Do you use diet, health, and fitness apps? Are health and fitness apps doing more harm than good? How are they influencing your relationship with your body and the concept of “wellness”? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks with Jessica Marini about health and fitness apps and the dangers of following the trend.

MEET JESSICA MARINI

Jess is a 30-year-old Speech Language Pathologist in a special education school, where she helps teenagers communicate their wants and needs to others. During the pandemic, she also decided to start a blog, Decompress with Jess, which she has since developed into a podcast. Decompress with Jess is a space where people can totally decompress and relax while discussing mental health, body image, and everything in between. She created the podcast because its important to hear the perspective of an everyday average person (just your everyday average Jess), going through life -like we all do- and sharing their experiences. Listen to her podcast connect on Instagram. Email Jess at decompresswithjess@yahoo.com

IN THIS PODCAST

  • What does the app do for your relationship with food and fitness?
  • Assigning moral values
  • Most apps have little to no accountability
  • Bodies vary

What does the app do for your relationship with food and fitness?

Health and fitness apps are cleverly marketed to appeal to a person’s psychology and desire for (easy) change. They make you feel good about yourself by providing a sense of accomplishment, they provide step-by-step guidelines, and encourage you by showing “progress”. However, have you stopped to think about what these apps are doing to your relationship with food? Are they enabling you to obsess over food, calories, and numbers, or are they genuinely helping you to be holistically well?
I feel like I’m hypervigilant now with the app … now it’s like second nature to me … so it’s good to be aware of what the food is but now I feel like I’m so hypervigilant that it might not be a good thing. (Jessica Marini)

Assigning moral values

Fitness apps will alert you to “mistakes” that you have made in eating “too much” of something.
I think there is that idea of, “I’m bad … I ate the bad food, I ate the good food”, like, so much of your emotions or feelings of self-worth are based on [whether] you ate the “good” food or “bad” food. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)
If someone is not careful, these external signals of assigned “good” and “bad” values can influence them to believe that they are “good” or “bad” based on what their app tells them. By assigning moral values to food people can begin to see themselves as “good” or “bad” depending on what they eat, which is completely untrue. Your inherent value as a human being is not dictated nor influenced by diet.

Most apps have little to no accountability

Because health and fitness apps are controversial and could potentially be harmful to people vulnerable to eating disorders, they should have systems in place to screen potential users. However, most apps are not secured. Almost anyone can join, they are not screened by age so young teenagers who are easily influenced can join, and there is often little to no encouragement to seek professional help or the advice of a guardian if a young person does sign up.
[The apps] wouldn’t make money if they had to say, “consult with your doctor first and then you can use the app”, which is probably why they just let anybody join. (Jessica Marini)

Bodies vary

Genetically, every single person in the world is unique. Their bodies will react to food in different ways, their bodies will adapt to exercise in different ways, and their bodies adapt to their environments in different ways. Your body is your body. Take care of it and yourself, and work to learn how to love it and care for it. You are worth the time it takes to learn how to support yourself through life holistically.

USEFUL LINKS

MEET DR. CRISTINA CASTAGNINI

I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!

THANKS FOR LISTENING

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