When you’re in recovery, it might seem reassuring to see what others eat in a day. It might give you the courage to eat more throughout your day or to eat more consistently. You might see those who have bodies like the one you want to have and be comforted by the fact that they eat way more than 1200 calories a day.
This, at first, seems like a great tool in recovery; I remember feeling that way when I followed accounts that posted this kind of content. After years of restriction, the posts also provided me with some fresh, new meals, foods, and combinations that I could try as I began to allow all foods.
Very quickly, though, these types of posts can create comparison. Are you eating less than them? More than them? Different foods than them? And do you look like them as a result?
Part of the issue with tools like body weight scales and tracking apps like MyFitnessPal is that they are not just restrictive, but they also create an environment where you’re using an external resource to dictate what you should be eating and how much. This takes away from the trust you have in your own body to tell you what it needs. That body trust is what needs to be cultivated and practiced, which means not looking to others to see what we should be eating.
Another issue with these posts is they implicitly convey the message that if you eat like this person, you will look like this person. While many in the diet and fitness world will explicitly or implicitly promise you certain results, either through what they look like or client before and after photos, these promises are false. Two people can eat and exercise in exactly the same way, and they will still be a different weight and shape. Genetics plays a crucial part in our body’s makeup. What is sustainable, normal, and appropriate for one person may be very different from another, regardless of age, gender, and height.
Another aspect of these posts to consider is that we do not know whether these meals were completely finished, if more was consumed, if the meals were “earned” through excessive exercise, or were purged, etc. What we see on social media are what creators want us to see, no more, no less.
These kinds of posts can not only cause comparisons for body size but also for quality of food. Perhaps you are not someone who can dedicate hours to making beautiful meals from scratch. I’m a full-time teacher, part-time intuitive eating coach, grad school student, wife, and mother, etc. I use a lot of convenience foods like frozen and canned items. I don’t have time to whip up turmeric lattes and beautiful overnight oats in mason jars; but that’s not the point of food! It doesn’t have to look pretty; it just needs to be nourishing and satisfying.
Instead of these types of accounts, follow accounts that provide ideas for meals but do not show a day in its entirety. On my Instagram @FreedomwithFoodandFitness, I show several meals and snacks, but never consecutively from the beginning to the end of a particular day. I want to convey to my clients and followers the courage to try new foods, as well as fear foods, but not trigger comparison for quantity and aesthetic.
And by all means, if FDOE posts do not trigger you or cause “compare and despair,” then feel free to continue to follow them! But be honest in whether those posts genuinely help or harm your recovery.