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Instagram and its impact on body image, according to a postpartum mother, personal trainer, KOL, plus-sized woman, and teenager

Instagram and its impact on body image, according to a postpartum mother, personal trainer, KOL, plus-sized woman, and teenager

Me against the Gram

Text: Janice Sim


Instagram – the feed where dreams come true. Where you endlessly scroll through a bevy of perfect images of your friends and affable strangers (i.e. influencers living their best lives) — but to what extent? We've debated on the pros and cons of the multimillion dollar social app that has everyone on a tight leash from date nights, office hours, to even wee hours under the covers, but let's take a moment to reflect on what the daily influences we're exposed to has had on our personal views of body image. Have we been evaluating ourselves relative to Kayla Itsines or even a Kardashian sister instead?

To shed light on various perspectives, we spoke to five individuals in varying careers and stages of their lives — to uncover life lessons from Instagram and what major influences they picked up when it came to evaluating their bodies.

Victoria Cheng, Presenter and food blogger (@victoriacheng)

 

Do you think your social media feed affects how you see yourself?
I think we all know that social media can have a negative effect on how we see ourselves, with aspirational and often unrealistic photos being posted (heavily doctored photos or pictures that took the effort of professional photography, makeup, and sponsored goods). Side note to the folks who are hating on social media exclusively: The same can be said of traditional media ads — the original king of photo manipulation and extensive setup for the perfect shot.

Now, the good thing about social media and self-perception, is that you also see more of the real stuff. I see people posting things that aren't glamorous or heavily touched up. They're just snippets of their lives, and sometimes I learn something new or at the very least, I know I'm not alone in feeling certain ways. It's amazing that we can see people across the world who are on the same journey as you are.

Fitness progress on Instagram: Good or bad?
I don't see how it's a bad thing. I always feel happy for even strangers who post up their progress photos. Even more so, the ones who get real and post about the plateau stages, or tell us that it isn't always easy to stick to it. That feels relatable and I'm sure they're inspirational to folks who are hoping to achieve the same. I think it's important to remind people though, that certain low body-fat percentages aren't natural, and keeping a visible 6-pack ab everyday of your life is very tough. It's okay if it's gone some months or ever! Don't beat yourself up over it. Abs are not the mark of your fitness nor attractiveness level, it's the mark of your discipline in the kitchen.

What has instagram taught you about body image?
If it's taught me anything, it has shown me how many people care about what they look like on some level, and how they cope with feeling okay about themselves. Whether they are accounts that post sexy pictures they probably wouldn't want their parents to see, or accounts that talk about their real approach to body image, everyone seems to be working through it somehow. In this, it has also shown me how it looks from the outside: Do I want to be the former or latter?

If there's something you could change on how people use Instagram, what would it be?
To not use Instagram as a way of measurement of others. Don't judge someone's worth based on their follower count. And I know this is a bit harder, given the structure of instagram but try to resist judging in general. I've seen too many people scroll through Instagram criticising every inch of how someone looks or what they're doing. Instagram can be an amazing tool to share and learn things from one another, try using it that way instead of mindless consumption.

Matt Benfell, Personal trainer at Core Collective (@mattbenfell)

 

Do you think that your social media feed affects how you see yourself?
Not for me. Working in the industry, I can see what is going on so it doesn't really impact me. I understand how many achieve certain physiques and also the years of dedication people put in to changing their bodies.

Have you ever tried to keep to a certain diet or training regime based on something you've seen on social media?
I have certain periods of the year where I have goals, whether it be muscle gain or fat loss and I apply nutrition and training to achieve that. Not because of social media though. That said I have found many incredible people on social media that I have gone on to consult with who have helped hugely in my education, which in turn helps my clients.

What has instagram taught you about body image?
Have a skeptical eye and do not compare yourself to others. For some, fitness is their job, some have trained their whole lives, or either that, there's a hefty amount of photo editing, drug use and women even forgoing their periods to get lean. Compare yourself to yourself, while remembering that everyone is on their own journey with different genetics, you name it.

Fitness progress on Instagram: Good or bad?
I'm all for progress on Instagram, I love seeing people get amazing results, whatever they may be. It also drives me as a coach to help more people. On the other side of the coin, it can lead to people developing issues with their image, especially if people follow accounts that are 'toxic', that set unrealistic standards or preach unattainable things for their audience.

