Choosing a restaurant often has nothing to do with what I feel like eating. When my body could really use a salad, I find myself eating a veggie burger and fries. When I’m craving Thai food, I wind up at Pizza Beach. After eating a completely satisfying dinner, I still find myself ordering a double-decker ice cream cone with the works. And I’m doing it all for the ‘gram.
It’s not like I have a particularly active account or a ton of Instagram followers. But something about getting the perfect food photo in the right lighting gives me a thrill that posting a sunset never will. (Not to mention plenty more likes.)
While my foodstagram is great for my followers, my body is taking the hit. I definitely didn’t need that Nutella-filled doughnut after brunch, and I should have been eating my veggies instead of a bowl of noodles. But I rationalize my habits the way any millennial would: My feed looks great, and I can totally work off those extra calories at the gym tomorrow. But tomorrow turned into next week, and before I knew it, my go-to jeans were suddenly feeling pretty snug.
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I tried to reform my ways–subbing in homemade Buddha bowls for Drunken Noodles–but when I devote myself to eating healthy, my Instagram becomes inactive and my followers start to dwindle. I could either be proud of my flourishing account, or of my healthy diet, but I've found it impossible to do both. I couldn't help but wonder: How do you reconcile healthy eating with a craving for a decadent feed?
To find out, I contacted the women behind six popular food Instagram accounts to learn how they stay healthy while eating for the Insta.
Skyler Bouchard, @nycdining
Yes, Bouchard really is eating that amazing pizza and that massive ice cream you see on her page, @nycdining, but there’s a lot you’re not seeing. “I’m eating everything I post but not posting everything I eat,” she told InStyle. Her Instagram followers would never know about that green juice she had with breakfast or her macrobiotic vegetarian lunch from Souen (one of her favorite restaurants that “no one would guess”).
Today, she knows how to strike a balance between her posts and her diet, but it was a different story when she first stepped on the scene at 20 years old. “When I first started the food blog a while ago and I was trying to build the brand, I did feel pressure to go to at least like two crazy-indulgent places a week,” she said, adding that she gained about three pounds during her months of #foodporn. “I noticed that I had low iron when I was not eating correctly and I was just eating things for Instagram.”
“I kind of got lost in that whole industry a little bit,” she said. Bouchard she took a step back and assessed her diet, which is exactly what she advised me to do, too. “Put the blog to the side for a second, chill for a minute and really think, okay, what do you think I was eating that was setting this off? Do you think it’s really worth it?”
Jackie Gebel, @noleftovers
True to her Instagram handle, @noleftovers, Gebel always cleans her plate. “I’m such a good eater, and often eat more than I post, which is kind of bad. I love food so much and I’d rather workout then not be able to eat something,” she told InStyle. And while she does workout about five times a week, she admits to having gained weight since she started her popular Instagram account.
“I’ve definitely gained weight from it. But I’m happy, so it’s okay,” she says. “I’m definitely mindful about trying to work out a little bit more. I’m definitely trying to be aware of it. I know I’ve gained weight from it. But you know, then maybe I take a Citi Bike somewhere. I don’t take the subway. Just little things like that, making smart choices.”
And like the other ‘grammers I interviewed, Gebel reminded me that Instagram isn’t a live feed. She’ll stock up on photos while she’s eating out, and post one of, say, that other pizza she ordered last night, while in real time, she’s home at having a salad. She’ll even stop posting altogether if she’s on a health kick. “I’ve gone like radio silence for a few days where I was really trying to be healthy,” she adds.
“I don’t let it control my life ever. I don’t let it run what I’m doing.”
Gillie Houston, @gilliehouston
Houston is also big on finishing her dishes. “I'm extremely conscious about food waste and have a big appetite (so food rarely goes to waste anyways around me),” she told InStyle when asked whether she eats everything she posts on her account, @gilliehouston.
But chowing down comes at a cost: a ton of gym time. When she’s home in New York, she’s working out five times a week (or more), and walking everywhere—including the two-hour trek from Brooklyn into Manhattan on the daily. “I don't have a very fast metabolism, so it's important for me to stay active if I want to eat all of the things I want to eat (which are ALL of the things). I've found other food writers and Instagrammers to be some of the biggest fitness enthusiasts I know because they sort of have to be!”
