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The Photogenic Food Phenomenon

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

It’s hard to make it through a scroll of Instagram without seeing a scintillating smoothie bowl or a brilliant batch of brownies.

Food photographs are taking over our screens, there is no doubt about it, but have you ever considered the impact this is having on our diets, minds and lives?

I certainly hadn’t until I read a recent Women’s Health article – so no judgement if you haven’t either! This blog is not a good or a bad perspective of the social media food phenomenon but more an exploration of our digital dietary landscape.

If you are reading this and thinking, ‘oh god I am a serial food poster’, don’t worry so am I. I love to post photos of my meals but why? Why do we get such a kick from sharing what we just ate?

I think this differs from person to person. Everyone has a different reason for posting a picture of their dog, and in the same way everyone has a different reason for posting a picture of their dinner.

I personally post food photos and recipes because I like to inspire others to use food in a way they may not have thought of before. That is why I like following food accounts and viewing images of food on my Instagram feed and so that is why I post my photos. But there is a darker side to sharing what we eat.

The contents of your Instagram feed influences you, we know that. If you are scrolling through images of salads you may feel as though that is what you SHOULD eat, you may go the other way and eat something less green that you really want and maybe then feel GUILTY about it, or you may have it together around food and eat whatever you WANT and need when you need and want. But even if you have this solid foundation in your eating there are many people who don’t.

I enjoy making my food look pretty, I am a visual person, I like pretty food even if it isn’t for the gram. I genuinely used to get pretty sad and angry at pitta breads and wraps when I was a kid because they always fell apart. And, sure when an egg splits before I have served it I might be sad for one tiny moment but this sadness doesn’t stop me from enjoying my meal. We live in a creative world, where perfection is seen to be the goal, therefore if we post a picture of food we want it to be perfect. But it doesn’t just relate to food that you post, if you think about when you make someone a special meal or a birthday cake you want it to be perfect too. But it is worth remembering how even if it isn’t perfect the thought is still there and everyone still enjoys it, despite your initial worries. We don’t want to put something out there that doesn’t represent our best, but just because we visually consume perfect food doesn’t mean we have to actually consume perfect food.

remember it is highlight, a snapshot, a sneak peak

#foodgoals or #foodporn aren’t going to stop anytime soon so we need to be considerate when we post photos of food or when we view photos of other people’s food.

In the same way we have come to realise that Instagram is a highlight reel of people’s lives it is the same for people’s Instagram food – it is a highlight. No one wants to see when I slop all the contents of my fridge into a pan and serve it as a beige stew…or when I have a bowl full of children’s chocolate cereal to start the day. So, when you see a photo and it makes you tailspin into dietary worry, remember it is highlight, a snapshot, a sneak peak.

Personally, I never tell people they should or shouldn’t eat anything or that they should follow a certain diet. I have no nutritional qualifications. I have no grounds to tell people what they should eat. There are some people out there who will tell you what you should eat – some of them have qualifications and actually are making reliable nutritional information more available, which is amazing – some of them are no more qualified than you or I. Just remember if you are following someone that makes you critical about your own diet then maybe it’s time for an unfollow – or a mute till you are more secure in your choices. The only thing I do say people should do is try to combat food waste – but that is applicable to all diets – and even then I never force this on people.

I love to see the food creations that people come up with. I find it encourages me to try new things. It encourages me to broaden my culinary wings and try things that I never knew how to cook and in some cases that I never even knew I could eat. Case and point Max La Manna’s BBQ ‘pulled pork’ banana skins that I am currently obsessed with. (Recipe Here)

I will continue to post photos of my meals and hope that others see them as inspiration for the next time they are blankly looking at ingredients in their fridge. I will continue to never tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t eat. I will continue to suggest food waste tips. I will continue to post mostly pretty food, but just remember I don’t post all that I eat and nor does anyone else. These photos swarming social media are the food highlights.

Looking for some inspiration, these are some of my favourite social media food accounts

Nutrition and science accounts @rhitrition @thefoodmedic

Food waste champion @maxlamanna


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