The harmful promotion of diet culture is not new to the internet. Since the emergence of social media, people have clung to ideal lifestyles and dangerous techniques of fitting the mold. There are influencers selling their brand and lifestyle on every platform. This includes what they eat. Twenty years ago, Microsoft found over a hundred “pro-anorexia” websites on its server in 2001. A decade ago, teenagers had to fear the pro-anorexia accounts on Tumblr. Now there are concerns for “What I Eat in a Day” videos.

“It’s like pulling out that measuring stick against something that may not be achievable for you or may not even be good for you,” Beth Harrell, a registered dietician in Lee’s Summit, says.

The trend is most commonly found on TikTok. Typically, an influencer records their meals throughout the day. The meals tend to be perfectly made and sometimes part of a sponsorship the influencer has. The goal is to sell the product or perhaps just to sell their lifestyle.

Isabelle Bouchard, the founder of a dietician service in Columbia called Bamboo Nutrition, has concerns for the message behind these videos.

“One big diet culture myth is that every single day counts and what you do every single day makes a big difference, '' Isabelle Bouchard says. “But we tend to remind our clients that we don’t just focus on a 24 hour day.” Instead Bamboo Nutrition focuses on a longer span of time.

This seems to be the issue with so many of these videos. Viewers look to the creators as an answer to a question we all hate to ask: How can I change? But these videos provide no truth. There is no right way to eat or manage your day.

Ellen Fitzsimmons-Craft has concerns over how people react to these videos. As an associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University, she has focused her expertise on eating disorders.

“It’s just gonna promote comparison, often leaving the individual watching the video to feel that they’re kind of coming up short in some way,” Fitzsimmons-Craft says.

Comparison seems to be the danger that lies in all these videos. Watching someone promote their diet, their life or their health solidifies to the viewer’s own restricting behavior. This is even more amplified for individuals who have already struggled with their relationship with food.

TikTok has addressed part of the problem, asking viewers not to post or share content that “depicts, promotes, normalizes, or glorifies disordered eating.” Yet, with a simple search of certain diet-related words, these videos can still be found.

In 2021, The Guardian found that engaging in the hashtag #whatIEatInADay could lead to videos with #ketodiet and eventually to unhealthy videos with #Iwillbeskinny or #thinspoa.

Viewers cannot rely on these platforms to fully protect them from this content, so taking individual stock is important, Fitzsimmons-Craft says. “We know that people are always gonna find new ways to share this content.”

What we can do is decide what we follow and who we choose to give our time to. Taking the initiative to unfollow these harmful accounts, not seeking them out and swiping past them before they even get the chance to bother us is possible. There is positive food content on the internet. You just have to seek it out. You can find professional content that promotes realistic eating or hashtags that prioritize body positivity.

“If you find it’s not motivating and it’s more bringing you down, don’t follow them anymore,” Harell says. “Unfollow and find a different algorithm.”

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