The toxic TikTok diet culture needs to stop

Emily Clarke

Scrolling through TikTok there’s bound to be at least one #WhatIEatInADay video where you see someone eating smoothie bowls, almond nuts and oat milk coffees to put themselves in a calorie deficit and fuel themselves for an entire day.

While Healthline say that it has been proven a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day is “effective for healthy and sustainable weight loss” it is undeniable that these videos are promoting a toxic diet culture.

Many of the dieting videos set out an unrealistic expectation of how we should be losing weight. In some videos I have seen men and women doing two to three exercises a day, getting their 10,000 steps and eating elaborate and impractical meals.

A lot of the people never pass 1,400 calories when you add up the food they’ve eaten and factor in their exercise. The National Health Services (NHS) recommend women eat 2,000 calories per day, putting those TikTokers at an unhealthy calorie deficit.

Under eating can lead to a number of health problems, especially in teenagers who are still growing and developing. Such health problems can include malnutrition and in severe cases, anorexia, according to the Health Services Executive (HSE).

Under TikTok’s community guidelines, they do not allow content that “could lead to suicide, self-harm or eating disorders.”

The guidelines continue to explain that in order to avoid “normalising, encouraging or triggering self-harm behaviour”. They claim that: “content that promotes eating habits that are likely to cause adverse health outcomes is also not allowed on the platform.”

So why is it that these #WhatIEatInADay videos are still allowed to pop up on your ‘For You Page’? It is clear that the bulk of these videos promote an unhealthy diet that can lead to viewers under eating, and perhaps even over exercising.

According to Wallaroo Media, 32.5% of US TikTok users are ages between 10 to 19 years old. This is the highest percentage of users across all age groups.

When you were a teenager you remember that you were more gullible and easily influenced compared to how you are now. According to a study by Professor Sam Wineburg, 80-90% of teenagers weren’t able to tell the difference between fake and real news.

If teenagers find it hard to decipher between what news is real and what is not, then how can we expect them to watch a TikTok and know that what they are viewing is toxic and unhealthy? It is only natural for them to want to change their diets to look like the people they see online.

While some may argue that you can try filter out these videos, that is easier said than done. In the TikTok settings you can choose which type of content categories you like, and you can turn on restricted mode.

However, there is no clear way to filter out specific videos. On my own TikTok these videos come up every second or third video, despite the fact I rarely engage in food videos.

As TikTok’s main demographic is teenagers, it is wrong to be pushing these #WhatIEatInADay videos on them as it is creating an unrealistic and toxic dieting culture among young people that only do more harm than good.

Note: This article was reuploaded on 04/04/21 due to a fault with The College View website.

Emily Clarke

Image Credit: TikTok