Is Your Instagram Feed Sabotaging You?

Sure, you follow all the requisite #fitspo accounts online. You’re in it for the inspiration, the tips, the healthy recipes, and the new workout moves provided by these Instagram heroes.

At the same time, you probably think that following these healthy accounts balances out all of the pizza and donut accounts you follow. Everything in moderation, right?

Why “Food Porn” May Be Making You Gain Weight

Actually, research shows that your Instagram feed may be more influential than you think. According to a study published last fall, looking at “food porn” – the beautifully presented images of food, both healthy and unhealthy,  published on social media- creates a physiological response in your brain. Looking at these photos tricks you into thinking that you’re hungry when you’re actually not, because you start to salivate and your insulin spikes. Next thing you know, you’re three handfuls deep in a bag of Doritos with zero memory of why there’s orange dust on your fingertips.


guys. I made CARROT CAKE cinnamon rolls. with mascarpone icing. 🐰🌀 recipe is on howsweeteats! 👊🏻

A photo posted by Jessica Merchant (@howsweeteats) on

Even worse? Looking at photos of amazing, beautifully crafted food (looking at you, donut tower at Fremont Chicago) can make your own food less satisfying. After you spend so much time scrolling through beautiful, stimulating photos of food, it becomes harder and harder for your real-life food to live up to the mental expectations you’ve set for yourself. If your food is underwhelming, you end up eating more of it, in constant search of that one perfect bite.

How to Fight Your Instagram Appetite

If you find your blood sugar spiking regularly when you scroll through Instagram, there are a few things you can do.

First, just like the rule that says never grocery shop when you’re hungry, try to save your Instagram browsing for times when you’re already full, like when you’ve just finished eating or when you’ve just had a large glass of water to satisfy your appetite.

Next, think seriously about unfollowing these accounts. Sure, it’s really cool to see Drake lyrics on a cake, but is your life really going to be worse if you miss it? If you can’t unfollow all of them, try to at least balance them out with healthy food porn. Bonus points if you actually make something healthy you see on Instagram.

Finally, have a good old fashioned talk with your brain when you’re tempted by a gratuitous food shot. Remind yourself that you’re probably not actually hungry when you see a particularly inviting slice of pizza. Then, when it’s time for your next meal, focus on savoring each bite rather than mindlessly eating while playing on your phone or watching television; that way, you’ll eat at a slower rate, giving your body more time to signal to your brain that you’re full.

Your Instagram feed is more than just a place to show off your perfectly filtered skyline shot or your amazing vacation. It’s a sneaky way to influence your brain and your health. Go ahead and double tap the picture of Chicago’s best Bloody Mary bar – just be aware of how that image affects your appetite.

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.