You wake up, make breakfast and sit down at the table, smartphone in hand and you start scrolling through your Instagram feed, checking out all the pretty nature snapshots and drool-worthy food pics. You start clicking on the usernames of people liking the photos of those you follow–why not find some new people to follow? But not everything you find is so great. There are a lot of headless ab shots with comments like “I wish I had your body girly!”, and Quest bars galore and hashtags like #carbsafterdark and #iifym. Suddenly, you’re rethinking the bowl of oats you made for breakfast and wondering if you should start pouring Walden Farms chocolate syrup on everything you eat.

Hint: anything that claims to have 0 calories (except water) isn't real.

Hint: anything that claims to have 0 calories (except water) isn’t real.

This is a situation I’ve personally encountered several times on Instagram, and sadly, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be ending any time soon. Instagram has become a new place for disordered habits to flourish, all under the guise of being ‘healthy’ and ‘fit’ and ‘intuitive’. Many of the girls (and guys, too) who post these questionable pics are often recovering from an eating disorder, or are trying to hide disordered eating. Some of them may have lost a substantial amount of weight by eating healthy, but may have taken it too far and are now too small for their body type and are clinging to certain foods in fear of any weight gain. Some are trying hard to recover from anorexia, but are becoming orthorexic instead, or trying out ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ and still trying to maintain control over the food they eat. Many of them are probably way more insecure than they come across in their smiling pictures, and maybe scared too.

Other than some of the pictures themselves, one aspect of Instagram that bothers me is certain hashtags. One I’ve come across lately is #carbsafterdark. I suppose it’s meant to show people that said user isn’t afraid of carbs, but all it really shows is that they actually are and often don’t know what carbs are. For instance, I saw this hashtag on a photo of Arctic Zero, the popular low-calorie ice cream substitute. I read the nutrition facts of Arctic Zero, and it has exactly 7 grams of carbs per serving, 2 grams of which is fiber. Ummmm, not so high in carbs! When I think of carbs, I think of oats, cereal, bananas, dates–all healthy, just more carbs than a fake ice cream. Just to be clear, I think it’s GREAT to eat carbs after dark, just don’t claim to be doing so unless you’re actually eating a decent source of carbs. I eat #carbsafterdark pretty much every night, in the form of banana softserve, but I don’t go around bragging about it because I don’t fear carbs anymore (at least most of them) and I think that’s why a lot of people use this hashtag, because they do still fear carbs.

OMG I ate #carbsafterdark. I'm such a rebel...

OMG I ate #carbsafterdark. I’m such a rebel…

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but another thing that bugs me is when people claim to be eating ‘clean’ but post Quest bars, low carb tortillas (again with the carb fear!), Walden Farms and other fake shit. Listen, I’m not trying to be holier than thou, but clean eating to me means eating real foods. I’m not saying you can’t eat these things if you truly like them, but don’t call them clean. Some of these things are the furthest thing from actual food and you’d be way better off eating the real thing (like real maple syrup instead of sugar-free no-calorie pancake syrup). It all comes down to a fear of calories, fat and carbs that a lot of fitness IGers have. I know it’s hard to believe, but real sugar (in moderation, of course) won’t kill you. Especially more natural forms, like honey, dates, fruit, etc. You can eat those things and not gain a ton of weight! It’s all about balance.

The issue I have with all this is that a lot of young women, myself included, are really sensitive to these images. Even if there are good intentions behind the photo, that can get lost and make girls feel bad about themselves. For example, whenever I see super-ripped, 6 pack abs on Instagram (often on very young, thin girls still in high school), I wonder what I’m doing wrong because I don’t have defined abs. I still don’t have the most accurate body image, but I would consider myself pretty petite, and when women with abs are asked how they got their abs, they usually say “Abs are made in the kitchen” or “You have to eat clean!” I would also say that I eat fairly clean, maybe not as much protein as omnivores, but I eat very healthily so it bugs me that I’m not seeing the ab definition I crave. But here’s the catch: not everyone gets abs at the same weight as someone else. Some women can have ripped abs without much effort, while others struggle to get that definition, even at a low weight and body fat percentage. Everyone is different. So it’s dangerous to promote the message that if you get lean enough, or eat clean enough, you’ll magically look like the IG users you idolize. It just might not happen, and it might make you crazy unhealthy. It’s good to encourage healthy eating and fitness habits, but one thing doesn’t work for everyone, and one person’s body ideal may be unattainable to someone else.

My abs aren't perfect and I still wear bikinis.

My abs aren’t perfect and I still wear bikinis.

I want to point out that I’m not calling out anyone in particular. For the most part, the accounts I follow on Instagram are positive, promote a healthy body image and post delicious-looking and non-disordered food. As with everything though, we have to be aware that the content we post may be taken the wrong way by someone else. I know I may be a little too sensitive, and having struggled with an eating disorder, disordered eating and poor body image may have clouded my views on certain subjects, but it’s hard for me not to take these things personally when I still struggle with accepting the person I see in the mirror every day, and when I still deal with disordered eating. I think we all have to take responsibility for our own content, and also what we choose to view. Not everyone is going to be as responsible with what they post, but I think taking everything with a grain of salt and training ourselves to be less sensitive is the best step to take.

