Friends who seem to post a photo of every meal they eat on Instagram or Twitter may not just be annoying, they may have a problem.
The trend of "foodstagramming" has bothered some restaurants to the point they have prohibited diners from snapping photos of their meals. But Dr. Valerie Taylor, chief of psychiatry at Women's College Hospital at the University of Toronto, argues that obsessively documenting one's meals could be a signal of a larger dieting problem.
"I see clients for whom food has become problematic, and they struggle to go out and not have food be the key element of all social interaction: what they eat, when they ate, when they are going to eat again," Taylor told The Huffington Post.
Taylor spoke at the Canadian Obesity Summit in Vancouver last week about eating disorders and food's role in our culture. While Taylor admitted that sharing photos of food on social media is relatively common, she said that in some cases it can come at the exclusion of everything else.
"The concern becomes when all they do is send pictures of food," Taylor told HuffPost. "We take pictures of things that are important to us, and for some people, the food itself becomes central and the rest -– the venue, the company, et cetera -- is background."
While Taylor argues that producing such images may signal an unhealthy preoccupation with food, others have linked the consumption of food photography to eating issues and weight gain. Television host Mehmet Oz did a segment on his show, "Dr. Oz," in October arguing that "food porn" was making society fatter. Oz was referring to people who viewed glossy photographs, such as those in magazines and on blogs, but Food & Wine's Gail Simmons said food photography is nothing new, since her employer's been doing it for decades.
However, Taylor isn't just focused on Instagram users. She noted in her speech that food tattoos send a similar warning sign.
"I think for some people it highlights how important food has become," Taylor said. "Just like the tattoos of 'I love McDonald's' replacing the 'I love Mom' tattoo, food is taking on a very important role. It has moved beyond simply fuel."
Earlier on HuffPost:
Karen Ansel, MS, RD, CDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and coauthor of <em>The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life</em> "As for what I wouldn't eat: hot dogs, without a doubt. Even if they're nitrate-free, they're still made up of too many parts and pieces, which is just unnatural."
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, author of<em> Nutrition at Your Fingertips</em> and fellow Eat + Run blogger "I would not eat brains, frog legs or bugs. Otherwise, no foods are off limits, as I think all foods can fit into a healthful and balanced diet. And when I want something that I don't think of as healthy -- like a hot dog, pastrami, French fries, Doritos or a Hostess cupcake -- I have it, but keep the portion small."
Patricia Bannan, MS, RD, author of <em>Eat Right When Time is Tight</em> "<a href="http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2012/10/11/soda-calories-and-a-full-accounting">Sugary soda</a>. Not only does it taste overly-sweet, it's such a waste of calories. A 12-ounce can of soda has almost 40 grams of sugar, and research shows excess sugar can lead to excess pounds and a myriad of health issues. If you do love a soda, limit it to once or twice a month, and get used to other options like citrus-infused water or non-sugared iced tea."
Jackie Newgent, RD, culinary nutritionist and author of <em>1</em><em>,000 Low-Calorie Recipes</em> "I won't eat anything that's neon! Basically, if a food or beverage is a color that you can't find in nature -- like electric blue or glow-in-the-dark orange -- I won't go near it. It's one indicator of an artificial ingredient. I always keep it real."
Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of <em><a href="http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/flexitarian-diet">The Flexitarian Diet</a></em> "Spray butter, whipped topping and other similar 'diet foods.' My food philosophy is to eat real food with simple ingredient lists. I'd rather enjoy my food with smart amounts of real butter, oil, sea salt or whipped cream rather than artificial flavors and chemicals."
Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, author of <em>Read It Before You Eat It </em>and fellow Eat + Run blogger "I don't like to eat anything that looks like it did when it was alive! Whether it's a cornish hen or a whole fish, I'd rather not see my food in that 'whole' state. I was a strict vegetarian for years, not eating any meat, fish, or poultry, and although I slowly added some of those foods back into my diet, certain animal products are still tough for me to swallow."
Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of <em>S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches</em> "Diet soda. It doesn't offer any nutrients, and my rule of thumb is: If it's artificial, it's not going into my body. Also, some research has linked diet soda consumption to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack and depression. Plus, one analysis found that, on average, diet soda drinkers weigh more than regular soda drinkers."
Rachel Begun, MS, RD, spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics "I avoid all foods that contain hydrogenated oils. There is absolutely no need for them in our diet, and nowadays, it's easy to find foods that don't contain them."
Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD, spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics "By preference, I'm mostly <a href="http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/vegetarian-diet">vegetarian</a>. I wouldn't eat bacon, hot dogs, chicken, hamburgers, steak, soup made with animal broth or anything cooked in lard."