If there's something you could change on how people use Instagram, what would it be?
I must admit I do like this new trial of removing likes from Instagram. I think this whole desire to gain likes has become unhealthy. I know people who will post and then remove it due to lack of engagement, which is kind of sad. Remove these metrics so that people don't get so wrapped up in engagement and appreciate the content they are sharing instead.

Crystal Lim, Mother in postpartum (@crysllera)

Crystal Lim Instagram

Do you think your social media feed affects how you see yourself?
Yes, as a newly minted mom, I do compare myself with various influencer moms. Issues like the time taken to lose the postpartum weight gain, the products they used, breastfeeding ideology. Certain moms on social media spur me to lose the post-baby weight as soon as possible — great motivation at the end of the day.

What has Instagram taught you about body image?
Instagram taught me that the content from it is purely a curated feed. Perfect bodies like Kayla Itsines either motivate you or you should take that perfect body/lifestyle of hers with a pinch of salt.

Have you ever tried to keep to a certain diet or training regime based on something you've seen on social media?
Yes, diets like intermittent fasting and classes like spin!

Fitness progress on Instagram: Good or bad?
Good, it gives you motivation to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

If there's something you could change on how people use Instagram, what would it be?
I wish people could humble brag lesser on social media. As a new mom, there is pressure to be the best you can be and when other mothers brag about their milk supply or quick weight loss post partum, it discourages mothers struggling with both issues. This increases the statistics for post partum depression. I have been quite lucky in this sense as I didn't put on much weight and shed them immediately upon delivery of my child. But I feel for many mothers who are struggling with it because motherhood is a great challenge itself, feeding and keeping a child alive and yet they are plagued with the societal pressure of losing weight fast or risk being ruled out as one who couldn't lose the extra pounds by others.

Gloria Kwek, Tertiary student

Do you think your social media feed affects how you see yourself?
Yes, to a certain extent. I tend to follow a lot of celebrities and I always see their luxurious lifestyles — that makes me yearn for the same things. But I also learnt that no matter how hard I try to be like them, everyone is special in their own way.

What has Instagram taught you about body image?
Instagram has influenced people to fit into society's standards whether it be pictures of celebrities or supermodels flaunting their perfect figures. Especially when they are people that we look up to. It can have both positive and negative effects, but I think as long as we don't let Instagram change the way we feel about ourselves, that's okay. But if it's making you lose who you are as person, then it might be time to seek help.

If there's something you could change on how people use Instagram, what would it be?
Perhaps refraining people from posting bad things like smoking, violence, and bad behaviour.

Simran Panaech, Plus-size columnist at Buro. Singapore (@simranpanaech)

Do you think your social media feed affects how you see yourself?
Yes, it makes me love myself more. Seeing more images of girls who are my size or bigger dressed up, looking fly and sexy makes me feel that I'm hot too. It normalises seeing big girls in bikinis and other clothes that seemed to be only allocated to smaller girls. Seeing a range of bodies that I can relate to and identify with helps me in accepting my own flaws and all.

Have you ever tried to keep to a certain diet or training regime based on something you've seen on social media?
Yes. I follow a personal trainer in Dubai at @salbroutine. I adore her! She did a 10-day ab challenge once and I followed it and posted about it.

What has Instagram taught you about body image?
That you should love who you are, the way you are.

Fitness progress on Instagram: Good or bad?
Great! I get inconsistent with my own postings but being truthful and honest about your fitness progress inspires and motivates others. It does for me. Continually seeing already buffed up bodies, while motivating and inspiring, isn't relatable to me. But if I can share my own progress and failures and seeing others do the same no matter what body type, that helps to push me to be better and do more.

If there's something you could change on how people use Instagram, what would it be?
The inauthenticity and the obsession over likes and followers. Instagram first started out as a platform to showcase something that was instantly captured, in the moment, as a raw footage. The overly edits, deliberate poses and backdrops take away its authenticity. Instastories fulfills this gap but the need to be perfect is still there. It is unrealistic and unattainable. Just be you, do you and be authentic and honest about it.

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