The Danger of Weight Standards in K-pop Culture

Maintaining my health is something that I take pretty seriously. I exercise regularly, try to eat well (though I’ll never be able to resist Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food) and get my eight hours of sleep whenever I can. With my tight college budget, YouTube has been extremely helpful with its access to free workout and recipe videos.

However, it has also given me some recommendations that have raised my inner alarm bells. One type of video that’s been recommended to me over and over again are those in the ‘K-Pop’ diet trend. These include the ‘Jimin diet,’ which consists of eating only one meal a day and the Ailee diet,’which consists of only consuming 500 calories a day. It’s also expected that one work out while on these extreme diets.

Kpop is a very strict industry, one that takes years of rigorous training in order to get into. Many Kpop idols have sued the companies that they work for, with complaints ranging from poor pay to abusive contracts. Physical appearance is very important to these companies, and they often have their idols go under extreme diets and exercise programs in order to maintain a ‘ideal’ body. Although this is an effective marketing strategy, it can also be massively damaging to a Kpop fan’s body image. As one fan noted, “First of all, it changed my perception of myself - even if I know kpop idols are often too thin, I think they look really good and without realizing I got so much less confident about my weight and looks in general.”

These diets are created for the sole purpose of losing weight. They’re too effective at doing so, to the point where they can be dangerous. Side effects can include nutrient deficiencies, hair loss and numerous mental health issues. The idols who do these diets even acknowledge that they have caused them distress both physically and mentally.

While many of the YouTubers that do these diets acknowledge these issues, the thumbnails of their videos paint a very different picture. They highlight the extreme weight loss in an almost positive light. It’s only after one watches the video that the numerous negative side effects are revealed. 

Although these videos are made for educational purposes, the thumbnails and titles seem to glorify these dangerous diets. Not only are these diets physically dangerous, but they can also lead to body image issues and eating disorders.

There is a difference between eating healthy and starving yourself. I hope that in the future, these YouTubers and idols won’t risk their own health for the sake of experimentation. If I was in their situation, I would try and think before promoting these diets as a method for extreme weight loss. These diets aren’t sustainable, and can lead to mental health deterioration.