Is Pinterest Bad For Your Health?

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As many of you may already know, Pinterest is the new “it” site in social media. And if Pinterest is new to you, you’ve still probably noticed the “pin it”  and “follow me on Pinterest” buttons (yes, there is one directly to the left).

People are calling its growth an “explosion” and there are a plethora of posts from the general tips for beginners on YouTube to how to use Pinterest for business and even ways to use Pinterest to attract employers. Bloggers are talking about it, as are folks on Twitter and Facebook’s newsfeed is filled with stories of who has pinned what to a recent board.

Pinterest As An Online Health and Fitness Vision Board?

The original title of this post (which has been in my queue since October 2011) was “How to Use Pinterest As a Health and Fitness Vision Board,” but it languished – in part because of timing and in part because I still wasn’t convinced of Pinterest’s real value in this regard.

At first glance, the platform, audience, and available imagery – motivational quotes, workouts, photos of beautiful physiques – seem to be a great fit. It’s as simple as collecting and categorizing visual elements that help you focus on your goals.

Pinterest As A Place For Unhealthy Triggers

Upon deeper inspection, however, I see that more harm than good may come of this if used as a “go to” tool for health and fitness goals. In this case Pinterest’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The viral aspect of a re-pin creates many issues so I’m only going to summarize two of the most glaring:

   1. Disordered eating – If you’re working hard at healthy eating, while there are some pinning healthy recipes, it’s more likely that you will need to move past the constant visual noise that is counterproductive. Pinterest is filled with decadent entrees and delicious baked goods.

   2. Body dysmorphia – If you think that women’s (and men’s for that matter) print and online magazines perpetuate unrealistic body images of women then think about the impact of putting ALL of those photos in one place.  Not only that, some of the most popular images are on constant repeat because the more an image is re-pinned, the more you see it.

As I was doing research, there is pinboard after pinboard with pictures of skinny or nominal body fat, sculpted females – many of whom don’t even have heads – on boards with titles referencing “thin” or “skinny,” and one particular image I saw over and over still haunts me: a skinny woman from the neck down with a tape measure tied in a bow around her small waist.

When It Comes to Pinterest Beware And Be Aware

Since Pinterest’s user base will only continue to grow at a clip pace this means more and more women (and girls!) will be viewing and adding health and fitness pinboards, pins, and re-pins. So where does this leave of us?

The intention of this post isn’t to recommend against Pinterest all together, but to ask that we all stay conscious of the impact (and possible harm) it could have on those who are most vulnerable.

If you have been or are currently affected or know someone who is affected by disordered eating or obsessive behaviors when it comes to food and exercise, beware and be aware. Even if you aren’t currently at risk, make sure that you don’t over saturate yourself.

It is important to remember that while the community and variety of ideas that Pinterest offers are wonderful benefits, it’s not without its pitfalls.

What do you think? Have you seen imagery related to health and fitness on Pinterest that you find unrealistic and unsettling?

Please note: If you or anyone you know suffers from an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association offers an information and referrals helpline: 800-931-2237.

7 thoughts on “Is Pinterest Bad For Your Health?”

  1. I’ve noticed it on Facebook too..a lot of Fitness professionals will post quotes or pictures of perfectly chiseled bodies that are supposed to be inspiring but instead, just promote body preoccupation and unhealthy dieting. It’s amazing what you can call “Fitness” these days…scary.

  2. I just joined Pinterest yesterday and I had the same thought when I searched for running inspiration. The photos were of fitness models, not actual runners. It was very clear to me what was going on. I also saw some comments on pictures with curvy women where people said “Fat isn’t healthy” or other negative comments. I guess Pinterest is not immune to the nasty comments and unrealistic images that many blogs and websites fell victim to. Thank you for confirming that I’m not alone in being turned off of Pinterest for this reason!

  3. Gina – Pinterest will definitely heighten the fact that there are so few images of non-fitness models available. Maybe it’s time to start a pinboard of everyday athletic folks? I agree that it’s demoralizing to see all the necessary negative comments – I still don’t understand why people need to put that out in the universe.

  4. Love this! It’s such a fine line but in the end (or the beginning?) you need to make taking care of yourself a priority. I pretty much avoid all the “fitspo” boards now…

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