“What I Eat In a Day”; The Toxic TikTok Trend That Promotes an Unhealthy Diet Culture
From “That Girl” to Project 50 and the 75 Hard Challenge, TikTok seems to be a hub for toxic wellness culture and misinformation.
And the latest viral trend that has caught my eye is “What I Eat In a Day”.
Although these videos are being shared as wellness and dietary inspiration, there’s a huge downside to them.
So today I am taking a closer look at these mini “food” vlogs and how they can be damaging to your mental health and well-being.
Table of Contents
What is the “What I Eat in a Day” Trend?
“What I Eat in a Day” mini vlogs show the food consumption of what someone, typically an influencer, eats in a day.
Because these creators have gained a mass following and familiarity on social media, their audience is curious to know details about their life, including what they eat on a daily basis.
The trend first appeared on Youtube in the 2010s but has since been revived on TikTok in the past couple of years.
“What I Eat in a Day” videos have become extremely popular within the online wellness space, and are a huge engagement driver so you can understand why so many people jump onto this trend. The #WIEIAD hashtag has gained over 13 billion views on TikTok and is constantly growing.
Now models, fitness experts and wellness influencers are sharing an insight into their daily caloric intake.
But 9 out of 10 times, these “daily diet diaries” promote an unrealistic standard for healthy eating.
And no matter how much the influencer or creator behind the video says “this is for inspiration only” chances are someone who wants to lose weight will simply adopt this diet without researching the health benefits or risks first.
As Dr Alexis Conason writes for Glamour, “Dieting has become so normalised as a way of life, many of us don’t even realise we’re doing it.”
I mean think about it, you probably know at least one person who is following, or has in the past followed, a popular ‘fad diet’ or dietary model. They may have good intentions to lose weight, reach their fitness goals or improve their health but is what they are doing truly the best thing for their overall health?
And what happens when these unhealthy dietary models are being promoted and encouraged by our favourite influencers on social media?
We become even more obsessed with building the “perfect” body and fall into a cycle of body comparison and self-hate.
Unrealistic “daily diet diaries”
I admit, similar to the That Girl” trend, the majority of these “What I Eat in a Day” videos are created with good intentions.
However, a lot of these videos now provide nutritional guidance and persuade viewers to adopt a new dietary lifestyle.
Although these videos are trying to encourage healthy eating, they are actually doing the opposite and instead promote unhealthy eating habits and an obsession with what people eat.
We’re not simply talking about an unattainable morning routine here, this is about people’s diets. And if people are misled into eating the wrong things, then this can be detrimental to their health as they fail to address their individual nutritional needs.
One influencer I stumbled across on TikTok, and in all honesty, inspired this entire blog post, has “health, fitness, wellness” written in her bio. And yet when I look at her numerous videos and “what I eat in a day” content, it doesn’t scream “healthy” to me.
Although she has a lean, toned figure I wouldn’t be surprised if she is actually severely malnourished. All she seems to eat is fruit and a bunch of tiny vegan meals which are lacking in basic proteins and nutrients.
What is even more worrying though, is that she is 37 weeks pregnant and is promoting an alarming restrictive and malnutrition diet.
And yet she has amassed over 57k followers on TikTok and 471k on Instagram.
Her best performed “What I Eat in a Day” video has hit 1.1 million views with 73.9k likes.
The issue I have with this video? All she eats on this particular day is 2 celery juices, 2 plates of watermelon, a plate of dates, a “huge” salad (which was literally a plate of lettuce) and an avocado sushi roll.
Now correct me if I am wrong, but is this really someone you want to be following for “healthy” and nutritious vegan recipes?
The majority of her meals are full of water or sugar with zero fat or protein and are lacking in vital nutrients and minerals.
Why the ‘What I Eat In a Day’ trend is toxic
I am now studying to be a health coach and learning more and more about nutrition and healthy, nourishing meals. So I know how essential protein and fat are to the human diet. And yet, in this same video, the influencer in question even comments, “people worry way too much about protein.”
Which is completely shocking for a supposedly “certified nutritionist” who encourages her followers to try out her “10-day body reset” diet plan and buy her e-books. If you ask me, it sounds like she is just selling a one-size-fits-all diet plan for her own personal gain, because it works for her.
Unfortunately, this influencer is not the only one promoting dietary models which are either unhealthy, unrealistic or unsustainable for the average person. And this is why social media and these trends are so damaging.
If the influencer has a desirable (but attainable) figure then people don’t seem to care whether what is being shown is healthy or not.
As long as the video is paired with trending audio and has at least 10k likes, then it must be considered expert advice right?
What people don’t seem to take into consideration is the knock-on effect that this has on our own mental health and well-being.
The more we are bombarded with content of beautiful women who live fabulous, “healthy” lives and don’t over-indulge, the more we begin to compare ourselves and become self-conscious and anxious over our own daily intake.
Which leads to a whole string of mental health problems including disordered eating.
I mean it’s no wonder so many women have an unhealthy relationship with their bodies.
“Unqualified influencers posting misinformation far outnumber the experts debunking it, who are often harassed by other users for their efforts.”
Rina Raphael | Wellness Investigator
Let’s talk about clean eating
While we’re on the subject of unhealthy dietary trends, let’s talk about clean eating.
Clean eating is a popular diet that centres around proper nutrition and restricting unhealthy foods and anything that is not “clean”.
