By Ciarha Mckay and Chloe Richardson
Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders.
TikTok has given us a variety of food content in 2020, from microwave mug cakes to whipped coffee, but there’s one eating trend that leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
TikTok is filled with harmless funny videos and viral dance challenges. However, there is a dark edge of the app that must be addressed.
TikTok’s main feed, the ‘for you page’ is where a stream of popular videos are shown. However, there is a tailored algorithm to show videos the app thinks you will enjoy according to your engagement with certain types of videos.
TikTok trend “what I eat in a day” is where ‘Tiktokers’ are showing everything they eat that day in a 60 second clip.
These videos usually include, at first, a full-length body picture of the creator, followed by calorie deficits, intermittent fasting and “meals” that look more like snacks, with viewers left feeling insecure about their eating habits.
#whatieatinaday has over 3.6 billion views on Tik Tok, as of 11 October. This is an incredibly large reach for a single trend that showcases several variations of eating habits and a lot of them, dangerous.
These videos have been around for years but resurfaced at the beginning of the COVID pandemic when TikTok views were at their peak with students and workers stuck at home.
One TikTok account, where the user shows themselves consuming less than 900 calories in a day has over 297k followers, while using the #whatieatinday, therefore bringing even more views to the video.
The NHS recommend a general daily calorie intake of 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men and the absolute minimum intake is around 1200 for women. This means that there are several TikTok users promoting extremely unhealthy eating habits, consuming sometimes less than half of the recommended intake.
TikTok has faced backlash for its ‘pro-anorexia’ content repeatedly in the past, so how is it that the algorithm is letting this trend slip through the cracks?
These quotes were taken directly from another account on a video where a girl showed herself eating less than 1000 calories.
The responses on the public comment section is also part of the problem, and we are seeing how these videos are being identified by other users as harmful.
Eating disorders are not to be celebrated, especially not on such a public platform where people can be so easily exposed to it. And, with 49% of teens having used TikTok, something needs to be done to minimise this problem.
One solution that can limit some of these videos influence is to report them. TikTok allows you to report both a single video, an account, a comment, or a hashtag under many options of violation of community guidelines.
By selecting to report ‘inappropriate content’ and then under grounds of ‘self-harm’ this will allow you to effectively report any content deemed to be promoting disordered eating and TikTok will be able to review the content or account.
This trend has been overwhelmingly toxic toward the TikTok community and is part of a much larger problem on social media. The problem of comparing yourself to others is present across all platforms, and it’s too easy to be lured into diet culture.
Maybe it starts off as a few low-fat alternatives but when people don’t see the results they expect, it can lead to much bigger eating issues.
Accounts posting unhealthy #whatieatinaday videos are villainised for exposing their audience to potentially harmful content, but what is more worrying is that the creators behind the content are living by these standards.
In light of this upsurge of unrealistic body standards, some creators have made it viral with body positivity posts.
More body positivity content is what is needed to overthrow TikTok’s current algorithm to help create a more realistic and healthy platform.