October 21, 2019

Instagram and Facebook will remove “miraculous” weight loss content from their platform but critics wonder if that is enough to fight misleading practices in the health and wellness industry.

Instagram will start to block or remove content that promotes weight-loss products or miraculous cosmetic procedures that have a coupon code or a price on it to anyone under 18 years old, as of Sept. 24.

“We want Instagram to be a positive place for everyone that uses it,” Instagram’s public policy manager Emma Collins said in a statement. “This policy is part of our ongoing work to reduce the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of social media.”

Conestoga marketing student Rabia Sharif said this change could be a good thing since “body-shaming is really common nowadays.” She uses Instagram every 15 minutes, which causes her a lot of stress.

According to a global survey done by the market research firm GfK, Canada is one of the countries with the highest rates of body dissatisfaction among teens.

On the other side of the story, themedia director of the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, Holly Infinity, thinks Instagram’s policy change could threaten “the availability of information in a society.”

Suzanne Dietrich, a registered dietitian based in the Waterloo Region,  doesn’t think this is the only solution to this problem since “people will still get marketed in other ways.”

“The weight loss industry has a $60 billion profit margin, and they are set up for people to fail and keep coming back,” said Dietrich. “Their products and their marketing play on people’s insecurities … People start to see those influencers on Instagram, and they start to feel that they need to change their bodies for them to be acceptable.”

According to a study done on body dissatisfaction in Canada in 2017, women who use the internet for more than 20 hours per week are much more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies.

The dietitian believes society needs to change its vision about what health means, which is a combination of many factors such as mental health, active living, and how people feel about themselves.

“We need to start changing the conversations that we are having at home, in our schools, in our workplaces about one’s feelings around their bodies,” she said. “I encourage people to change their vision of health and not include one that is based on weight, because weight is not an indicator of health.”

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