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How people struggling with eating disorders can use social media to improve body image

A dietitian specializing in eating disorders shares strategies for minimizing social media's negative influence on body image.

SEATTLE — Eating disorders are on the rise, and experts say social media is playing a role in how people see themselves. 

According to a study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the prevalence of eating disorders has more than doubled within the past two decades. 

Meghan Cichy is a dietitian that works specifically with patients struggling with food and body concerns at Creating Peace with Food. She suggests that excessive use of social media is likely contributing to the issue. 

“I see, very frequently, the struggles of comparisons that folks are making with themselves and the images that they see on social media, and that increasing their symptoms,” said Cichy. 

Although there is not an immediate cause-and-effect relationship between social media use and eating disorders, using social media can have a harmful effect on someone exhibiting symptoms. 

RELATED: Does social media lead to anxiety and depression in teens?

Too much exposure can increase levels of self-objectification, wherein one focuses more on their outward appearance than their health. 

“It creates this disconnect from our sensory experience of our body and reinforces distrust in our body,” said Cichy. 

RELATED: What are eating disorders and how can you recognize one?

The signs of an unhealthy body image can be subtle. Feeling anxiety in social situations involving food, for example, may indicate the presence of a problem. 

Cichy suggests several steps you can take to curb the impact that social media may have on your positive self-image: 

1. Remove or unfollow accounts that depict a narrow view of bodies, or make you feel bad about your own body. 

2. Add or follow accounts that have a diverse representation of bodies or parody unrealistic body standards. 

3. Add or follow accounts that promote self-compassion. 

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