Here at Eat With Knowledge, we see the impact of social media on our clients all the time. You’re not alone if you pick up your phone many times during the day to see the latest from Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat. Social media is part of how we connect with others and present ourselves to the world. This has pros AND cons, but ultimately this means that navigating social media is an important part of eating disorder treatment and recovery.
In this post, Eat With Knowledge dietitian, Allison Milch, breaks down how social media can be beneficial for our clients, but also how to work through comparison, negativity, and deceitfulness. Allison chose to write about TikTok, as it’s the most popular app that we hear about from our clients!
Picture this very common scenario: You open up TikTok to see the most hilarious video that makes you laugh so hard. But right after that video is a video that triggers your eating disorder. Maybe it’s someone’s “What I Eat In A Day” post or someone showing their “Before and After” bodies of their recovery journey. Nevertheless, you weren’t feeling prepared and now an innocent attempt to watch a funny video turns sour.
Social media can feel complicated for clients in eating disorder treatment and recovery. The TikTok community may provide a sense of support to clients in treatment, such as sharing raw and vulnerable feelings about eating disorder recovery or words of encouragement to those deeply struggling. Social media is also a way to connect with others and communicate! But social media also brings feelings of comparison, isolation, and negativity. Clients of mine have shared with me that in particular, the comment sections of these videos can be particularly damaging and invalidating. In addition, depending on where you are in the recovery process, you may not be able to confidently distinguish which videos and/or comments are fueling eating disorder thoughts and behaviors and which are not
Here are some of our considerations for using TikTok while in recovery:
- It is always OK to take a break from social media. Yes, you may “miss out”, but taking a step back may be the most responsible decision you could make for yourself. Remember that if/when you would like to return to social media, there will be endless content waiting for you. TikTok is not going away!
- If you would like to remain on TikTok during your recovery, try to personalize your “For You” page. The “For You” page is designed to present a collection of videos that the TikTok algorithm expects you to enjoy, based on your past viewing behavior on the app. While not a foolproof plan, if you strategically manipulate TikTok’s algorithm, you will be more likely to reduce your exposure to content you find triggering. You can do this include engaging with more content that you genuinely enjoy, such as liking videos, following new accounts, and exploring certain hashtags. If you come across content that is damaging to you, you can block accounts or long-press on a video and tap “not interested” to indicate that you don’t like the video.
- We encourage parent involvement! Parents, it’s OK to ask your children about what content they are viewing and have open and honest conversations about it. You can help set social media boundaries with your child when they are in need of support. Here at Eat With Knowledge, we encourage family sessions all the time and a specific “Working With Parents” course that is free for all parents in our practice.
- Follow anti-diet dietitians on TikTok who can help kick your eating disorder to the curb. The following accounts, among many, can provide encouragement to those trying to make peace with food and their bodies: @yourlatinanutritionist @clairechewning @nomorechichos @yourdietitianbff @thewellful @cravewithcarlie @pcos.freedom.dietitian @womens.health.dietitian @theintuitive_rd
Navigating social media is no easy task, which is why we are here to support you. How you decide to engage with social media may change throughout your recovery, and we are happy to help you determine what works best for you. We would be honored to work with you to heal your relationship with food and body. Email back if you are looking for nutrition counseling for yourself or someone you know. We are accepting new clients and would love to work with you!
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”
If you are looking for support to heal your relationship with food, check out our Nutrition Counseling page here. If you are unable to become a client but would still like to learn from us, you can purchase our Eat With Knowledge Roadmap here!