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Seeing a picture-perfect celebrity who seems to be always consuming unhealthy food is only seeing part of the picture

Celeb Life: a Piece of Cake

Don’t Buy into the Hype

When you walk into a grocery store or watch a television program, you might expect to be exposed to food advertisements. You might even be on your guard for the allure of unhealthy food. But have you ever thought about the way “foodie” social media is influencing your eating habits?

For example, imagine it’s Friday, and your social feed is full of people holding fancy drinks at the bar. Does that make you think you need a drink too? The word “feed” itself holds some irony. When we “consume” media, research tells us that what we see changes what we assume to be “normal behavior.” Think about it. How do you respond to an image of a holiday-related cookie vs. a healthy smoothie? If you’re like most people, you assume the cookie is an “experience” while you might assume the smoothie post is from a health influencer. How telling this is! Right now, researchers suggest most of the food content we interact with is unhealthy!

According to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association, investigators analyzed 5,180 foods and beverages on the accounts of 181 highly followed celebrities. In that content, more than 87% of the accounts depicted less healthy nutrition. Fancy drinks, luxurious meals, decadent desserts, when we see it all the time, it’s hard not to believe EVERYONE eats these foods on a regular basis. But these are not normal habits. In fact, the nutritional content was so unhealthy that it would have failed the legal youth advertising limits in the UK if it were advertising.

However, the studied social content was not sponsored. Instead, what we often see on celebrity profiles is a highlight reel of fun experiences. As a culture, we value luxury, over-indulgence, and therefore, we share it. According to the study, when it is shared, followers praise it more often than healthy content. In the study, unhealthy food and beverage images were “liked” and commented on more often than healthier content.

Because celebrities are independent humans, sharing elements of their everyday life in a free speech arena, this content is difficult to change. Investigators from the study strongly encourage social media users to remember social media is a curated space. Seeing a picture-perfect celebrity who seems to be always consuming unhealthy food is only seeing part of the picture.

Think of it this way. In February, when some families have time off, they choose to go snow-skiing. If you follow anyone on social media who goes snow-skiing, they will probably post pictures from ski-lifts or mountain tops. If you have 3 friends who like to snow-ski and depending on how often they post, there’s the potential that you will see a lot of snow-skiing content on social media. It may make you feel like you are the ONLY person not out there shredding powder. But the reality is less than 5% of Americans take part in any snow sports each year. Only 1% of Americans ski more than 9 days in a year.

The same goes for food content. Don’t let a few photos make you feel like your life is right only if you’ve got a luxurious drink in hand. Remember there is a lot of missing context on social media. Celebrity life may look like a “piece of cake,” but you’re probably missing the full nutritional story.

Are you trying to be thoughtful about your own health journey and who you follow? Consider unfollowing content that makes you wish you were making different choices. Instead, follow encouragement. Consider signing up for our newsletter or follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more inspirational content about healthy habits!

Resources

Nutritional Analysis of Foods and Beverages Posted in Social Media Accounts of Highly Followed Celebrities

Food4Healthy Life Calculator

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