Weight loss and body image: attention to the social networks

Perte de poids et image corporelle: attention aux réseaux sociaux

Photo: Arun Sankar Agence France-Presse
Active use of social media is also associated with a greater concern for thinness.

Girls and young women who are turning to social networks to resolve their weight issues or body image in the interest of caution, since no study has yet demonstrated that such interventions could be effective, and it can even be a double-edged sword, warns a study done at the Laval University.

Professor Sophie Desroches, School of nutrition, and a phd in nutrition Audrée-Anne Dumas have found that social media has mostly a negative effect on the body image of women, even if, in theory, they represent an interesting platform to get information or support.

Teenage, explained the university, to devote more than two hours per day is associated with a higher risk of dissatisfaction with respect to its weight and a greater desire to lose weight.

It can be a platform very rewarding, if one is in a approach of weight loss […] but it can also motivate in the wrong way if it was higher-risk behaviour

— Audrée-Anne Dumas

Active use of social media is also associated with a greater concern for thinness. The propensity to idealize thinness and to compare themselves to others exacerbates the negative effects of social networks.

“Grosso modo, what we can see is that the use of social networks would be a bit more deleterious, neutral or deleterious, with regards to body image in women,” explains Mme Dumas.

Opinion of peers

In adult women, discussion on diet and physical activity on the social media seem to have more influence than the facts exchanged verbally on the same topics with loved ones. “The opinion of the peers of the virtual community seems to have a lot of importance,” said Sophie Desroches by way of a press release.

One might also ask whether social networks are responsible for the body image issues of teenage girls or young women, or if those who have, from the beginning, problems will be more attracted to social platforms.

“The equation would not be as simple as “I use social networks, I have a bad body image, precise Audrée-Anne Dumas. This would be rather the type of activity practiced on the social networks. If these are activities such as posting photos of oneself, fix the photos, it is very focused on the image and it would have a different effect to simply view a newsfeed in Facebook. “

“There are also different personality traits that we would put more to risk, as compare themselves to others or valuing thinness “, she adds.

That being said, it is still too early to decide as to the usefulness of social media to lose weight and improve her body image. Facebook seems to have some potential as an intervention tool, said Ms. Dumas, but you can’t really conclude that this would be effective for weight loss in women.

In general, therefore, caution is. “It can be a platform very rewarding, if one is in a approach of weight loss […] it can be rewarding, it can be reassuring to see other people; it is in the same process together, it can be very motivating, but it can also motivate in the wrong way if it was higher-risk behaviour,” said the researcher.

The conclusions of this study are published by the medical journal Current Obesity Reports.

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