Promoted by young and attractive women on social media, clean eating has become the go-to wellness hack for middle-class Millennial women.
The focus is on eating “natural, organic foods over artificial, processed ingredients.” And although this sounds super healthy on the outside, underneath it is just another harmful diet plan which can be triggering for people who suffer from an unhealthy relationship with food.
By labelling food as “clean” or “dirty” we are permitting ourselves to have judgemental thoughts about food. And of course, this makes us “believe we are either “good” or “bad” for eating certain foods,” leading to disordered eating.
This extreme fixation over the quality of food can result in a deep obsession, also known as Orthorexia Nervosa.
People who follow this rigid way of eating healthy can end up suffering from malnutrition (as it cuts out entire food groups), mental health issues including anxiety and severe emotional turmoil as well as causing rifts in their relationships, work, self-worth and quality of life.
The truth is…
Clean eating does not equal healthy eating.
Eating healthily should not require you to become obsessed with what you eat, as surely that defeats the whole point of the word healthy.
Obsession is not healthy.
Healthy is eating a variety of foods that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, make you feel good and give you energy.
My point is, there are many different paths to healthy eating and some diets are bound to be more realistic and effective than others.
And it is up to you to figure out what is healthy for you and what works for you, rather than choosing to follow a trend just because it seems popular or copying what “wellness experts” are eating on social media.
Remember, influencers only tell half the story.
They may seem as though they are healthy and eating healthy but are they actually truly healthy?
Do they feel healthy inside, is their mind healthy?
Or are they purely selling you a one-size-fits-all diet plan in order to monetise their online presence?
Don’t just assume that everything they are telling you is the truth, do your own research first.
My own journey with body positivity
Although I am trying to build a healthier relationship with my body, it can sometimes feel as though I am in an uphill battle.
Everywhere I look on Instagram, there are beautiful slim women showing off their perfectly toned tummies and bums. This leads to feelings of guilt, comparison and negative thoughts about the way I look.
And then to add fuel to the fire, clothes shopping in Europe has been a total nightmare for me.
I no longer fit into a Zara EU size large (although I am the same average size I’ve been for the past 2 years) and it’s a struggle to find clothes that actually look like they’ve been designed for a woman rather than a pubescent teenager.
For someone who has a 32GG breast size, but a small waist it can be hard to find clothes that properly fit.
I was recently looking for a dress to wear to a wedding. On walking into a few stores, I asked the sales assistant if they had any nice dresses that would fit a larger bust. And each one of these assistants looked at my chest and turned their nose up with a snooty “no” — as though having large-sized boobs was my own fault. In the stores where they did actually want to help, I had shop assistants hand me loose-fitting sack-like dresses as they were the only thing that would fit my boobs. Now I’m sure these “oversized” dresses would look amazing on a slim woman as they would hang in all the right places, but on me they made me look like a giant marshmallow.
Is it not possible to find sexy clothes anymore that fit a curvier woman?
Clothes now only seem to cater for the super slim or Plus Size and fail to cater for the average-size, big-boobed woman.
Which of course, leaves me feeling slightly lost and resentful over my figure.
But then I remind myself about how powerful my body is for getting me through life despite everything I’ve put her through.
And as I get older my attitude towards my body is changing because I accept that my body is changing. After a lot of self-love, I am now in a place where I’m happy with the way that I look. I’m finally switching the narrative from needing to have a “perfect” body so I can impress others, to learning to love my body despite its flaws.
I’ve always been transparent with what I eat and how sometimes it is not always the most nutritious.
But the further I go into my health coaching course, the better my understanding of what is actually healthy and what is not.
And in all honesty, I follow a healthy Mediterranean diet that promotes natural foods and encourages healthy eating patterns.
I don’t smoke, I don’t drink coffee or fizzy drinks and I no longer binge alcohol, preferring to drink a glass or two of red wine with dinner.
I do however have a sweet tooth and regularly find myself craving waffles and gelato.
But I allow this 80/20 balance because to me, eating in moderation is healthy.
I don’t want to restrict or limit myself. Life is too short to be worrying about every single thing that I put into my mouth.
So don’t get so distracted counting calories that you purposely avoid eating the foods you love.
“To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”
Elizabeth | Gilbert
It’s important to remember that 100% of anything isn’t truly healthy without balance.
Only you know your body, and what nourishing foods serve you best.
No influencer can tell you what and what not to eat.
Take it from me, I am slowly building a health and wellness blog by being true to myself and not adopting all the same lifestyle habits as other wellness influencers. For example, I don’t drink green matcha or green smoothies, I don’t wake up before 7 am, I don’t do high-intensity workouts and I don’t have a long skincare routine.
And in all honesty, I would rather be on the curvier side than starve myself by just eating rabbit food.
I’m a big eater because I LOVE food, and I cannot live solely off fruit, vegetables and salad.
But yet, I feel healthier each year since I started my wellness journey.
I am learning more and more about nutrition and healthy eating and how important (well-sourced) meat and protein are for me. I am starting to make healthier choices by choosing nourishing, “real” foods over low-fat and processed or sugary foods.
This just goes to show that you don’t need to be following every single health and wellness trend on social media.
Do what works for you always.
Until next week,
Disclaimer: The content found in this blog post is my own opinion and is for informational and educational purposes only.