Use with Caution: Instagram as a Tool for Personal Development

I’m on day 22 of the Whole 30. For those of you who don’t know, the Whole 30 is a program meant to reset your diet by abstaining from dairy, legumes, sugar, alcohol, grains, and any food containing harmful chemicals (see list here) found in processed food for 30 days. Though I read the books that talk about the science and purpose of the program, I credit Instagram for keeping me motivated and on track.

During the holidays, while lamenting all the deliciousness I partook in and the extra pounds I put on, I came across postings on Twitter and Instagram announcing the #JanuaryWhole30, an online community committing to do the Whole 30 Jan 2 – 31. Having had successfully completed one cycle this past fall, I decided to go at it again with the intention of not only resetting my diet, but of also committing to cooking more meals, learning new recipes, and losing a few pounds. I’ve kept a few practices from my first experience that have made me healthier. For example, I substitute pasta/noodles with spiralized vegetables; I make my own sriracha, mayo, and salad dressings; and I build hearty salads with abandon to my liking. Thanks, Instagram!

Don’t get me wrong, on February 1st you may see me at a bar having some chips and salsa with a margarita on the rocks, I am realistic in saying that the #Whole30 does not have the capability to change my life from one month to the next. But I am also confident in saying that I know that the Whole 30 Instagram community will always be there coaching and inspiring me to go on the next round, each time a new opportunity to gain new insight and a few new habits that will hopefully last a lifetime. My personal journey to health and happiness has given me realistic expectations based on who I am and what I am currently capable of and I am very glad for that. Otherwise, I think that a platform like Instagram wouldn’t be such a positive in my life, I’d instead feel bogged down by the pressures of looking or eating a certain way.

Why Dieters Flock to Instagram, an NYTimes Health piece, captures perfectly how Instagram is seen as a successful dieting platform due to its versatility in allowing your process and/or progress to be a public or private journey. But like anything relating to social media, users must be cautious to not get caught up in the pictures of perfectly plated food and before/after body shots. Life is a lot more complicated than a hashtag and a series of photos. My concern when ‘lurking’ on diet hashtags is that, to some there could be a lot of false expectations about how this program is supposed to revolutionize your life or that you are not allowed to fail, and perhaps not enough conversation about the complexity of one’s relationship to food. But then again, ‘having conversations’ may not be the type of content that users seek out on Instagram.

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One Response to Use with Caution: Instagram as a Tool for Personal Development

  1. sydhavely says:

    You’ve hit on a huge draw to social media and the effect of networking on habits and thereby the role of photos. Please talk more about your post in class. Great job and by the way, good luck. It’s hugely worthwhile your effort.

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