Did you know that studies have shown that exposure to idealized images on social media can lead to decreased body satisfaction, increased body shame, and disordered eating behaviors in women? In our latest Let’s Chat, Dr. Celia Egan joins with Marisa Hohaia, Psychologist and Women’s Life Coach, to discuss the impact of social media on women’s health, and also provide insights on how to navigate the social media spotlight while staying true to yourself and your health goals. Missy Richeal, CMO and owner of Leverage Marketing, and Sam Rutherford, Marketing Operations Manager at Leverage, also join the chat to discuss social media influences and how they regulate social media usage as marketing professionals.
The Impact of Social Media
Social media is prevalent in most people’s day-to-day lives, and can be especially impactful for women. For Marisa, as a Spiritual Life Coach, she sees first hand how social media influences how individuals see themselves, both positively and negatively. From a positive perspective, social media can help to highlight areas where you might need to do some growth work or where you might need to establish boundaries. When used in the right way, Marisa says that people can “unfold some of these important questions [on boundaries and triggers] for themselves.” Dr. Egan agrees that social media can be a great place to pause, reflect, and get curious. She often talks to patients about getting curious with their emotions in regards to social media content and their overall health.
Negative Impact of Social Media
There are, of course, downsides to increased social media use as well. So often, we use social media as a way to figure out what is “expected” of us, how we should live, and how we should think. As Marisa notes, this makes it really hard to gain confidence in your own personal choices, especially if they are not aligned with everything you are seeing online.
Expectations versus reality on social media platforms can become particularly harmful when it comes to weight and body image. Social media often only shows the positives and portrays narratives like: “I’ve lost all this weight!” “I’m a whole new person!” “I feel so amazing!” Rarely do people share that their weight journey has been slow or that their progress has fluctuated depending on the day, week, or month. Dr. Egan discusses how this leads to many patients coming in with expectations that “are just not realistic” and sometimes “on the fringe of what is actually biochemically possible” for bodies to achieve. These expectations, based in social media norms, then set patients up for failure.
This is one of the many reasons that both true. and the Leverage Marketing teams are so intentional with messaging around the Weight Journey program. Missy notes that it is important to curate messaging and images that feel inclusive, and that are not focused on idealized imaging (filters, “body goals”, etc.) that users come across so often from personal accounts and influencers.
Take Home Tips for Improving Your Relationship with Social Media
So, how do you cut through the digital noise to establish a healthier and more balanced relationship with social media?
- Connect and don’t compare. This one can be really hard to follow! Our brains instantly react and form, sometimes, unsolicited thoughts after being exposed to content. If you are finding yourself constantly being plagued by guilt or feelings of “you should do ____”, that is a good sign to take a break from a particular account or platform.
- Follow people that bring you joy. Choose accounts that make you smile and laugh over content that makes you feel stressed about where you are on your personal life path.
- Live in the moment. Instead of trying to capture each moment on your camera, try just being present. Small moments help to connect us and feel human. Worrying about your next social post or lighting is guaranteed to disconnect you from an experience. Marisa recommends carrying a small journal to write down something you want to remember for later. Metered breathing is another great mindfulness practice to help recenter your body in the present.
- Limit use first thing in the morning. Give your brain a second to wake-up and connect with your inner voice. Connecting to social media first thing in the morning allows other people’s input and energy into your space right away, impacting your thoughts and, sometimes, even your day. Instead of opening an app, try replacing your morning scroll with a gratitude practice, light exercise, or even just a simple cup of coffee with a book or magazine.
- Look elsewhere for contentment. Bottom line: You’re not going to find it on social media. Looking for connection in other places – in relationships, in yourself, in creativity – is what will truly lift and inspire you.
Self Test: Questions to Ask Yourself About Social Media Usage
- What is your relationship with social media? Are you intentional about the time you spend on social media and the content you consume? Or do you have a codependent relationship with social media; using it as a time filler when you are bored?
- How do you feel after viewing social media? Uplifted and inspired? Or stressed, frustrated, and jealous?
- Is it time for a break? Try taking a week long social media break or putting a strict timer on app usage.
- Am I connecting with others? Am I enjoying the moment?
- Am I putting off seeing a therapist or physician to discuss my issues? It is easy to “diagnose” yourself on social media which can perpetuate negative internal self talk. Talking with a trained professional will provide greater clarity and understanding about physical, emotional, and mental health issues.
Take a moment today to pause, reflect, and journal with the following prompts:
- What accounts do you follow and why?
- What accounts do you turn to for inspiration?
- How do you try to decrease the “noise” in your life?
- What ways do you practice gratitude daily?
- Are you taking breaks in your day to be quiet and let your inner voice shine?
- What is my relationship with social media showing me about myself?
- Can I leverage social media for personal growth?
About Marisa Hohaia
Marisa Hohaia has a master’s degree in organizational psychology and is a certified life coach specializing in helping women explore the depths of their personal power, using a unique combination of modalities to address the mind, body, and spirit. She helps women re-discover their true identities and transcend the expectations of others.
About true. Weight Journey Program
Our weight management program, true. Weight Journey is designed specifically for women who want to achieve a healthy weight and optimal health. This program combines nutrition coaching, exercise guidance, and support to help you achieve your goals. Led by Dr. Celia Egan, a double board certified obesity and internal medicine physician, she is also a NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner and can help you manage your weight during menopause. Weight loss medications could also be a part of your weight journey with Dr. Egan. You can learn more about true. Weight Journey on our website here: https://truewomenshealth.com/true-weight-journey.
Watch and listen to the full discussion: Unfiltered: Navigating Body Image & Health