I grew up in a time where social media didn’t exist and the use of cellphones was limited. Instead of endlessly browsing health tips and recipes on Pinterest, my vice was buying magazines – especially wellness and fashion magazines.
Print media often got (and still get) a bad rap for the way social standards are portrayed, especially when it comes to weight and wellness. My idea of a healthy weight was determined by the models who graced the front covers. As a young teen at the turn of the century, anything skinny and grungy was considered beautiful, and I wanted to follow suit.
In lieu of at-home YouTube workout videos, I had a collection of Tae Bo DVDs, torn out workout pages from magazines (does anyone remember those?), a CD-wallet with mixed CDs labelled “workout tunes” and an old stationary bike I inherited from my mom. Even though I despised school sport, I wanted to stay in shape. Exercise and wellness was my escape, my control, my relaxation.
Body image on a screen
Imagine that mindset in the current age where we’re inundated with wellness and health influences (bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers), all spewing conflicting (and sometimes unattainable or false) information to someone young and impressionable.
Suddenly I am glad my visual inspiration was limited to the two or three glossy magazines my monthly allowance could provide.
As I move to a more balanced concept of what a “healthy” lifestyle entails, I find myself unfollowing more and more accounts as I go along. I now refuse to believe that I am less healthy simply because I don’t have activated almonds, bunches of kale and scoops of powdered collagen in my morning smoothies.
I am now an adult with a firm grasp of who I am and what is good for me. This took some time for me to achieve. Yet I sometimes still have nagging doubts and wonder if the fish and non-organic vegetables I lovingly prepare at home are “clean” and healthy enough, or if my HIIT workout was gruelling enough.
Too much of a good thing?
I do, however, worry about the teenage girl scrolling through her Instagram, believing she is too fat or that the meals she is served at home are bad for her simply because they’re not from some fancy vegan café or online organic store.
Or what about the teenage boy who admires his body-building heroes but simply can’t afford expensive supplements or access to an exclusive gym?
While the health and wellness industry has exploded exponentially over the past decade in terms of superfood, fitness and calorie-tracking apps, and more accessible information via different social media platforms, one can’t help but wonder if this isn’t too much of a good thing. Are we being guilted by an overdose of kale smoothies and burpees?
I’m not the only one who’s concerned. Research has suggested that the mere act of scrolling through a fitspiration (a term coined to describe content aimed at inspiring others to be fit) post can trigger unhealthy eating and exercise behaviour.
In a study, 130 female undergraduate students were exposed to either fitspiration or neutral travel images. The scientists found that, unlike the more neutral images, the fitspiration pictures had a negative impact on the students’ overall mood, body-image and self-esteem.
Pro-ana and other ugly triggers
I asked Dewald Louw, a counselling psychologist at Montrose Manor, an eating disorder treatment facility in Cape Town, how they deal with patients undergoing eating disorder recovery in terms of exposure to social media. As a part of their recovery process, a social media block-out is recommended in order to avoid negative triggers.
This includes the negative effects of the numerous pro-ana (anything that promotes or encourages anorexia) websites – where people with eating disorders give each other tips and advice on how to starve themselves, with pictures of extremely thin women serving as inspiration. (I was 19 when I stumbled across these, well before the arrival of Instagram.)
These websites are sometimes shut down and banned, but the type of imagery has found a loophole via Instagram. Unfortunately the lines are blurred, because while one hashtag (#proana) may be banned, others (#thinspiration, #fitspiration, etc.) slip through.
It has, however, been argued that an online community may provide valuable support for those recovering from eating disorders.
The presence of what is attractive and what not can indeed be problematic in an era of influencers and social media. We are led to believe that only expensive superfoods are healthy and only thigh gaps and collarbones are deemed attractive. Fortunately, however, there is a lot more body positivity and balanced eating material appearing on the internet these days.
My only tip? I unfollowed accounts that I couldn’t relate to and that failed to influence me in a positive way. I only kept influencers who have a realistic approach to health, who make recipes from ingredients I can afford and obtain, and who post workouts that I can do in the gym or on my bedroom floor in 30 minutes. Social media doesn’t have to dictate how I should eat and exercise, but it can surely have a positive effect if utilised correctly. Calorie-tracking apps have their place, as long as they’re used sensibly.
Protect your teenagers
How can you ensure that your teenager retains a healthy body image in a sea of influencers? Eating Disorder Hope has some tips:
Encourage your teenager to block or unfollow anyone that partakes in bullying and body-shaming. Tell them not to tolerate it if this is what they’re experiencing.
Make them aware of the fact that social media can often be unrealistic and that many influencers make use of filters and enhancers to produce an image that can sell a product or be visually enticing. Tell your teenager that they shouldn’t compare themselves to “perfect” Instagram images.
Enable mindful, balanced eating at home. Make eating about fuelling your body and enjoyment. Don’t ever use food to punish or reward. Encourage them to eat enough nutritious fruit and vegetables, but allow them to incorporate their own dietary choices.
Encourage them to limit their screen-time and engage in other activities.
Encourage the following of body-positive accounts they can relate to.
Don’t ignore warning signs that may signal an eating disorder, whether it’s limiting food or eating too much (binge eating).
Be available to listen to your teenager if they complain about their body while being supportive and uplifting.
*Disclaimer. The purpose of this article is not to bash a vegan diet, an organic lifestyle, or any wellness products, but to point out how social media can warp our understanding of what is truly healthy. Each individual has their own approach to what constitutes a balanced lifestyle.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to seek help. Visit Eating Disorders South Africa (EDSA) for information about treatment facilities, information and support groups.
People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.
between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
heightened and clashes broke out.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of clashes.
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.
Everyone has the right to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely in Canada – but we cannot and will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind. We strongly condemn the despicable rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend.
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.
‘Protesting is a right’
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.
Montreal is a city of peace.
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.
“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”
When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…
NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…
Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…
Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.
Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.
While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.
“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.
However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.
Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.
No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.
“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.
Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.
“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”
In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.
Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”
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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.
Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.
Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.
“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”
She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”
Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.
Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.
Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”
“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.
The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”
The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.
In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.