America is obsessed with food.
Nowhere is this more evident than on our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram feeds, which are littered with food pictures, recipes, and video screens that play a short film featuring how-to instructions for elaborate dishes such as Apple Bourbon Glazed Bacon Pie.
One woman shared a picture of barbecue ribs, French fries, corn on the cob, and big cornbread muffins and wrote, “I never eat this.”
When Instagram tallied up the numbers on the most popular hashtags, pizza had 19,701,393 posts; sushi had been depicted 13,481,221 times — and chicken boasted 11,900,395 posts. Bacon held the No. 6 position on the list.
The posts not only reflect the nation’s obsession with unhealthy food — they may also be programming people to eat more.
“It’s such an easy and cheap outlet,” said Dr. Amanda Mulfinger, a clinical psychologist with Cabot Psychological Services in Edina, Minnesota. She added, “It’s a quick way for the food industry to flood us with images that make us want to eat.”
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Many people never question the possible source of the posts they read, share, and promote. They should.
“It is very easy for a processed food manufacturer to pose as a foodie,” said nutritionist and lifestyle trainer Sue Rose of Park Ridge, Illinois. “For example, some people bought the myth that soy is good for you. If they google ‘benefits of soy,’ they’ll see a lot of posts and not know that the company SoyJoy was making all those ‘beneficial’ posts. Consumers need to find out the source of their information.”
Another form of imposter posting is the righteous dieter friend who shares tempting meals with friends in the spirit of sabotage. One recent Facebook post from a woman from Madison, Wisconsin, reads: “I never eat crap like this, but I’m just posting for anyone else who might like it!” She shared a picture of barbecue ribs, French fries, corn on the cob, and big cornbread muffins.
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The woman claimed some temporary weight loss with a dubious diet, but gained back 35 pounds very quickly — and hasn’t talked about that in her posts.
Sales representatives for different diet plans are also constantly placing photos of low-cal meals with encouraging posts about commercial snacks, shakes, cleanses, and supplements. It’s big business, rather than a reflection of personal dietary habits — and America is an easy target, according to Ken Immer, CEO of Culinary Health Solutions in Charleston, South Carolina.
“It’s the only thing besides breathing that we need to do every day, so it’s fair to say it’s No. 1 on our minds,” Immer told LifeZette. “The more we can post about the pleasures of food that make the body work better and feel better, [the more] we have a chance at actually changing the entire broken food system.”
Food is among the least controversial topics to talk about or post about online — so maybe it’s worth having a little fun with it. But Dr. Kelly Morrow-Baez, a licensed professional counselor from Georgia, cautions people to take claims with a grain of salt. And for those looking to eat healthy, it’s kind of like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach — don’t shop or surf the web when hungry.
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“I’ve seen the most ridiculous posts of hamburgers with doughnuts as ‘buns’ that are battered, deep-fried, and served with French fries and a big soda,” Immer said. “That’s a pretty high-calorie meal.”
In response to posts featuring doughnut-burgers and stuffed bacon pie, Rose added, “I tend to look away. It makes me sad to see what people are doing to their bodies.”
Pat Barone, MCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating, who helps clients heal food addictions.