THE BLOG
07/31/2014 04:31 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2014

Why Social Media Should Take the Back Seat When It Comes to Health

Nancy Honey via Getty Images

In the pursuit of thinness, there always seems to be some new fad or weight loss movement that young women subscribe to. Years ago, it was all about protruding hip and collar bones made popular by the waify-thin runway models. Then came thinspiration, where girls kept a collection of photos of extremely thin bodies as motivation to lose more weight as they glorified the thigh gap and bikini bridge. Girls were harshly restricting their food intake to achieve a desired super thin look, and many of them had developed full-blown eating disorders. More recently, there has been another phenomenon known as fitspiration, which lies the obsession with physical fitness.

It could be considered a good thing that women have a new found focus of hitting the gym. However, fitspiration has also turned into an obsession. Working out and getting into better physical shape is great, but sometimes these ladies are participating only for the purpose of maintaining a certain body type. It has been said that fitspiration is really just thinspiration in disguise. What happened to trying to be healthier for the sake of being healthier? These days, it's all about striving to look more attractive. Appearance seems to be in the forefront of concern, and health is taking a back seat.

The power of social media plays a large role in the body image of today's young women. Tumblr is a popular source for sharing photos of thin women wearing swimsuits. Pinterest is known for it's outstanding number of users that have made boards for fitspirational photos and quotes. Most women that use any social media platform are highly likely to be bombarded with photos being shared to them of women looking a certain way that only fits a very narrow ideal of what our society views as attractive for women, and many of them are blindly buying into it.

When it comes to dieting, of course it's good to want to eat healthier and it's okay to want to look and feel good too, but your body requires a certain level of nutrition that the no-carb diet and the Weight Watchers program doesn't provide. Besides, those fad diets only set you up for failure because the weight loss is only temporary unless you plan to stay on that diet for life. Another thing to keep in mind is that weight is determined primarily by genetics and secondarily by environmental factors. Chances are good that you will take after your relatives in weight and body shape. This is hard for some people to accept, and for many of them, just eating well and being active won't necessarily get them the results they want, so the disordered eating patterns and a vicious cycle begins. This is not only harmful to the body, but mental and emotional health starts to suffer as well.

Ladies (and gentlemen), when are we going to stop tormenting our bodies? When are we going to stop being slaves to this societal expectation of what we "should" look like? And finally, when are we going to really start respecting our bodies and care about our health? As the saying goes, there's no time like the present. If we prioritize our health over our appearance today, we will be so much better off in the long run. The decision is only yours to make.

Ashley writes for Unwritten. Studying journalism at Ball State University, you can follow her on Twitter @ashleybpariseau.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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