“It’s a tricky one.”
Your favorite influencer is sponsored by a major protein shake brand. Their body looks ripped as they pose next to the products.
The protein shake must be the golden ticket, right?
Not necessarily, says Ferguson.
Most of the time, he says, followers won’t truly know whether an influencer has used exogenous substances, like steroids or implants, in addition to their fitness plans.
“If a person is quite obviously taking an exogenous substance, yet claiming to be natural so they can use their results to create the illusion that a product is a key factor to their physique, most companies will turn a blind eye, knowing that this is probably the case,” Ferguson says. “I don’t know of any company that is independently drug testing the people they sponsor.”
People can respond differently to influencer posts about weight loss and exercise.
For example, people who are struggling or have a history with eating disorders should be more cautious, particularly when consuming “information on different ways of eating restrictively or exercising in an unhealthy manner,” Glasofer says.
Fitness content and overemphasis on strength or leanness can also be triggering to at-risk people.
“There can be an overt or more subtle communication of certain body types being what one ought to strive for,” Glasofer says. “That can get someone with an eating disorder sort of scrutinizing their body and becoming overly focused on body type, body composition, body weight — any of which is going to compromise recovery.”
Not all influencers are qualified offer health services in certain areas, and doing so can lead to major trouble, as a recent lawsuit in Texas shows.
This month, the state of Texas sued social media influencer Brittany Dawn, accusing her of selling customized fitness and nutrition plans costing up to $300 but largely selling the same plans to her customers.
Dawn, who has 466,000 Instagram followers and 247,000 YouTube subscribers, is also accused of misleading customers to believe she is qualified to help those facing eating disorders.