kind of an anonymity piece, like, being able to say something maybe without a consequence.

Sam: Right.

Ashley: Yeah, and it can be so painful. And seeing what other people are saying about other people, you know, I mean, that can be, that can be just as hard. I mean, you’re saying that and I’m thinking, “I’ve definitely clicked in comments just to kind of see what this is about,” you know.

Sam: Just to check it out, see what people are saying, right? And so, there was a 2018 study, Tiggemann and Barbato, I hope I’m saying that right. But I read a study by them. So, the study was they viewed an image of someone and there was a brief positive comment about the person’s appearance, like “You look amazing,” or “I love your body,” or something like that, right? And what they found was people who viewed comments about appearance resulted in greater body dissatisfaction. So, even when it’s not even about their own body, you know.

Ashley: Wow!

Sam: Just seeing someone else comment positively about someone else’s body has a negative impact on our body image. And so, the control in the study was—the other group of folks, the comment was just about the place that the person was like, “Oh, you know, I love Italy,” or you know, “So happy to see you visited Tennessee,” right? And so, it was a place related comment, and those comments did not impact body image, naturally. But isn’t that interesting? So, it’s like, even seeing compliments online directed at someone else has that power to impact our body image.

Ashley: And how many comments online are about people’s bodies, right?

Sam: Oh, so many.

Ashley: So many, so many.

Sam: Oh, sure, there’s whole hashtags, #BodyGoals, you know, things like that, that are just, “What?!” You know, our culture is just so obsessed.

Ashley: Obsessed.

Sam: Obsessed with the body.

Ashley: With the body, yeah.

Sam: Especially, historically women, the body of women. But generally speaking, gender aside, there’s such an obsession with appearance. And of course, healthism, you know, this idea that, “Oh, if you look a certain way, you’ll automatically be healthier version of yourself,” which we know is not true. But that’s this core belief that this culture latches onto, that if you’re thinner or your body looks a certain way, that automatically means you have become a healthier version of you.

Ashley: Right, right.

Sam: And there’s no way to know that. And I say this probably in every interview I’ve ever done, I say it so much that I’m, like, sick of hearing myself say it, but I have to say over and over again, that it’s one of the biggest myths in our in our culture.

Ashley: Yeah, it is, it absolutely is. But yet it’s still, I mean, it is because it’s one of the biggest things that we hang on as a culture, is that, that ideal body, you know, look.

Sam: Right, right.

Ashley: I’m thinking right now, and just kind of about the last few things that we’ve talked about. and I super want to take a minute to say to our listeners, I want to encourage them to think about this as they engage in social media, and how could we provide support and encouragement to those that we love without commenting about their body? What else could we comment about on social media? Right?

Sam: Yeah.

Ashley: “You look like you’re having a great time! I hope you enjoy,” you know. What else we say instead of, “You look great,” or you know, anything. “Have you lost weight? Oh my gosh, you look amazing,” right? Could say something else?

Sam: I love it. To be able to just take that pause, like, that instinct to write, “You look amazing, you look fantastic,” and to just experiment with shifting.

Ashley: Yeah.

Sam: To me, I feel like, just personally, comments, whether it’s online or in real life, that—you know, when my friends say to me, “I am so happy to see you,” that is so much more meaningful and has so much more depth than, “You look great.” Let’s remember that.

Ashley: Yeah! Because, I mean, think about it, when somebody says to you, “You look great,” like, I mean sometimes if we’re not in a good space, right then, what might we think? “Oh, well did I not look great the last time?” “The next time I see them, I gotta look great,” you know, like and then the increase that, that body image concern in awareness!

Sam: Yeah, totally, totally.

Ashley: But, “It’s so great to see you. I love spending time with you.”

Sam: Yeah, yeah!

Ashley: “I have so much fun when we’re together.”

Sam: Right, exactly. And those are the comments, the interactions , that deepen your relationship rather than—I think, you know, it’s—I don’t want to shame anyone if you’re giving compliments to your friends, because I just think that’s what we’ve been taught to do and it feels natural. It almost feels like the right thing to say, you know, when you see a friend you haven’t seen in a while. “Oh, you look amazing.” And I think it definitely takes effort to shift that kind of, those habits. It’s not that easy and it might even feel like you’re not doing it right, like you’re doing something wrong when you try something different. But I think it’s worth experimenting with. And I see, you know, I tell my clients, like, “You can never go wrong when you own your own feelings.” It’s like, if you’re happy to see someone or, you know, “I’ve missed you so much. My heart feels like it’s going to explode when I see your face.”

Ashley: Yeah.

Sam: That is—nothing can compete with that, that kind of greeting.

Ashley: That feels so good to the person saying it and the person receiving it, you know.

Sam: It’s a win-win, it’s a win-win. Of course, you want to say what’s true for you. If you don’t actually feel that—

Ashley: Right, right, right, right, right. Don’t say it.

Sam: But you want to pick a truth that, you know, pick something that’s true for you, and make it authentic. Throw in a little vulnerability, and that’s a recipe for a deeper connection.

Ashley: I love that, I love that. Sam, thank you so much. This has been just a really incredible start to our season.

Sam: Oh, thank you Ashley. I know, this was fun and I’m so excited for season two. I think it’s only going to get better from here.

Ashley: Yes! And to our listeners, thank you so much for joining us again on All Bodies. All Foods. I hope you enjoyed this, I hope the social media mental health piece, I hope it was helpful. I hope you picked up on some of the tips and tools that we shared throughout this. Feel free to check us out, we’re, you know, we’re streaming now, so subscribe, leave us reviews if you enjoyed things. Share it with others, connect with us, you all, we want to hear from you. So, speaking of social media, Sam, we’re on, we’re on Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, and if you check us out on TikTok, you will see Sam’s face there, often sharing many wonderful, just helpful tips, and tricks, and tools for your mental health and your eating disorder recovery. So, we’re @RenfrewCenter, so check us out on that stuff, you all. And just again, thank you again for joining us for the start of season two. We hope you come back.

Ashley: Thank you for listening with us today on All Bodies. All Foods. presented by The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders.

Sam: We’re looking forward to you joining us next time as we continue these conversations.

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