“Up-to-date” — it doesn’t just describe the latest trend these days; it has become an integral part of our lives. We know exactly who has done what, when, and where, including updates on how long they have exercised, how many calories they burned, and what they have been eating. I stare at my screen and feel incredibly guilty whenever such an update comes by.
One of the most popular things to update about is food. I’m always up for new recipes, but I’m referring to the kind where people post a picture of their meal (usually not even that tasty-looking), accompanied by some comments or tags, stating how good, clean, healthy, skinny their food is. This is usually when I’m having a meal myself, like a grilled cheese sandwich. Grilled cheese has been one of my enemies for years because of the cheese, not to mention that I have to grill it in a skillet using some butter — another foe. It shouldn’t be a big deal to me any more to cook and eat a grilled cheese sandwich, and it usually isn’t… until I see that everyone else has had a super healthy, low fat, low calorie salad or some oatmeal. That’s when I find myself chewing on my crispy, airy sandwich with melted, gooey cheese, and not enjoying it at all because I feel so guilty for eating something this fattening, this unhealthy, this bad.
Mile after mile
Then there are all the workout apps that let you post your latest results on Twitter or Facebook. People are proud because they burned 500 calories or because they just ran 10 miles. My own sense of contentment is ruined the instant I see this. The 30 minute ab and butt workout followed by the 15 minutes of Shawn Johnson’s stretching routine I finished seem nothing compared to the miles others run, the calories they burn, and they weight they lose. I’m almost a failure for not being able to keep up with what seems to have become the norm.
The last category of pretty popular updates is the most confronting to me: weight loss. I mean, have you ever seen an update about someone having gained weight and being happy about that? Neither have I. I’m happy to see people actually talk about the number, but rarely do they include how much they actually weigh — this is still highly private — just how much they lost. “I have lost nothing. Nothing at all,” (actually, I gained some) is the first thought coming to mind when such an update appears again. My self-esteem goes down and my insecurity grows — quite the opposite of what I’m trying to achieve.
I’m not blaming anyone for my responses: they’re my problem, yet recent research has shown that social media contributes to body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. Apparently I’m not the only one who finds herself affected by these updates. My feelings about this up-to-date phenomenon are mixed. I’m absolutely thrilled to see people becoming more aware of what they eat and trying to live a healthy lifestyle; I encourage that. The same goes for getting plenty of exercise. It’s not for no reason that obesity is a major worldwide problem. At the same time though, it feels like you have to jog, go to the gym, or do workouts every single day. And having fries just this once is absolutely out of the question because then you’re not eating clean any more. Suddenly, it seems that ‘status’ in status updates is about what you eat, burn, and run.
Conform to the norm
When I see these updates, I also start to wonder: can these people still enjoy their food at all times? Do they exercise because they take pleasure in it? To me, it almost seems to lean towards the obsessive side of what is healthy, which makes me sad because I’ve been there and know what it is like. It makes me even sadder to know that I’m trying to find a balance between exercise, healthy eating, and letting go of those obsessive ideas, and I feel I’m doing quite a good job… but then I catch myself being affected by these updates from other people, and almost feeling depressed over them. Apparently, I don’t conform to the norm that is portrayed by social media.
I don’t want to be
But then again, maybe I don’t want to be conforming to the norm. Rather, there should be a new norm: one of enjoying food because it is good, and enjoying exercise because it makes you feel good, instead of enjoying the numbers attached to these things.