The New New

How Instagram Spoils Your Relationship With Food

‘Food porn’ has more of an impact than you realize

Brittany Ross
Published in
6 min readNov 19, 2018
Illustration: Kevin VQ Dam

TThe first food photo I ever posted on Instagram was taken on December 23, 2011. It’s a fuzzy, poorly-filtered photo of a raspberry jam cookie made by my co-worker during the holiday season. It was completely unassuming and unworthy of more than the two “likes” it received, but I’ll never forget its significance.

Unlike most food photos I’ve posted in the years since (now with slightly better lighting and focus), this one was of something I didn’t actually eat. I wanted to eat it, sure, but my eating disorder at the time would never have allowed it. If I couldn’t enjoy eating the cookie, I could at least play the part of someone who did.

SSearching for posts using the #food hashtag on Instagram yields over 300 million results, which isn’t all that surprising. We eat with our eyes, and just seeing imagery of food can elicit intensely pleasurable physical and emotional responses. At least one study has suggested that posting photos of food can also be satisfying. Taking a photo of one’s food before eating delays the act of consumption, thus building anticipation, and ultimately contributing to a more enjoyable taste experience.

“The calories just aren’t worth it if it’s not going to make a good Instagram photo.”

And these days, it’s not uncommon for so-called Instagrammability to play a factor in restaurant and food design, thanks to an increasing awareness that, for many people, the act of snapping a food shot is an integral part of dining. A colleague of mine once confessed getting a large number of “likes” on food posts made her feel validated for what she ate.

“The calories just aren’t worth it if it’s not going to make a good Instagram photo,” she told me.

You can imagine how this is connected to a diet-friendly culture that suggests we shouldn’t eat at all.

“Thanks to the effects of deeply ingrained diet culture, many of us still see foods as intrinsically ‘bad’ and requiring special permission (perhaps via Insta likes and comments) to ‘justify,’” says Lauren Canonico, a…



Brittany Ross

Brittany is a New York-based writer and actor who has contributed pieces for Eater, New York Magazine’s The Cut, VICE’s Broadly, Time Out, Bustle, and more.