“In my first year out of school I definitely packed on some pounds, as I was going to events pretty much every night for work and/or Instagram, and spending all day in an office where delicious food was constantly flowing,” she said. “I work out a lot to counterbalance the eating, but can definitely feel it when I've been slacking off at the gym and not paying much mind to what I'm putting in my body.”
While her account keeps growing, now she’s focusing more on the balance. “I try my hardest not to think about how things will look on I.G. while ordering because I think that takes a lot of the joy out of dining out,” she told us. “There was definitely a point when I felt like I needed to take pictures of every meal, but after a while, I realized Instagram is supposed to be fun, and not something worth stressing over.”
Jennie Snyder and Olivia McCurdy McGee, @hungrygrls
Snyder and McGee of @hungrygrls are quite unique when it comes to the world of foodstagrammers. The two best friends work on their account together, and they both hold full-time jobs in the food industry as well.
Since both women are contributing to the account and busy with their jobs on the weekdays, there’s less pressure to be constantly photographing what they eat. Instead, they rely on the weekends to stock up on photos and strategize their posts. “We’ll go to brunch together and then maybe go somewhere else later to have a snack or a treat,” Snyder told InStyle. “I get ice cream every Sunday. There are more opportunities on the weekends.”
They dip into their shared photo stream during the week and choose from a stockpile of photos. “It’s not like we’re a live feed,” she said. And it’s even possible to keep up with a diet. “I eat everything but very healthy and we both workout a lot of days of the week. Do I keep a certain diet? For sure, but I also will go out to dinner, have a slice of pizza for lunch. It’s possible.”
Snyder explained that it's taken them time, but they've become wiser with age. “The more years we do this, the more we learn about food and how to eat right and how our bodies react to all of these things,” she said. “We both love to eat, so we’re just trying to figure the best way to do that and be healthy but still indulge, which is everyone’s ultimate goal.”
Alexa Mehraban, @eatingnyc
Mehraban of @eatingnyc is the first to admit that she caves under the pressure. “A lot of the time I go to restaurants and I know that their most popular dish or their most Insta-worthy dish is probably not the healthiest. So I definitely feel pressured to order those dishes,” she told InStyle.
And because she won’t post anything that she hasn’t eaten, it leads to some unhealthy choices in her diet. “I always make a point to try everything that I’m posting. If it’s not good, I’m not going to post it.”
So how does she avoid gaining weight? Stopping when she’s full. “I definitely will have some days where I’m stopping by like three places for lunch to try a specific dish. Every day is really different. I try to definitely balance. If I’m going to a lot of places for lunch, I won’t have a big dinner plan or I’ll do something a little more low-key just to try to balance it out.” Moderation, she reminds us, is key.
Michele Mansoor, @hungrybetches
While Instagram is making me gain weight, it’s having the opposite effect on Mansoor of @hungrybetches. She revealed to InStyle that she doesn’t eat every indulgent food on her Instagram account.
“I would be sick if I did,” she said. “I give a lot of it away or share it with friends or homeless neighbors.” Beyond feeding other people, Mansoor explains that she finds her feed visually satisfying, which has, in a sense, curbed her cravings. “I do like to photograph outrageous food. That’s kind of the whole point of my Instagram. It’s indulgent and over the top,” she said. “My Instagram account is sort of like a visual diary of things I wish I could eat all the time. That’s not to say that you should be eating these foods all the time. I like to live by the notion that you can treat yourself without going overboard.”
In fact, Mansoor said her #foodporn-filled account has actually helped her manage her weight. “Having the food Instagram actually helped me manage my weight, strangely enough. It satisfied a need I had to be around food all of the time without actually overeating until the point where I felt sick. Taking a photo for Instagram is indulgent in a visual and artistic way that became equally satisfying for me.”
And unlike many of the ‘grammers I spoke to, she thinks it’s totally possible to be on a diet while managing her account. “I think it’s actually easier. You can make events out of your cheat meals or special treats,” she said. “A diet shouldn’t be painful or a sort of punishment. It’s a lifestyle.”