TikTok and The FYP: The Toxic Diet Culture Taking Over Teenage Lives

*DISCLAIMER: This article talks about concepts regarding eating habits and eating disorders. I am also writing as a student, not a certified dietitian or nutritionist.*

Much of society has become familiarized with the new social media app TikTok, which allows creators to post short video clips of their daily lives, funny moments, news, or other random content. The app is quite unique in comparison to other social media platforms because it allows almost anyone to become “TikTok famous,” as the algorithm provides a surplus of videos suited to one’s preferences. Once someone engages with a video or clicks on a profile that interests them, the “For You Page” adjusts to show videos that are similar. 

Credit: Pinterest 

A recent trend on TikTok is “what I eat in a day” videos, where people show their meals throughout the day.  Some people also choose to include the number of calories each food contains in order to track that day’s calorie intake. While the majority of these posts are produced by the average person, I have come across several created by certified nutritionists or health professionals. 

Credit: Ageless Beauty

It is nearly impossible not to compare your diet to those of creators on the platform when engaging with their content so constantly. It makes me question myself: Am I eating too much or too little? Should I go on a diet? Do I need to start buying certain foods? 

It is easy to forget that the bulk of these videos are made by average people, most of whom are young teenagers who have no background on what is “healthy” or “normal” to eat. It is also easy to forget that everybody is different when it comes to their metabolism, fitness level, and genetics, all of which contribute to one’s body size and ability to eat different foods. 

Displaying one’s progression of an eating disorder has also become a common trend on the app. While most creators are posting this type of content to raise awareness about this prevalent issue, the constant reminder can be quite detrimental. It can trigger people into a certain mindset and remind them of their past disordered eating habits. 

On the other hand, this content has allowed for a plethora of accounts dedicated to helping people with their eating disorders or fears of specific foods to gain popularity. One user I have come across who has been quite helpful and inspiring is @snackqween. She has recovered from an eating disorder, and posts several videos each day in response to comments asking her to eat certain foods or talk about her journey. Getting validation from other people that it’s normal and okay to eat certain foods can really help someone regain clarity in their headspace. 

Credit: TikTok

This content might never go away, but there are certain ways to limit your exposure. I suggest following light-hearted, funny creators who have engaging accounts or who post inspiring content so that you visit your “following page” more frequently than your “For You Page.”

In our college community, and in the greater world of TikTok, it is important to support each other. We must be mindful of others and what may be difficult parts of their lives, and learn to build a community working to support and uplift one another, instead of comparing ourselves. You are only in control of your own body — that is the power you are granted.

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