You can find influencers for every kind of niche. They dominate social media with a following of over a million strong. Many of their audience see them as a credible source but a recent study found that the presence of some wellness influencers on social media could actually be detrimental to the average person’s health.
Wellness influencers are not medical professionals
A study carried out by researchers at the University of Glasgow found that only one out of nine so-called wellness influencers gave accurate unbiased information about health and nutrition to their audience. All of them promoted their opinions as fact, a serious faux pas in the health world and not one influencer adhered to the recommendations set by Public Health England.
More than not these influencers are not educated on the science behind the diets or lifestyles they’re promoting. Diets don’t universally suit everyone and this lack of medical understanding only encourages unhealthy relationships with food. These influencers abuse the trust of the most vulnerable, impressionable and those suffering from eating disorders within their audience.
The destructive power of social media
Social media is used to illustrate the perfect lifestyle. It’s a snapshot of “the day in the life of” which is often fabricated. Wellness influencers use this to their advantage, showing skinny bikini-clad bodies and tiny colourful portions of what they supposedly had for dinner. They often claim to have found an unsubstantiated holy grail of health meets nutrition and list the many health problems that were magically fixed because of it. Although some of them may not be suggesting you follow their diet to the book, these usually very attractive wellness influencers are pushing a false dream.
The images we see of their perfect lifestyle is only a glimpse. Whether or not they actually adhere to what they’re advertising is another matter. You only have to remember the scandal surrounding the popular vegan YouTuber, Rawvana, who was caught eating fish to question their authenticity. Unfortunately, there are no restrictions in place to hold these wellness influencers accountable which is what makes their misinformed dieting fads so dangerous.
Diet fads are not new
Influencers and social media may only be fairly new concepts but dieting isn’t. Perhaps unwittingly, these wellness influencers are caught up in and benefit from the archaic and unrealistic expectations that govern women’s bodies. Diet culture has existed long before social media and it has always sought to penalise women for not looking a certain way, not being skinny enough or not caring enough about their appearance.
Women are bombarded with the idea of the seemingly perfect body that’s attainable simply with a few “easy peasy” alterations to their diet and lifestyle. Such false advertising of unfair beauty standards is dangerously misleading. The promotion of unsubstantiated diets, appetite suppressant lollipops, detox teas and “cheat” pills do nothing but damage our bodies and cause serious mental health problems when they don’t produce the desired effect. They bring about a culture of shame surrounding food and a fear that unless we conform, we will never be attractive enough.
The bottom line
Be sceptical of wellness influencers and their extreme dieting agendas because the bottom line is that you can’t be sure what their real life is like. They may appear to be a picture of perfection but their lack of nutritional knowledge puts themselves and their audience at risk. Anyone and their mum can post about anything they like about dieting and health on social media but unless they have qualifications and facts that can be backed up by proven credible sources you just can’t trust them.
Many wellness influencers would argue that they just want you to “eat more healthily” and I’m not against maintaining a healthy lifestyle or choosing to stick to a diet based on your beliefs. If you decide that you do want to change your diet to lose weight or benefit your health don’t follow the advice of wellness influencers. See your doctor or a qualified nutritionist instead. Dieting is more nuanced than what is seen on social media. So many details about your body and your own nutritional requirements are unaccounted for and if ignored can make you very ill.
Alternatively, if you have a balanced and healthy diet and an active lifestyle there’s no need to change it. Wellness influencers only make us feel bad about ourselves for not adopting their “perfect” lifestyle so be kind to yourself instead. Follow social media accounts that celebrate and encourage body positivity like @i_weigh set up by Jamila Jamil on Instagram. You’re so much more than your body no matter what wellness influencers would like you to believe.