What Our Google Searches Say About Our Relationship With Body Image Is Sobering

If you're like most Americans, you probably think you could stand to be in better shape. But what do our Google searches say about our relationship with body image? In order to see exactly what's going on, eating disorder recovery website Bulimia.com found out which weight loss-related terms are searched for the most in the United States. They decided to use frequency analysis (that is, seeing what appears the most frequently in a data set) in order to shed some light on whether these sorts of search terms might contribute to a greater understanding of how we deal with body image. Given that Gallop research found 51 percent of adults want to lose weight and only 18 percent of people say they are currently at their ideal weight, it's information worth knowing.

Bulima.com used Google Trends in order to see how search terms have changed over the course of a decade. What they found is not only alarming, but reflects a massive cultural obsession with weight; furthermore, compiling data for terms like "pro ana" and "thinspiration" revealed how searches related to disordered eating line up with those related to weight loss. The study produced a lot of interesting findings; here are four of the takeaways:

1. Weight Loss Peaks Around New Years


After looking a decade's worth of data, the researchers found that the search terms around weight loss rose around January, which they inferred had to do with losing weight being the most popular New Year's resolution. As the Bulima.com folks point out, most people don't follow through with their resolution, but for good reason; effective weight loss needs to be a longterm goal in order to stick.

2. People Want to Lose Weight Fast


If you're wondering what search term related to weight loss is the most popular, "How to lose weight fast" came in at number one by a landslide: It was searched for 165,000 times in the last year alone. There was also a clear gender divide, as "how to lose weight fast for women" was searched for almost twice as often as "how to lose weight fast for men." Clearly, the body image pressure placed on women correlates with a preoccupation with weight.

3. Fast Weight Loss Might Be Connected to Bikini Season


"How to lose weight fast" and "extreme weight loss" both spiked over the spring and summer months, which the researchers think is probably connected to the pressure to lose weight during bikini and swimsuit season. If you're struggling with the triggering messages present during this time, head here for some pointers on how you can combat body shame.

4. "Thinspiration" Is Unfortunately Popular


The search terms related to "thinspiration" remained popular throughout the 10 years covered by the study, with the highest spike occurring in 2012. The data also revealed that the more recent social media trends of fitsporation have gained traction, with the number of searches for "fitspo" being higher than those for "thinspiration" this year. But while fitsporation might seem like healthy inspiration, it often focuses on how bodies look rather than performance or athletic achievement. Some experts say it might just be obsession wrapped up in a different package.

What this study really highlights is the obsession around weight loss and body image that so many of us struggle with. Sadly, this research shows how many people searching on Google for weight loss tips might be willing to do it at any extreme or could be struggling with unhealthy body image or disordered eating. If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, visit Bulmia.com to learn more about comprehensive treatment and recovery.

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