'What I Eat in a Day' videos have become very popular online, usually featuring social media influencers, celebrities, or even trained dietitians showcasing their daily meals. These videos are seemingly harmless, offering a glimpse into different dietary habits, but there's a growing concern among health professionals about the potential dangers these types of videos can pose. Keep reading to explore some of these potential problems and what you should keep in mind the next time you watch a 'What I Eat in a Day' video.
"What I Eat in a Day" videos have good intentions but may be more problematic than helpful.
Ignoring individual diversity (age, sex, health/medical conditions) can create unrealistic standards that not everyone can follow, often leading to potential health issues and a problematic relationship with food.
These videos are often created by people who are not licensed medical experts in nutrition, so there is no information regulation. This can lead to misinformation being spread to audiences, further creating potential health and food related problems.
It’s always a good idea to seek the care of a licensed medical or nutritional expert to ensure you get a personalized nutrition plan that’s tailored specifically to your needs.
In the age of social media, 'What I Eat in a Day' videos have become immensely popular. From fitness enthusiasts to influencers, these videos offer a glimpse of what your favorite celebrity or online personality eats in a day. While they might seem informative and even inspiring, there are underlying concerns about their impact on our relationship with food and health.
Let's delve into the top 5 ways these videos could create more problems than solutions.
1. The one-size-fits-all approach could be dangerous
What these videos don’t account for are the unique nutritional requirements of each individual. These videos tend to present a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition, which can be misleading and potentially harmful. The diverse nutritional needs of different individuals, based on height/weight, age, sex, activity levels, and health conditions (medical, genetic, nutritional, etc.), aren't addressed, leading viewers to emulate diets that might not be suitable for them.
Oversimplification and assuming everyone can benefit from the same dietary choices are serious limitations to these types of videos. Each individual has unique nutritional needs that ought to be considered when creating nutritional guidelines.
Research published in the Journal of Advanced Nutrition emphasizes the importance of personalized dietary advice tailored to individual needs when they found “evidence that the provision of PN personalized nutrition advice based on a combination of dietary information, phenotype, genotype, and/or lifestyle factors improved dietary intakes in healthy adult populations when compared with generalized dietary advice.” An individual's nutritional requirements are far more complex than what these videos show, which can potentially cause more harm than good.
If you’re inspired by something you see in a 'What I Eat in a Day' video, please see a credentialed medical or nutrition professional to get your unique, personalized, nutrition plans to ensure your safety and success.
2. Disordered eating habits
People creating these videos, in most cases, have good intentions, but there's a significant risk of unintentionally promoting misinformation and even disordered eating habits. Some 'What I Eat in a Day' videos may feature extreme or restrictive eating habits or unrealistic standards of what to eat. This misinformation and these unrealistic expectations can lead to disordered eating and a skewed relationship with food.
Research in the International Journal of Eating Disorders highlights the potential link between exposure to such content and the development of disordered eating behaviors, such as orthorexia or an unhealthy obsession with eating 'clean' or 'perfect' foods. Another report published in the Eating and Weight Disorders journal suggests that 'What I Eat in a Day' videos can exacerbate orthorexic tendencies by glorifying strict, limited, and often unrealistic eating patterns, thereby promoting an unhealthy relationship with food.
It's important to recognize that what works for one person may not be suitable or healthy for another. If you find yourself feeling guilt or shame associated with what or how you’re eating, this is a sign that your relationship with food could be negatively impacted. The perfect diet doesn’t exist, and it can take a toll on both physical and mental health when unrealistic standards prevent a healthy relationship with food.
3. Compare despair
The emphasis on showcasing 'perfect' diets in these videos can inadvertently affect the mental and emotional well-being of viewers. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics reveals that exposure to idealized images of food and bodies can lead to negative psychological outcomes, including decreased self-esteem and increased body dissatisfaction. When viewers compare their own diets to those portrayed in the videos, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy or guilt, negatively impacting their relationship with food.
In addition, it’s important to note that those between the ages of 18–29 have the highest engagement with social media platforms, including Youtube, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. This is also the age group most vulnerable to developing eating disorders. You can see how detrimental some of these videos can be to younger audiences who lack the experience, self-awareness, and support to navigate the information they are exposed to when watching.
If you or someone you care about may be suffering from disordered eating or an unhealthy relationship with food, please reach out to your local medical professional or eating disorder clinic to get the help needed. There are also free hotlines you can call. You are not alone — there are people and resources that can help!
- National Eating Disorders Association Information and Referral Helpline (NEDA): Call 877-537-7935or get a text. Crisis Text Line: text “NEDA” to 741741
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders (ANAD): Call 888-375-7767 Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. CST or email: [email protected]
4. Lack of research and professional guidance
Most 'What I Eat in a Day' videos lack context and professional guidance. While some creators might have expertise in nutrition, the majority don’t have these important qualifications. Without proper credentials, the information used in the videos may not be scientifically accurate, which can lead to misinformation, misinterpretation of nutritional science, and potentially dangerous dietary practices.
Research in the Cambridge University Press emphasized that the majority of online videos lack input from qualified healthcare professionals, risking the spread of inaccurate nutritional information and potentially harmful dietary trends.
Instead of relying solely on social media content for dietary guidance, it's always safer and more effective to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals. Licensed healthcare providers can assess your individual needs and provide evidence-based recommendations tailored to your specific health goals while keeping you safe.
5. Wrong motives: likes over science
Another thing to consider is the performative nature of these videos. How do you know what these public figures are sharing is real and not curated for their audience? People tend to present their ideal self or ideal life when being recorded, so we can’t always take these videos at face value. Motives like seeking audience approval, support, or engagement can hinder the accuracy and authenticity of the information. When being liked is more important than accuracy, it does a disservice to the people watching.
Research reviewed in the Journal of Medical Internet Research explored the credibility and authenticity of online content. They found that misinformation is common amongst brands/people seeking to gain audience attention (likes, followers, and interactions), and that both message credibility and perceived value were driving forces behind the content creation. Basically, followers and likes took precedence over accuracy and scientific support.
The bottom line
While 'What I Eat in a Day' videos might appear harmless on the surface, their influence on viewers' eating habits and potential to magnify disordered eating behaviors is a cause for concern. Everyone's nutritional requirements are unique. What works for someone in a video might not work for you. Rather than aiming for an 'ideal' diet, focus on nourishing your body with a diverse range of nutrients and maintaining a healthy relationship with food. When it comes to health and nutrition, critical thinking and consulting trusted professionals are essential to both success and safety.
- Journal of Advanced Nutrition. Does Personalized Nutrition Advice Improve Dietary Intake in Healthy Adults? A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.
- JMIR Formal Research. Exploring the Potential of Personalized Dietary Advice for Health Improvement in Motivated Individuals With Pre Metabolic Syndrome: Pretest-Posttest Study.
- International Journal of Eating Disorders. NetGirls: the Internet, Facebook, and body image concern in adolescent girls.
- Clinical Food Studies. Food and Media: Practices, Distinctions and Heterotopias.
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Diet-related disparities: understanding the problem and accelerating solutions.
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- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Orthorexia nervosa and eating disorder symptoms in dietitians in the United States.
- Pew Research Center. Social Media Use in 2021.