Do you ever see disordered content on Instagram? 

18 thoughts on “#hashtagdisordered

  1. So many things I agree with in this post. I especially get annoyed with all the repetitive quest bar pics or the pictures of the same Oatless oatmeal bowls. Ugh! Clean eating does not mean subsisting on processed diet food only. It includes healthy whole foods too!! I won’t say too much more as I plan ok posting on a similar topic this Thursday…but great post girl. Spot on.

  2. Great post, Ashley! I don’t actually have an Instagram (maybe that’s a good thing), but I totally agree with the points you made here. I think there are many different places (ads, magazines, internet, etc) where super healthy eating and fitness are taken to unhealthy extremes, and those images can be quite damaging. But as you mentioned, it’s so important to remember that everyone is different. I’m glad you are respecting YOUR body and doing what is best for you. You go, girl!!!

    P.S. I’ve seen those 0 calorie Walden Farms things, and can I just say they freak me out? REAL food has calories, and I’d much rather eat the real thing, calories and all.

    • I think Instagram can be a negative place sometimes, so it’s definitely great to be careful even if you do have one. But it’s sad how these images are popular everywhere and it makes me really worried for girls who may be headed down the slippery slope into disordered eating.

      And I feel ya on the 0 calorie food. Not real in any way–I like my food to be real, and if that means calories, that’s fine with me!

  3. Aja says:

    Great post! I’ve never understood the carb fear. I never got to that point. At least not consciously. I think that at a certain point I just feared all food, whether they were carbs or not, but recently I’ve studied up on nutrition and found that carbs should make up the majority of our diet, followed by proteins and then fats. We need carbs to live, and it also doesn’t matter what time of day you consume them, just as long as they come from a good source and you aren’t over-eating carbs.

    • I think at one point I started to fear carbs, but mostly just sugar. Like you said, though, carbs are meant to be the majority of what we eat and they aren’t necessarily ‘bad’. There’s healthier carb sources but it’s so dangerous to just demonize an entire macronutrient.

  4. Awesome post, Ashley. I talked about this on my blog a few months back too and I think it’s really important that people realize how much of an obsession this is becoming. It’s not healthy! Anorexia turns into orthexia which turns into an obsession with macros and exercise…either way, these people are still letting food/exercise control their lives. Even more than that, they’re letting it dictate their worth. It’s a giant game of comparison and it’s heart-breaking to watch.
    I wish people would realize how much fun it is to just LIVE without the fear of gaining weight, losing muscle, eating un-“clean”, etc.

    • I agree with you completely. It’s so sad to see girls comparing themselves to the images they see on Instagram and elsewhere, especially because you never see the whole story behind each picture. It just becomes a vicious cycle, and you don’t realize how damaging it is until you finally escape and realize that life is way better without those obsessions.

    • Amelia says:

      Great comment Emily- agree entirely! You and Ashley have a great outlook on this subject- I hope lots of peoplw start listening to it 🙂

  5. This post is absolutely amazing. I’m glad I’m not the only one out there somewhat disgusted by this. Everything you said is totally true. Instagram sometimes depresses me because of the exact images and hashtags you described. I appreciate you making an open stand on this 🙂

    • Thanks for your input on this! It’s nice to know other people out there have felt the same way about Instagram–it’s definitely fun to use, but it can be tricky to filter out the bad from the good.

  6. i have written about something similar to this when i blogged about instagram posts needing to be taken with a grain of salt – they don’t tell the whole story. this stuff you mention hear bothers me too though and i totally agree with it. #carbsafterdark, don’t even get me started. i already have inner voices telling me i’m being bad for eating a banana right before bed. i don’t need anyone on insta pointing it out to me. i honestly stay off instagram a lot in the evening while i am eating my nighttime snack because it’s very likely that i will run into something triggering on there that will make me feel guilty for eating the snack. i also can’t stand the whole #eatclean hashtag on these fake products. i don’t really consider protein pancakes or whatever eating clean because to me protein powder is not food. i mean i guess it’s eating clean but..what are you even eating?

    • I usually look at Instagram a LOT when I’m eating meals…maybe that’s why some of these things bother me as much as they do? I think it’s a good idea to avoid it altogether if you’re already feeling insecure about food or your body, though.

  7. Amelia says:

    This is awesome Ashely good on you for posting it. I dont have instagram- and the more I hear about it the better I think that is! Seems like you are in a great place Hun- lots of hugs and love. You are stunning inside and out 🙂

    • Thanks, girl! I think Instagram can be a great tool–it’s so fun to connect with people through it and check out amazing photos–but it can be damaging at the same time.


    This —-> “One I’ve come across lately is #carbsafterdark. I suppose it’s meant to show people that said user isn’t afraid of carbs, but all it really shows is that they actually are and often don’t know what carbs are.”


    Ditto yolkporn. Ditto IIFYM. Oh, heck I could go on and on.

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