Are "what I eat in a day" videos problematic?
Society constantly instigates that it’s ideal to be thin and “what I eat in a day” videos often further instigate those misconceptions by showing mainly smaller-bodied people, many in spandex and belly-baring outfits. It’s natural to want a behind-the-scenes look at the eating routines of people you look up to. But it’s important to remember - there is a big difference between an influencer and an expert.
What are “What I eat in a day videos?”
These are videos showing what a typical day of eating looks like for an influencer. The videos also range in purpose: Some of them focus on what a person eats for weight loss or what they eat on a specific diet. There are many diets followed by people who make “What I Eat in a Day” videos, but some of the most common include vegan, paleo, and keto diets.
What’s the point of the videos?
These videos may seemingly serve as a healthy inspiration, but health experts say they promote eating disorders, disordered eating, comparison, and poor self-esteem. And many of the posts showcase low-calorie menus that aren't enough food for most people. Even the ones that feature nutritionally adequate meals and snacks may end up doing more harm than good.
Google searches for “What I Eat in a Day” videos have been steadily rising over time, more than doubling over the last 15 years. These videos might seem harmless. They might even seem silly. But they are not only an indication of our society’s incredibly problematic desire to imitate celebrities and our disproportionate value of thinness — but they’re also dangerous.
"I believe that the message this sends is unequivocal, 'if you eat like me, you can look like me,'" Colleen Reichmann, PsyD, a Philadelphia-based clinical psychologist and co-author of The Inside Scoop on Eating Disorder Recovery.
Kathleen Meehan, a Los Angeles-based dietitian, and certified intuitive eating counselor agree with Reichmann that these videos promote the thin ideal and "fail to acknowledge body diversity." This is particularly problematic when the person making the video is using terms like intuitive eating or food freedom.
The disregard of diverse body types
The videos don’t promote body diversity. They don’t always explicitly talk about weight loss, but the message is clear: You, too, can acquire a certain physique if you adopt the eating habits of the person you’re following. However, these videos undermine the many factors involved in weight management, such as age, genetics, health factors, lifestyle circumstances, sleep duration, budget and access to food, and so on.
The problem with this is that humans are drawn to comparing themselves to others who they deem as more attractive, more likable, or in any way better off. These types of comparisons can damage self-esteem. In fact, two people of the same height could eat and exercise the same way and still have different body shapes.
What can you do to fall out of this trap?
As you’re scrolling, be sure to like and comment on posts that represent a diverse range of body sizes so you can see more realistic and varied images in your feed. And keep in mind that you can be healthy in a larger body just like you can be unhealthy in a smaller one.
Research Coordinator - Avani Sood
Graphic Designer - Jhem Picache