Human beings are, inherently, nosy people. Social media only emphasizes this collective trait, providing a bird’s eye view into the lives of friends and strangers alike. While this can yield positive results—like access to educational information—it also clears the way for opportunities for misinformation and unhealthy comparison. This can apply to any niche, but it’s perhaps the most obvious within the wellness space.
Take “What I Eat in a Day” videos, for example. What started as a simple social share has quickly turned into a trend that’s here to stay, much to the disquiet of medical professionals. Some research and credible expert opinion shed light on how these videos, many under the guise of education and relatability, are actually doing more harm than good.
“What I Eat in a Day” Videos
The hashtag #whatieatinaday has 14.6 billion posts on TikTok and 855,706 posts on Instagram, with those numbers growing each day. Scrolling through these search results emphasizes the wide variety of points of view this trend has initiated.
Who’s Doing This Trend?
You’d assume many of the more popular “What I Eat in a Day” videos would come from trusted wellness professionals—but that is, unfortunately, not the case. Many, if not a majority of the individuals participating in this trend lack the credentialed know-how of someone who can, in good faith, discuss specific dietary practices. This leads you to scroll through a variety of video contributions, some noticeably more harmful than others.
Types of What I Eat in a Day Videos
“Eating like Khloe Kardashian for a day,” and “what I eat in a day as a professional model” are just some of many videos leaning into practices and associating them with a specific body shape. Then there are travel-esque submissions, like “what I eat in a day at Disneyland” and “what I eat in a day in Paris, France.” There are endless riffs on the trend, but a considerable chunk of these posts stick to the original “what I eat in a day” format, where creators share what they personally consume throughout a typical day.
Some creators noticeably go against the grain within the trend, with videos like “what I eat in a day as a person not focused on weight loss.” You even have individuals sharing vulnerable truths like “what I eat in a day as a person recovering from an eating disorder.”
While the reality is that these videos all share a person’s daily dietary habits in different and unique ways, the concept itself—no matter how it’s executed—poses potentially harmful consequences for the viewer.
What the Experts Say
Dana Bean, RD, a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor points out the damage these videos may cause for the general public. “I’ve been seeing a lot of promotion of under-eating too. Often, we’ll see that these videos include two meals and a snack, which is not enough for most people.”
The lack of nutritional awareness that Bean points out is worth lingering on. Research has shown that an overabundance of health information causes confusion for the general consumer. Social media’s strong influence (and lack of medical professionalism) plays a huge part in this, harming the general public’s mindset regarding food habits and nutritional needs.
Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, and author of Eating from Our Roots: 80+ Healthy Home-Cooked Favorites from Cultures Around the World seconds these concerns. “Social [media] is filled with so much conflicting nutrition and health noise, it’s hard for the consumer to parse out what could be helpful for themselves.”
Nutritional relevance aside, Feller and Bean are quick to note the glaring comparison in “What I Eat in a Day” videos. Bean points out the frequency at which these videos open with a clear image of the individual’s body. There is rarely an explicit “eat this way to look like me” statement included, but the fact that a person (and thus, their body size and shape) is associated with the consumed food makes that implication easy to reach for many consumers.
While individuals struggling with disordered eating may be at a heightened response to these videos, Bean notes that this style of content still impacts everyone, no matter what their personal history with food is.
What I Eat in a Day Videos & Diet Culture
Research shows that individuals naturally take note of what those around them are eating, particularly when they’re dining with others. It’s not a stretch to see how this could be used to describe “What I Eat in a Day” videos and their impact on viewers.
Social media presents a major comparison opportunity for its users. Whether you know the individual on your screen or not, you’re highly likely to compare yourself with them. This then impacts how you evaluate your situation—whether it’s good, bad, needs to change, etc.
“Even someone that hasn’t struggled with an eating disorder, per se, would still be likely to draw those conclusions and comparisons,” Bean notes. She continues, adding that fatphobia has a strong presence in these videos—this is even before you scroll through the inevitably toxic comment section that the internet has become known for.
Assigning “good” or “bad” to certain eating habits is a concern for Feller as well. “My concern is that people often feel shame when interacting with ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos because they judge the foods that they eat and assign a moral hierarchy to them in relation to what they are watching.”
Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN
My concern is that people often feel shame when interacting with ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos because they judge the foods that they eat and assign a moral hierarchy to them in relation to what they are watching.
— Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN
“You see a body type and the type of food eaten to supposedly ‘achieve’ that body type,” Bean clarifies, going as far as to compare these videos to before and after photos generally taken in weight loss programs. But even if weight loss were the goal, Bean notes the lack of medical logic in the decision to mimic the eating patterns of someone you’d like to look like. “If we all ate the same and, and moved the same, we would still all look very different.”
What This Means for You
While acknowledging the harmful side effects of “What I Eat in a Day” videos is helpful for an educated mindset regarding diet culture, it doesn’t stop the worldwide web from continuing to circulate them—and create new ones. That said, Bean recommends avoiding individuals creating food content that triggers comparison and disordered eating habits.
Maintaining a Healthy Food Mindset Online
- Unfollow individuals whose content is not helpful to you and your food mindset
- Direct your thoughts to what is most helpful to your body instead of focusing on what online creators are doing
- Find online content (podcasts, social media feeds, newsletters, etc.) from credentialed individuals who specialize in intuitive eating and breaking diet culture stigmas
Bean clarifies that not all online food content has negative connotations—she loves following accounts that share recipes and grocery shopping tips. The difference is in how it’s shared; a recipe account doesn’t curate a full day’s worth of meals, indicating what you should do in a day. Rather, it shares individual recipes that you can decide how to incorporate into your lifestyle. This places the power in the hands of the viewer.
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