Whether you like it or not, we live in a time where social networks like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have a tremendous impact on our culture, celebrities with a large following like Kim Kardashian-West can have a significant influence on their followers.
Kardashian-West took to Instagram recently to advertise Flat Tummy Co’s “appetite suppressant lollipops,” which cause users to feel full. The ultimate goal of these lollipops are to promote weight loss by not eating for hours on end. Instagram “mistakenly” deleted three of Kardashian-West’s posts about this product but has since apologized and restored them. Despite Instagram’s “mistake,” the post received more than a million likes from mostly young, female users.
Social media influencers, most of whom have no business giving health advice because they are not doctors or dieticians, are gaining a profit from promoting the idea that being hungry and eating as a bad thing.
The post was met with outrage from fans and critics alike, including actress, model and radio personality, Jameela Jamil.
“You terrible and toxic influence on young girls…MAYBE don’t take appetite suppressors and eat enough to fuel your BRAIN and work hard and be successful…” Jamil said in a series of tweets.
One Instagram user commented, “Appetite is NOT something to suppress. Hunger is your body telling you it needs fuel. Hunger is ok. Hunger is natural. Hunger means your body is working as it should. Hunger is HEALTHY.”
In a study including social media users aged 16-40, The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt reported that 51 percent of those studied felt more conscious of their weight and overall body image after spending time on various social sites. As a social media user myself, I can absolutely understand how sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can affect users in a negative way.
Celebrities with a large following who promote these meal replacement products like “skinny teas” and “appetite suppressant lollipops” are using their platform to rake in money from advertisers regardless of the message they are sending to their audience. For a typical Instagram promotion, Kardashian-West makes an average of $250,000, as reported by Page Six. Kardashian-West has yet to make a statement or acknowledge the backlash she has received.
While Kardashian-West is not the only celebrity who advocates for these kinds of unhealthy diet products, she is undoubtedly one of the most influential. It does not take a dietician or a psychologist to understand that this toxic trend of celebrity health advice can have an extremely negative effect on users who may struggle with body image issues already.
Despite the rise of a body-positive modeling industry in the U.S., countless celebrities continue to jump on the bandwagon to give out their brightest ideas of how to be skinny. While most sane adults can recognize the fact that these diet techniques are not healthy, can we say the same for the young children who idolize these celebrities and may not know any better?
As a society that loses someone to an eating disorder every 62 minutes, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, we must do better than this.
We must do better than the social media influencers who receive constant praise and monetary rewards for their unrealistic representation of body image and health.
Samantha Moffett is a junior majoring in mass communications.