Loni Jane Anthony one of the most well-known vegan wellness influencers in Instagram, with more than 400,000 followers, often refers to what seems like a serious health situation from her past: After spending her early 20s indulging in junk She claims her candidiasis, bloating, eczema, hair loss and body aches miraculously cleared up. These The days, her feed is saturated with colorful photos of her plant-based meals (she has since integrated some cooked food), bikini-clad portraits at the beach with her two sons-kissed children, and recipes for superfood smoothies that are regular part of her diet.
Anthony, who did not respond to HuffPost's request for comment, is a central figure in the wellness movement that swept across Instagram, raising concern and controversy along the way. In the Australian tabloids, she has received intense backlash for eating vegan while pregnant and for feeding her son mostly fruits and vegetables. One Daily Mail article condescendingly referred to her as a "mummy blogger" (she has written two cookbooks) and found doctors who would go on the record calling some of her (to be fair, unsubstantiated) health claims " utter garbage "
She is not the first influencer to find herself under attack. Essena O'Neill, who The Cut calls "The Australian model, Instagram star and vegan lifestyle enthusiast," abruptly deleted all its social media accounts in 2015 after announcing that the platforms had made her "lost" and " sick. "She said she began to receive death threats. Ella Woodward of Deliciously Ella denounced the once popular term "clean eating" after reckoning with criticism that she peddles dangerous diet claims that could contribute to eating disorders.
Wellness trends that have been allowed to proliferate on Instagram are now subject to concentrated debunking efforts ( celery juice most recently). The worry is that a focus on "clean eating" from accounts like Anthony's offers is not just good recommendations to eat more vegetables. Instead, these accounts may be contributing to eating disorders like orthorexia (which has not been recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and often spread suspicious claims of health, which have not been verified by medical professionals.
"Fatphobia is the last form of socially acceptable discrimination. [Wellness trends] are really mired in all these social structures that have to be called out. "
– Kristi Hall, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders
Is all this pearl clutching based on legitimate fears that social Media is creating harmful filters through which women in particular process their bodies? The story in the Instagram is very different from the wellness community. Some of their central figures emphasize that they only present a diet or lifestyle that worked for them and never pressure their followers to make potentially unsafe choices.
"I'm not preachy, I'm not judging, I'm not an extremist, but I am educated. I have a bachelor of nutrition and dietetics with honors, "Ellie Bullen, the certified nutritionist behind Elsa's Wholesome Life told HuffPost in an email. "My message is simple: Eat more plants."
Charlotte Markey, a psychologist and founder of the Health Sciences Center at Rutgers University, who studies the effects of social media on body image , said Bullen is the exception. Most of the people who run wellness accounts on Instagram do not have a medical background.
"So much of this is just people who look good and think they've found the holy grail of health and weight loss," Markey said. "That's why we do research on this stuff. Hundreds and thousands of people are included in this research over time. What scientist learn from research is more likely to be a useful and directive than what instagram gurus suggests. "
In fact, some wellness influencers do not even follow the way they promote on Instagram and YouTube. The popular YouTube celebrity Rawwana sent the online vegan community to a tailspin after she was recently caught eating fish on camera. Bonny Rebecca, another famous Vegan YouTuber, recently revealed to her followers that she had to give up the vegan diet because she caused her and her boyfriend serious health problems.
Carlie McKibben, who runs the account  Plantifully Nourished adopted a vegan lifestyle while recovering from an eating disorder. She acknowledged that the issue is more complex than urging people to eat more plants. While she emphasized that her message "is not that my way of eating is the healthiest" and that she does not want to be a "negative or stressful" influence in her followers' lives, she said she encountered people on Instagram who "It used to be very triggering me to look at it," she said, "she has experienced how a plant-based diet can turn obsessive, even harmful."
"It used to be very triggering me to look at certain accounts that would post their "what I eat in a day" videos that show only fruits and vegetables and usually a limited amount, "she adds. "Many young girls who often do not even understand the science and ethics behind a plant-based diet decide to eat this way, because they see other social media influencers who are thin eat this way too, and that is what is harmful. "
The health and well-being of the well-known people are contributing to a cultural landscape that makes women feel guilty and ashamed of what and how they eat.
" The wellness culture is Instagram is so damaging because it's so fear-based. "It's saying," If you do not eat a certain way, you're going to have bad skin or a bad body, "said marriage and family therapist Kristi Hall, who specializes in treating eating disorders. Wellness influencers are not claiming that they will necessarily physically damage people (after all, selerium is a healthy vegetable), it's masquerading as health and wellness when in fact it's the same message as always: that smaller equals healthier. "
but they do take away "people's ability to be experts in their own bodies," Hall said. She warned that people should be wary of an Instagram account that (intentionally or not) makes you feel pressured to change your lifestyle or ignore your body's instincts in favor of their recommendations. Usually, that's not physically tenable, and it can also wreak havoc on one's mental health too.
"[The wellness culture on Instagram] is masquerading as health and wellness, when in fact it's the same message as always: that smaller equals healthier."
"There becomes a classification of a moral or good way to eat, which asks," Are you a disciplined person? Are you a good person? Instagram totally contributes to that, "she said.
Wellness influencers may think that they speak only for themselves on their accounts, but it's not that simple. "I know it feels like it's just your personal journey, but the truth is, this is a social justice issue," Hall said. "Fatphobia is the last form of socially acceptable discrimination. "
If Instagram wellness influencers are here to stay, Markey said they should" use their influence more responsibly, "by including in their posts at The very least, a link to a study backing up every health claim they make – from the benefits of fasting to chia seeds and avocados. But even that seemingly simple solution can be misleading. Hall pointed out that the wealth of bad science available on the internet can back up almost any doubtful claim, including that weight loss is linked to health.
No matter how mindful the leading figures in Instagram wellness community try to be there is no way to avoid public disapproval. The "really deeply ingrained belief that there is something wrong with women, if they do not care about their appearance," is part of what the female-headed Wellness Instagram movement has created, Markey said. She added that it is wrong to think of these women as superficial and that we should instead consider that they respond to intense social pressure.
Many of the women behind these Instagram wellness accounts are well-intentioned and want to spread information that they truly think will help people live better. But the diet culture that existed long before the advent of Instagram has always punished women for being too thin or not thin enough, for not caring about how they look or caring too much. Instagram's wellness trends may have benefited very few women who have gained a reputation on the platform. For the majority of other women, however, social media only reinforces the same old unfair and even harmful expectations, which ultimately erodes their self-esteem more than it can ever help them to become healthy.