Tik Tok and Diet Culture

Like many girls returning home from our beloved college lives to the new reality of COVID-19, I found myself looking for any chance to escape the chaos of my six person family while getting a good laugh every once in a while. Naturally, I downloaded TikTok and unexpectedly fell into its hours-long trap of endless scrolling. I made the mistake of expecting TikTok to be like Instagram: I would have a little FOMO from the videos of normal life at college, get inspiration of how to spend all my money on clothes I'm never going to wear, and stay up-to-date on TikTok drama, aka, which 17-year-olds cheated on each other this week. What I didn't expect was the eating disorder I developed a month after I downloaded the app.

 

Things started off innocent enough. I tried the Chloe Ting ab workouts, replicated meals I saw on other girl’s “What I Eat In A Day!” vidoes, went on my daily quarantine walks. After all, I had a sudden abundance of free time, I thought I should use it to better myself. But the problem with seeing all those videos was that it became all I ever saw. After all, we were in quarantine: what else was there to do besides spend all day on Tik Tok? My entire “For You Page” consisted of people I suddenly felt the need to compare myself too, whether it be how many miles they ran that day, or how few calories they ate. Everything I saw became an internal battle, but the severity increased the more time I spent on the app. Was I unhealthy for eating pasta for dinner? Did I deserve to eat if I didn’t work out that day? The calorie-counting videos and numbers burned into my brain, and no matter how hard I tried to fight it, it was a losing battle. If those girls on Tik Tok can eat like this and look like that, then why couldn’t I?

 

The problem isn’t even with those girls themselves, rather, the false information they unconsciously perpetuate. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to eating habits, and just because someone leads a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean they’ve earned the right to call themselves a dietician and give advice to others. Young girls have been poked and prodded by different media outlets for decades, always with an unattainable standard to live up to. While we may be working towards a more body-positive mentality, the susceptibility of women to diet culture has not changed, and won’t change for as long as we continue to normalize and promote disordered eating habits. Tik Tok and other social media platforms need to consciously make an effort to stop pushing potentially dangerous and misinformative videos to the top of our feeds and focus on the content that the app was intended for.