Is Instagram making you avoid certain foods?

St. John of God's hospital is warning of patients presenting with aversions to particular food groups

Is Instagram making you avoid certain foods?

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A psychiatric hospital has warned of an increase in patients presenting with aversions to food groups, which they attribute to the new 'clean eating' trend.

Senior Occupational Therapist with St John of God's Jane O'Riordan believes the trend, promoted across social platforms such as Instagram, blames the "constant bombardment" of dieting plays a part in the development of eating disorders.

"Last year, there was a review of all the studies looking at social media and its impact on body dissatisfaction and eating disorder behaviors," she told Newstalk Breakfast. "The consensus now is that higher rates of social networking sites and social media is associated with body image dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviour - there's a link there."

A 2014 survey from University College Dublin (UCD) and charity Headstrong on youth mental health found that body image dissatisfaction was linked with higher incidents of depression, alcohol and substance abuse and eating disorders. Similarly, national eating disorder awareness group Bodywhys identified social media as the main pressure to self-esteem and body image for people.

"They can happen to people at any age"

O'Riordan said that a lot of eating disorders arise in adolescence due to developmental issues surrounding identity, but that cases aren't isolated to young people.

As well as social media, mainstream media also promotes lifestyle programming such as Operation Transformation. O'Riordan acknowledges the negative aspects of these shows.

"I think the flip-side is the focus on weigh-ins and the unrealistic intensity of the dieting efforts that might not be sustainable or workable for the person at home themselves ... I think our society has become quite extreme and quite polarised.

"I think in the past, we might have bought Cosmopolitan once a fortnight. But now, all the dieting information, all the body comparison stuff is coming up in your newsfeed. It's hard to take a break from it."


O'Riordan said mental health education is key when it comes to the positive development of a young person's self-esteem.

"We also need to educate young people about being media-savvy, so that they know that someone's highlight rell on Facebook isn't the same as real life when you're sitting at home with the flu feeling rubbish," she said.