The media doesn’t “cause” eating disorders, just as they aren’t caused by Instagram, or parenting, or any single event. Eating disorders are complex issues with a multitude of different causes—neurobiological, emotional, sociocultural, genetic—and no one factor fully holds all the responsibility. Still, each of these factors can play a role in setting off an eating disorder in someone who’s already vulnerable, and it’s important to acknowledge that the language used and messages spread by the media can be a powerful influence.
Words hold power, and the words of journalists reach wide audiences. Images and videos, too, increasingly captivate us. When members of the media cover topics related to food, bodies, eating, and eating disorders, the way they address these topics shapes how we think about them. They have great power to shift the cultural conversation around body image, diet culture, and eating disorders—and that conversation is in desperate need of shifting.
Because of this, we recently created and released a set of guidelines that asks members of the media and other content creators to thoughtfully choose language and imagery that avoids harmful stereotypes.
While these guidelines were put together with the media in mind, many of them can be applied to your daily life. We hope you’ll find these guidelines thought-provoking and helpful in your own conversations, and that we all begin to see some of these changes made in the articles we read and the content we consume. Follow the link below to read our full Media Guidelines.