We’re well into the new year, and many people are focusing on bettering themselves physically.

Working on your health and fitness can quickly become dangerous, especially with the help of social media.

Today, you’ll find Lynsey Ciraulo with a smile on her face, coaching dozens to their fitness goals at Metabolic Meltdown in Clifton Park. But two years ago, she was in a different mindset.

“I definitely bordered on disordered eating, absolutely.”

Ciraulo had decided to enter a fitness competition. This meant extreme workouts and extreme dieting.

“45 minutes in the morning, 45 minutes at night, another hour of cardio, drinking probably two gallons of water a day, and I was in an extreme caloric deficit.”

At the competition drew near, she was taking in a mere 800 calories a day to achieve a lean muscular look.

“You can see your abdominals and you can see your delts. You look so healthy but really inside your body is just fighting to keep you alive.”

A lean look that is often promoted on social media platforms like Instagram.

“There are stereotypes and prototypes of what we’re supposed to look like or who we’re supposed to be.”

It’s a topic Julia Hormes, Assistant Professor of Psychology at UAlbany, has done research on.

She says social media makes it easy for people to give and get fitness advice that may not actually be healthy.

“The outcome that people focus on is health, but it’s really appearance. So engage in these behaviors, not to be healthy and to live a long life but to look a certain way.”

The other issue Hormes found was online fitness gurus are often viewed as peers. That’s putting even more pressure on achieving an unrealistic body.

“It shapes norms maybe even more so than exposure to images in magazines where it’s easy for us to say well that’s a fashion model I don’t need to look like this. Now it’s our peers.”

Social media pressures also concern Tammy Colley-Ogden with the Inpatient Eating Disorder team at Albany Med.

“Social media has a huge impact on the information they’re getting because it’s right in their hands, it’s right at their fingertips.”

Social media is where those with disordered eating can learn how to restrict their diets and post photos of their progress.

“They want to have proof that they’re being successful in their journey.”

Successful in this sense could mean a tiny waist, protruding collarbone, or visible ribs.

Often the idea is the thinner the better but many images promoting this idea are altered with editing and filters.

“I was able to make thinner thighs, thinner abdominals make my body taller make my arms thinner all for free within two seconds.”

Her message, fitness is important and that’s more than just looking good.

“You can be healthy and you can be strong, but the masterpiece is inside. Remember that who you are as a person is what’s going to carry you through life, not like what you look like. “

Remember it’s very important to realize what you see on Instagram and other social media isn’t always reality.