Mapping instagram mentions of hashtag diet in Europe and the US

Food and eating (When to eat? … What to eat next?) is a unique fixation. We need to eat to live, yet many people restrict their intake to lose weight. For some, this relationship with nutrition and weight loss borders on an unhealthy obsession – one that might lead to disordered eating and a distorted body image. Many even document their “health” journey via social media. This platform can become a way to document a disease or share stories of fitness success.

To date, Instagram hosts more than 25 million photos with the hashtag #diet. The weighted word reveals a gallery of perfectly portioned food posts, sometimes-annoying inspirational quotes, and pervasive progress pics (aka before-and-afters).

To learn more about this heavy word and the culture that surrounds it, we examined global trends in #diet on Instagram. Which countries are watching their weight more than others? Read on to see what Europe and the United States are posting about their restricted eating habits.

What's on (or off) the menu for Europe?

Most diet-obsessed European countries

A look at Instagram posts per 100,000 residents per country revealed some surprising trends in Europe. The data provide an interesting look at which countries are dieting – or at least which talk about it the most.

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus tips the scale for #diet posts. It features nearly 815 posts per 100,000 residents. With its six months of summer-style climate, it’s no surprise that islanders might feel the pressure to squeeze into swimsuits.

But what about third-place Ireland, with weather that can sometimes drop below freezing? It turns out, The Emerald Isle is no more precious than any other country when it comes to fad diets. The unofficial Irish Potato Diet has had its fair share of media.

Which European countries ache for cake?

Top 20 diet-obsessed Europeans countries

Again, Cyprus seems to have the skinny on Instagram’s #diet craze. The tiny island of 1.1 million people was bloated with more than 800 mentions of the term per 100,000 residents. Cyprus easily beat out the three closest countries (Denmark, Ireland, and Iceland) by more than 200 occurrences.

Last-place Hungary, which hardly makes the top 20 list, might be the least peckish of all. In fact, the country passed the so-called “fat tax” to combat obesity. The government mandate increases the cost of sugary beverages.

No snacks for the States?

Most diet-obsessed states

We then focused our attention on the American #diet. We used the same methodology as the European Union to make sure that states with larger populations, like New York, didn’t seem more diet obsessed than their rural counterparts. All states were studied; however, data for Washington, D.C., were unavailable.

Florida is a hotspot for #diet. It features 9.2 posts per 100,000 residents. Like Cyprus, it’s possible there’s a correlation between bikini weather and dieting. Florida’s Magic City, Miami, is also known for its image (and perhaps social media) obsession; one South Beach surgeon even broadcasts his nips-and-tucks on Snapchat.

Some residents in the No. 2 state, California, may be doing more than counting calories – they may not be eating any food at all. While there’s no telling how many Cali-’grammers have actually adopted this concerning trend, it is clear that they’re cutting back.

The states that don't put a fork in it

Top 20 diet-obsessed States

Once you look at the top 20 states that ’gram #diet, the weight shifts.

Most of the states that rank highly for the use of #diet also rank in the richest states in America. Massachusetts and New Jersey are just two that make the wealthiest list, and coincidentally, they’re also in the top 10 for #diet.

Sadly, poorer people in states like No. 19 Louisiana (which ranks among the most poverty-stricken in the nation) resort to skipping meals as a way to save money – not to diet. This is known as food insecurity. And some parishes in the state are more than 30 percent food insecure (or lack access to adequate amounts of food).

Wealthier Americans can afford to try exercise fads like SoulCycle or hot yoga; they also have an expendable budget to buy healthier items at boutique grocery stores instead of restricting food completely.

The nutrition facts for European countries

Most nutrition-focused European countries

So what’s part of a #diet? After we identified the locations of European dieters, we filtered them by co-occurring nutrition terms.

Ireland leads the way in all categories when it comes to macronutrients – and the sweet stuff. It ranks No. 1 for mentions of protein, carbs, fats, and sugar. The U.K. follows Ireland in all categories except sugar, where Denmark ranks No. 2 for “sugarcoated” #diet posts.

When you look at nutrition talk as a whole, Europeans are mostly worried about carbs. Fats and proteins also brought the muscle for #diet posts. And very few Europeans mentioned sugar, despite the fact that more doctors are pointing to the sweet tooth as a diet downfall.

The top favoured diets

Top 10 diets on Instagram

There are multiple reasons to choose to diet – or even to share #diet on Instagram. Everyone diets differently. Some people just want to lose weight, while others want to improve their mood, watch their weight for medical reasons, or restrict for religious or ethical causes.

More than 28 percent of our Instagrammers who posted about one of the top 10 diets opted for the Fast Diet – which promotes periodic fasting. A detox diet comprised nearly 15 percent of the posts. Next on the list: The vegan diet and the Paleo diet. These dietary restrictions can be religious and health choices as well as lifestyles, but they’re still easily part of the biggest dieting trends of the last few years.

While both of these diets focus on cleaner eating and reducing the consumption of processed foods, vegetarians see an added financial benefit. They can save an average of $750 per year just by skipping the meat aisle in the grocery store.

European diet trends

Top diet type on Instagram

An overwhelming number of European countries are trying the Fast Diet or a detox diet. And according to our research, the Atkins diet is still the most popular in Ireland; this might explain why carbs had the most mentions in #diet posts for that country.

If you look carefully, you will notice a small fuchsia dot at the bottom of the graph. The island of Cyprus, which uses #diet more than any other E.U. nation, chooses vegetarian options. It’s possible that the temperate climate makes growing vegetables easier than in northern countries.

Stateside feeding alternatives

Top diet type per State

Paleo is king in America, and it was the most mentioned #diet trend in 30 percent of states. After that, Americans tagged the Fast Diet. There were also a few states with unique diet choices. Idaho and Louisiana talked about diet pills the most, while West Virginia favoured the Cabbage Soup Diet.

Millions are dieting, and everyone diets differently

While millions of Europeans and Americans use #diet on Instagram, the photos, tags, and reasons vary. Crash diets can lead to health problems and poor diet decisions that can damage your body in the long run.

People diet for lots of reasons, but it’s important to note that there isn’t one-size-fits-all diet. Individuals searching for diet solutions should do so with caution: many trendy food plans often lack evidence that supports their safety or overall fitness benefits. Certain overly restrictive plans can even lead to obsessive thoughts and behaviours around food. Atypical food fixations can trigger life-threatening disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. If you believe you’ve developed compulsive habits around eating, it is important that you talk to your doctor.

Before you dive into a new diet, get some advice from a doctor to know you’re making the best choice for your body. Once you get the OK, know that zavamed.com can offer additional information and suitable supportive therapies. If you are overweight and your goal is to lose weight, then we may be able to provide treatments that work alongside a balanced diet and exercise to help you achieve a healthy weight.

Methodology

We scraped Instagram for geotagged posts mentioning #diet. We then mapped the number of #diet posts by European country and in U.S., per 100,000 residents based on the latest population data from The World Bank and the U.S. Census Bureau.

To sort these results by popular keywords (nutrients and types of diets), we used calculated fields containing each term and grouped related words and their derivatives. We then ranked the frequency of co-occurring mentions in #diet posts by country and state, per 100,000 residents.

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