Celebrities Love To Endorse Diets On Instagram. Can This Lead To Disordered Eating?

 

Your diet is what works for you. Whether you choose to eat vegan, follow guidelines set in place by Weight Watchers, or eat whatever the hell you feel like, what works for you is fantastic. Sure, get your greens, and maybe don’t eat ice cream for every meal. But weight and diet are personal choices. 

I, myself, have struggled with eating. After gaining a bunch of weight, I tried apps, different diets, and eventually fell back into my eating disorder. A stern-yet-empathetic talk with my medical team, as well as plenty of therapy, brought me back to reality – eating isn’t a bad thing. Exercise and a balanced diet are important, and wherever your weight ends up, it ends up. 

This mindset has helped me survive. And that’s why I am so disgusted when I see celebrities’ Instagram endorsements for diets. Let’s jump into why these endorsements are dangerous, how they affect body image, and ways you can support loved ones who have fallen for these fads.

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Notorious Celeb Endorsements

When you Google “celebrity diet endorsements,” the first names that pop up are those of the Kardashian family.  

Kim Kardashian famously left the world confused in 2018. Posting an ad for an appetite suppressant on Instagram, she deleted the photo following the severe backlash. The next day, however, the Instagram was back with the same caption: “You guys… @flattummyco just dropped a new product. They’re Appetite Suppressant Lollipops and they’re literally unreal.” (As of publishing, she has changed her caption to that of a lollipop emoji.) 

Flat Tummy’s Lollipops “control appetite naturally” and “kick cravings.” They do this by using the appetite suppressant Satiereal, an extract from saffron. Scientifically, it has been suggested to reduce snacking. However, a study says that it is important to maintain a balanced diet with the supplement – aka, don’t rely on the lollipops for your entire diet.

But that’s where the danger comes in: how many women are seeing these and going over the edge, using these to help their disordered eating? If a Kardashian, with all the best care in the world for her body, believes she needs an appetite suppressant, what about women who aren’t her size? 

Cardi B is yet another star guilty of promoting weight loss supplements. In a video posted to her Instagram in 2018, she promoted Teami Blends’ tea, saying “let the snap back begin” post-birth of her daughter.

Teami Blends’ has many different packs, including a Skinny Tea Blend. For $29.99, you can get a tea that has Yerba Mate (plant-based caffeine), Oolong Tea (metabolism booster), and Jiaogulan (balances your body from outside stressors). However, on their website, they are forced to say that the FDA has not evaluated their tea – so how can it be touted around as a cure-all?


The Effect of Celebrity Diet Culture on Women

Nutrition Action interviewed Timothy Caulfield, a research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta in Canada, about how celebrity diet culture affects women everywhere. “Celebrities own social media,” he explained. “Kim Kardashian has 145 million Instagram followers, whereas the World Health Organization has just under two million. Celebrities have a massive culture footprint.”

Turner P. G. and Lefevre C.E. published on the NCBI in 2017, titled “Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa,” also known as the obsession with healthy eating. The scientists reported that Instagram linked to increased symptoms; this was not the case with other social media sites. They also highlighted “the influence social media ‘celebrities’ may have over hundreds of thousands of individuals. 

Instagram has tried to right this wrong. In 2019, they restricted posts with discounts or prices in the captions to users 18 and up. At the time, Instagram’s public policy manager said “We want Instagram to be a positive place for everyone … this policy is part of our ongoing work to reduce the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of social media.”  

The problem with this: The NIMH reported in 2017 that the median onset age of binge eating was 21 years old; it was 18 years old for the onset of anorexia. While it is a great first step to only allow 18-and-older Instagram users to view these posts, it’s not enough.


How to Help Your Loved Ones with Disordered Eating

Eating disorders affect everyone – no matter the age or gender. If you believe your friend has disordered eating, there are a few things you can do – and a few things you should absolutely not.

Before you speak with your loved one, read up on eating disorders. Going into a conversation without any knowledge of the struggles those with eating disorders face can backfire. When you do begin the conversation, start it off by saying how you care for your friend, which is why you’ve decided to have this conversation. Do not bring it up in a group setting—this should be one-on-one.

Come with sympathy rather than confrontation. For example: say “I’ve been worried that you’re not eating lunch with us,” not “you never eat lunch with us anymore.” Accusations will cause your friend to shut down, ruining any chance of a productive conversation. Give them room to defend themselves—it’s not easy to admit they have a problem. When they counter, continue to stick to “I” statements and concrete examples. Making assumptions will not help.

If your loved one does admit to struggling with their eating and body image, support them in getting help. They may resist; be firm, yet kind. It’s a tough conversation to have, and you must continue to come at them with love and care, while also conveying that this is a necessary step. If they’re scared to go alone, offer to help them take the first steps. 

Finally, be present. Don’t be afraid to discuss the scary parts of an eating disorder or body image—chances are, it’s difficult for them to deal with this illness on their own, and opening up to you is a great sign. Just make sure you’re taking care of yourself, too. Burnout from being an emotional support is a real thing, and your needs must be addressed if you want to continue being there for your loved one.

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Diet endorsements aren’t going anywhere, so it is crucial to listen to science—not celebrities. How are you remaining healthy despite these ads? Do you think Instagram is going far enough to prevent a rise in disordered eating? Let us know in the comments.


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