The Dark Side of ‘What I Eat in a Day’ Videos
If you follow wellness influencers on TikTok or Instagram, you’re bound to come across plenty of “what I eat in a day” posts, in which an influencer shares footage of all their meals and snacks for an entire day. At first glance these posts seem innocent, but the underlying messaging can be unrealistic, harmful and downright dangerous.
It’s easy to get caught up in the world of social media, making it hard to distinguish between what’s real and what’s fabricated for the sake of likes. Often, the message of these “what I eat in a day” posts is that if you eat the same thing, you’ll get the same results. But they only tell one part of the story. Followers aren’t aware of any struggles with food or self esteem that could be behind these perfectly curated posts.
I spoke to an expert to learn more about why these posts can be harmful, and a better approach you can take if you’re looking to improve your health.
Why ‘what I eat in a day’ posts are misleading
Generally, a “what I eat in a day” post comes in the form of a video. An influencer will share their caloric intake or a breakdown of their meals, including their protein, carb and fat intake, and how they achieve it daily.
Christine Byrne, a Raleigh-based non-diet registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders, says many of these posts start with the influencer posting a full body check. In other words, they’ll post a photo or video of themselves to show off their progress as a result of their diet.
“Often they’re wearing tight clothing that shows off their thin body, and the implication is that if you eat like them, you’ll look like them,” Byrne explains.
What’s so wrong with a wellness influencer sharing their daily diet? After all, it can’t be that bad if they influence you to eat healthier.
The reality is that eating or exercising exactly like an influencer (or anyone else for that matter) with the goal to look like them is unrealistic, because we’re all different in many ways. Byrne says this is tied to all of us having different genetics, which means our bodies are naturally shaped differently.
Plus, we each have different predispositions for things like, and we all metabolize food differently. “On top of genetic variation, there are also factors like our stress levels, our financial resources, our environments, and our everyday responsibilities and routines that affect the size and shape of our bodies,” Byrne explains. It’s important to understand that many of these factors are completely out of our control, and these posts don’t take them into account.
Young people are especially at risk
Besides being unrealistic, the biggest issue with these posts is that they can easily harm young followers, such as teens who don’t know how to distinguish between fallacy and reality. Byrne warns, “those most at risk of this influence are adolescents, teenagers and young adults who don’t yet have the confidence or sense of self to realize that they don’t need to mimic what various influencers are eating or doing.”
Studies have found that there’s a correlation between the way social media influences teens and their eating concerns.
Not to mention, these posts can trigger someone with a history of disordered eating or an eating disorder. Byrne expresses that the early stages of eating disorder recovery are the most volatile. Seeing these types of posts can disrupt someone’s progress if they try to justify their behavior because they see an influencer doing the same thing.
Byrne explains that eating disorders and disordered eating often lead to a heightened interest in food. “It’s a survival mechanism because when you’re not properly nourished, your body and brain fixate on food in an attempt to get you to eat more of it,” she says, adding, “unfortunately, that same heightened interest in food is what leads many of these influencers to share what they eat.”
As a result, what you may not see is that many of these “what I eat in a day” posts are created by people who already have a disordered relationship with food and are undernourished. Many of these posts also tend to moralize food using food rules tied to pseudoscience or misleading .other
What approach should you take instead?
These types of posts aren’t helpful or fully truthful because you don’t know an influencer’s backstory. You can’t understand their relationship with food or their own body image simply by watching their videos. Byrne warns against trying to copy influencers’ eating patterns or looking to them for nutrition advice because ultimately they don’t know what’s best for you. She says, “there’s also no way to know whether someone’s account of what they eat in a day is accurate, or a good representation of their regular eating.”
She suggests using these posts as inspiration for recipes instead of as a guide. Additionally, she encourages paying attention to how food makes you feel. “Practicing tuning into your cravings and figuring out what your own body wants and needs is a healthier and more realistic approach,” she says. By tapping into those instincts, it will be easier to determine your needs — which is much more sustainable than trying to eat like someone else.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.