Everybody love Instagram, but there are some hashtags you should avoid if your child has anorexia.
Hashtags are fun ways to navigate social media channels, especially Instagram. When we search something using a hashtag, we get to see hundreds, sometimes thousands of posts regarding that topic.
It can be really fun to navigate these hashtags and find out what other people are posting. It’s like having a custom-made magazine just about the topics that interest you.
Unfortunately, Instagram hashtags may be an unhealthy method for furthering their disordered thinking about their bodies, health, and dieting. We don’t want our kids going on “pro ana” websites. And we don’t want them looking at “pro ana” Instagram accounts. The trouble is that they can be harder to recognize on Instagram.
Why kids with anorexia may need to avoid Instagram
Pro ana is an obvious and known topic to avoid. But Instagram has lots of options for someone who wants to continue their anorexia. Our culture is obsessed with weight loss as the ultimate path to health and wellness. It’s all too easy to believe you are following healthy accounts that are actually dangerous.
You may be surprised by the many hashtags that:
- promote eating disorders outright
- suggest that food restriction is healthy
- tell people to over-exercise
- talk about how “hard” and “impossible” it is to recover from an eating disorder
- glorify the need for inpatient treatment
These accounts all say they are dedicated to health and wellness. But they are actually promoting disordered eating and eating disorder behaviors.
Many people who are in recovery for anorexia use Instagram posts as a way to document their progress. But their ongoing disorder means that these posts can be disturbing. This is true even for those of us who have been recovered for years.
Furthermore, there are literally thousands of accounts that actively promote unrealistic body types. They also promote unhealthy methods of diet and exercise to control weight, size, and shape.
Instagram’s community guidelines and warnings for anorexia
Instagram recognizes that it has a problem. It is a perfect environment in which vulnerable populations can promote eating disorder behaviors in a positive light.
A good thing is that Instagram has created community guidelines. It is attempting to curtail the dangerous promotion of eating disorders on its platform. For example, there is currently no hashtag for #proana. And if you search for #anorexia, you will be shown this warning message:
This is an important step for Instagram. We applaud their work towards minimizing the dangers of social media platforms being used to promote eating disorders.
But the warning can be overcome
It’s really great that Instagram recognizes the danger of showing someone who has anorexia posts about maintaining anorexia. But unfortunately, they leave the option to “Show posts” related to anorexia.
If you click through to “Show posts,” you will see numerous images, quotes, and posts from people who are still active in their anorexia.
These posts can be deeply triggering. They can provide instructions and information about continuing and hiding anorexia. Also, since anorexia tends to have a competitive edge, it can exacerbate symptoms.
It’s not uncommon for people who have anorexia to compare their bodies. They may strive for the lowest body weight and the highest degree of danger from the disorder. This is true even when they say they want to recover. It’s confusing and conflicted. Both are true. But Instagram can make it harder to overcome the drive to be thin.
Below are a few we saw today. Please note that we applaud all efforts at recovery, and are not criticizing the posters on Instagram. Our purpose is to warn of the potential dangers even from people who mean well.
Triggers are everywhere
The problem isn’t Instagram itself. The problem is that we live in a diet culture. The culture promotes extreme eating, weight loss, and over-exercising as moral behavior. Our culture persists in hating body fat and promoting weight loss. As a result, Instagram is an excellent channel to support anorexia.
Even those of us who are in full recovery and enjoy Instagram often find triggering and upsetting images. This happens when we go to see our search results, or if we stumble across a positive hashtag like #health. Many people in early recovery find it easiest to avoid Instagram while in active anorexia.
While your child is in eating disorder recovery, you should consider eliminating social media from their daily activities. Until your child is fully stable, Instagram may be too much. It can trigger relapse and the desire to return to disordered behaviors.
Even recovery hashtags can hurt
Even seemingly “safe” hashtags such as #anarecovery and #anorexiarecovery may contain triggering posts. Avoid those, as well as #eatingdisorder, #anorexia, #bulimia, etc. It’s not that there are not good posts under those hashtags. In fact, we often post them @MoreLoveOrg. But they simply pose too many dangers to someone who is in active recovery.
The problem is that while people identify as being in recovery, they may still be using their eating disorder behaviors. They may still suffer with obsessive thoughts of food and their body.
This is why Instagram hashtags about anorexia often include photos of food and bodies. It’s not necessarily that the people want to promote the disorder. Instagram provides a window into the person’s inner struggle with anorexia. As a competitive disorder, posts like this can be hard to handle in recovery.
For example, below you can see that the top posts for #anarecovery are all food and body-based posts.
This approach continues the obsession with food and body, which is not supportive of full recovery. The posts are typically from people who are on a path of recovery. We applaud their efforts, but posts like these may inadvertently trigger disordered food and body issues for others.
Save our #EDWarriors from Instagram
There are many, many wonderful and excellent Instagram accounts that are supportive of recovery. But disordered posts will encourage an eating disorder.
Someone in recovery from anorexia should probably avoid Instagram unless it is carefully monitored.
This is not the time for permissive parenting. This is the time to take a stand against potentially harmful social messages. Your child can avoid Instagram during eating disorder recovery.
Surprisingly dangerous hashtags on Instagram
#health #fitness #fit #fitnessaddict #fitspo #workout #bodybuilding #cardio #gym #train #training #health #healthy #instahealth #healthychoices #active #strong #motivation #instagood #determination #lifestyle #diet #getfit #cleaneating #eatclean #exercise #bodygoals #selfietime #femaleform #thefemalebody #21dayfix #beforeandafter #beachbodycoach #shakeology #realbodies #toneitup #healthyshake #shakeologycoach #shakeology
Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.
She’s the editor of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents handle their kids’ food and body issues.