Many of us have looked up a new recipe online or been intrigued by a vlogger’s “What I Eat in a Day” video. While it can be entertaining to scroll through social media for dessert ideas or advice on how to meal prep for a busy week, there may be harmful effects that we are not aware of.
Diet products, juice cleanses, weight loss teas, influencers who swear by a particular diet, videos about what celebrities or models eat during a “regular” day clutter our Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook feeds on a regular basis. Instead of asking ourselves about the qualifications, authenticity, or motivation of someone promoting a weight loss tea or a specific diet on social media, we might find ourselves curious about whether it works, or we may feel poorly about our own bodies, appearance, and decisions about food and exercise.
We may convince ourselves that the reason someone we see on social media is successful, attractive, or confident is because of a specific diet, ingredient, or product that they’re trying to sell us on.
“What I Eat in a Day” videos have become increasingly popular on social media and typically depict everything a person’s eats on a regular day. Many people, ranging from well-known models and celebrities to influencers, vloggers, and peers, have either posted or seen such videos. While it can be fascinating to see what our favorite celebrity eats in a day, this trend also highlights how unattainable and unrealistic these diets can really be. Many times, these videos are not truthful and people may overreport what they eat, such as models being shown eating ice cream and pizza on a regular basis. On the other hand, people may also underreport what they actually eat to show how “clean” and regimented they are about their diet.
How realistic is it to maintain our favorite vlogger’s lifestyle and diet if our preferences and nutritional needs are nothing alike? Is their diet sustainable to us? Do we expect to look like this person if we just follow their diet (minus the trainer, live-in chef, and team of assistants)?
An unhealthy ideal is promoted to us through these trends because it sells us on the idea that a single diet or product will work for everyone and that health and happiness is implied if we just follow suit. This is often unrealistic, as people have different needs and lifestyles and there is no one product, food, or diet that works best for everyone. Limiting diets and products are unhelpful because they cannot fulfill all nutritional requirements over an extended period of time, and we often don’t see what goes on behind the scenes of the photos and videos being posted by others on social media. We also don’t take into consideration other aspects of this person’s lifestyle and the reasons why they’re advocating for that diet, product, or gadget in the first place. For example, wellness accounts may try to promote their brand-specific products or push an unhealthy agenda that will sell to their audience. If it’s a celebrity, model, or influencer, they may have gotten comments critiquing their body shape and size publicly, and may want to compensate by showing their audience that their diets are “normal” and non-restrictive even if they might be.
Some helpful questions and tips to think about include:
- Ask yourself what is the motivation behind a specific post or video. Is this person is trying to sell you something? What might this person be getting out of it?
- Does this support my needs, likes and dislikes, and lifestyle?
- Consider whether the information and advice being given is scientifically sound
- Is this diet/product/lifestyle sustainable over a long period of time or does it lack flexibility and practicality?
- Are there areas of my life that I am hoping this product or diet will drastically improve or ‘fix’?
After asking yourself these questions, you may realize that the people taking up space on your newsfeed aren’t the most helpful or healthy when it comes to your body image. You may not feel great about yourself for the choices you’re making when you are constantly shown an unrealistic depiction of someone else’s diet and lifestyle. You can ask yourself if it may be helpful to unfollow or limit this type of content on your social media. Another solution is to ask yourself if what you’re seeing is too good to be true or meant to sell you on something. Being mindful of intentions and the fact that no one’s diet or lifestyle is “perfect” can be a good first step.