EARLY YEARS: Parent group warning of new “summer body” diet trend promoted on social media

ParentsTogether says teenage girls are falling victim to extreme diets being promoted on TikTok and Instagram
Shelby Knox of ParentsTogether says some of the diet trends include extreme calorie counting, excessive exercise and unhealthy weight challenges
Published: Jun. 14, 2023 at 6:07 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Swimsuit season is here, along with ever-present pressure on teenage girls.

For those looking for ways to lose weight, social media can be a dangerous source.

You can listen to this conversation here on the Early Years Podcast:

“With the rising of social media platforms, and how many young people are using them, they are starting to search for diets, lose-weight schemes, extreme exercise, how to cut calories,” says Shelby Knox, campaign director of ParentsTogether.

And often, these tips aren’t just unhealthy. They’re downright dangerous.

“There are accounts that promote extreme calorie restriction, how to eat 500 calories or extreme exercise. There are also some really dangerous challenges like how to fit into a child’s swing set or how to look like the corpse bride,” says Knox.

Some content also teaches kids how to hide these dieting tactics from their parents.

“I had a young woman tell me the other day that she’d learned from TikTok to put stones in her sweatshirt when her mom weighed her, when she was concerned about her weight,” says Knox.

Even more disturbing, it’s not just adolescents seeing these articles pop up on their feeds.

“What’s so scary is that on Instagram alone for instance, there are 90,000 unique pro-eating disorder accounts, and they found that children as young as nine or 10 follow three or more of these accounts that are showing them these really dangerous content,” says Knox.

Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has stated it doesn’t allow content promoting eating disorders. And TikTok has said it’ll avoid showing users too much of the same content.

Still, teens are finding it. That’s why Knox says checking your children’s social media feeds is crucial, and ask how it makes them feel.

“Just to talk about what they’re seeing on there. Does this look healthy? Does this make you uncomfortable?”

For more information on eating disorders, check out the National Eating Disorders Association here.

To hear our full “Early Years’ podcast, click this link.