Food for thought: how new trends shape eating habits

A study from Aston University in Birmingham, England, found that participants ate an extra fifth of a portion of fruits and veggies for every portion they thought their social media peers ate. If they believed their friends got their “five a day,” they would likely eat an extra portion.

Our food choices are heavily influenced by our environment and social media feeds. Nothing new, right? Obviously we wouldn’t be eating aesthetic açaí bowls or baked oats for breakfast if we hadn’t seen them on Instagram or TikTok. But this isn’t the only way in which our food choices can be distorted.

I’m all about following health and wellness trends. From mindfulness and hot yoga to my gua sha routine for glowy skin, I’ve picked up loads of healthy rituals thanks to this new, self-care-oriented era. When it comes to food, however, my thoughts have become more negative in the past year or so. 

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of great inspo to start eating healthier – but if we’re not careful this new era can also set unrealistic standards when it comes to eating habits. I’m surrounded by people who count calories and gasp loudly when they see a McDonald’s delivery bag – pair that with the ultra-green and lean meals plastered all over my Instagram page and it’s only natural that I start judging my own food choices. 

Almost every eating disorder begins with negative thoughts about food, so I believe that by becoming aware of your internal narrative you can stop these thoughts from affecting your physical and mental health. Here’s what I’ve noticed. 

A side of guilt

We all know that guilt is not an ingredient – but I’ve caught myself adding it to some of my dishes anyway. 

When it happens: after indulging in not-so-healthy foods

What changed: suddenly my favourite pizza place didn’t look so appealing, and that glorious Black Tap burger didn’t call my name like it used to. The truth is I’d be drooling and craving them on the inside, but I’d deny it and ask my boyfriend to go somewhere healthier. 

How I’m avoiding it: by trying to enjoy everything in moderation without labeling foods as “good” or “bad”.

Uninvited healthy swaps

Nowadays, it seems like every dessert has a healthier replacement. It’s a great option if you’re craving something healthy, but swapping your favourite sweets for something you didn’t want in the first place will only make you crave the thing even more. 

When it happens: when I crave a certain dessert and feel the pressure to make it ‘healthier’.

What changed: I felt bad for indulging in a slice of red velvet cake or eating chocolatey cookies. After feeling like I needed to make my sweet cravings healthier, I just ended up with stronger cravings which often lead to overeating.

How I’m avoiding it: by eating exactly what I crave and then moving on with my day with no regrets.

The food games

Social media traps us into comparing ourselves to others – a big mistake when it comes to eating habits (and everything else, really). 

When it happens: when I see Instagram posts with picture-perfect breakfasts and all I had time for was half a doughnut.

What changed: I started judging my meals based on what other people were posting on social media and being hard on myself for not putting in more time and effort. 

How I’m avoiding it: by understanding that not every meal has to be perfect and I won’t always have time for a balanced meal. I’ve also started taking these IG posts as inspiration to make new recipes rather than as judgment for my own food choices. Win! 

Bottom line

While eating healthy foods is essential, I strongly believe that achieving a realistic balance can help avoid disorders and negative labels. It’s absolutely okay if your plate doesn’t look like the ones you see on social media or in the office fridge – it’s all about finding what works best for you and your lifestyle while trying to include as many nutrients as you can. 

As I continue to work on these negative feelings and focus on enjoying my meals, I hope that my recent food struggles inspire others to think about their o

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