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Experts say sharing weight-loss resolutions online can be harmful to those with eating disorders

It's one of the most common New Year resolutions: to start a diet, hit the gym and lose weight. But for those with an eating disorder, seeing those types of post on social media can be harmful. Elizabeth McSheffrey reports.

If your New Year resolution involves dieting and weight loss, you may want to think twice about sharing it on social media.

As 2019 kicks off, experts are warning about the negative impact that online posts about cleanses, detoxes and excessive exercising can have on those suffering from eating disorders.

Contributions that glorify punishment to the body for holiday indulgences or strict dietary regimes, for example, contribute to a culture of food and body deprivation that can be harmful to those who are trying to eat more, according to Eating Disorders Nova Scotia.

“This whole diet culture, body shaming culture, it can be really challenging for folks who are at risk for, or who are trying to recover from an eating disorder,” said Eating Disorders N.S. executive director Shaleen Jones.

“Because a lot of the emotional work involved in a recovery is looking at your body as an instrument as opposed to an ornament, and trying to maintain a healthy weight without focusing on weight loss, and calories and obsessive exercising.”

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READ MORE: Making New Year’s resolutions? Chances are, you’re doing them wrong

According to Statistics Canada, about 1 million Canadians and 9,000 Nova Scotians under the 15 suffer from an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Jennifer Grant Moore, a dietitian at the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s Eating Disorders Clinic, said the bulk of her patients say they’re impacted by what other people share online.

“Often patients will come and speak to us of how people or groups are triggering to follow and the information that they’re putting out is not the most helpful,” she explained.

“So they’ve needed to set boundaries with personal relations, unfollow friends or unfollow pages because the information may not be helpful to their treatment, and people might be reaching out or posting their own success stories which may not be helpful.”

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Moore added that those with eating disorders struggle year-round with their condition, and can obtain accurate diet and health information through a registered dietitian at the Nova Scotia Health Authority, rather than online or through social media.

For those pursuing health-related goals in 2019, Jones also recommended re-framing posts on social media to celebrate the body’s abilities and accomplishments, as opposed to emphasize a toughness on the body and mind at the gym and kitchen table.

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“Imagine if instead of putting on social media all of our before and after pictures, and all of our resolutions to be tough with ourselves this year, we use our social media platforms to spread messages around self compassion, around learning more about ourselves and making our world a better place,” she said.

Eating Disorders Nova Scotia is hosting a peer support group for those in need of assistance with eating disorders on Jan. 19 at the Nova Scotia Community College IT campus, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

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