Social media sponsorships skew our perception of realistic health standards

The influx of diet product sponsorships on social media are detrimental to our idea of what being healthy really means.


A student holds up a phone with an image of a shake on it. Social media is credited as an influence on diet culture. photo illustration by Anna Ronan

by Editorial Board

High schoolers are growing up at a time where social media is becoming an increasingly prominent way for people to access information and communicate throughout their day. While you browse through social media, it’s typical to see celebrities or your peers promoting meal replacement shakes, teas or diet supplements. Healthy living is an ideal we all should strive for, but social media sponsorships distort our perceptions of realistic health standards. They often lack credibility and represent dangerous paths to achieving an unattainable body image.

The main culprit for the rise in diet product sponsorships on social media is the competitive weight loss market in the U.S. According to a report by Marketdata, the total U.S. weight loss market grew at an estimated 4.1% in 2018, from $69.8 billion to $72.7 billion. The market segment for meal replacements was worth a combined $4.7 billion in 2018. If diet companies can tap a niche and amass a following, they know they are in a lucrative business. The victims of this market, however, seem to be young women who are already susceptible to insecurity and comparison as they navigate their identity through high school and college. 

One issue with social media sponsorships is their lack of credibility. Kim Kardashian, who currently has over 147 million Instagram followers, received backlash in 2018 for promoting and posing with Flat Tummy Co.’s appetite suppressant lollipops on her Instagram. However, since the lollipops are considered supplements, they are not reviewed by the FDA, so it is unclear if they’re safe to use.The reality of social media sponsorships is that influential people are paid to post statements invented by the companies themselves with the appearance of an authentic endorsement. However, if your social media is filled with these affirmations and promises, it can become tricky to identify what’s real and what’s fabricated.

Social media sponsorships are harmful to young females’ ideas of health standards because they promote a body standard that is often unattainable. Products like Flat Tummy Tea, Fit Tea, waist trainers, etc. all push the idealized image that their product is said to help consumers achieve. They are all trying to sell an image that is considered a beauty ideal in our culture and that they suspect many women would like to obtain. 

The problem with championing these images or ideals is that they do not equate healthy or advisable. In addition, there is often no guarantee the sponsored product will result in the sponsored image. The methods women would have to subscribe to in actually obtaining these body standards are dangerous both mentally and physically. Extremely restrictive dieting is especially harmful to a young female who is still growing and maturing. 

Sponsored social media posts promoting diet products are dangerous to our perception of health standards because they tempt us into validating distorted lifestyles. Instead of buying into the promises you see from the diet companies behind influencers, reflect on what it really means to be healthy. We should all encourage each other to incorporate exercise and a balanced consumption of foods into our lives. However, the rigidness and obsessiveness with dieting that social media posts inspire should no longer be synonymous with healthy.