Don't Take Advice From 'What I Eat in a Day' Videos

Social media is full of videos where influencers document what they eat in a day. While these videos may inspire a healthier and more diverse diet, they can also contribute to disordered eating.

Followed by a hashtag #WIEIAD, "What I Eat in a Day" videos often feature fitness influencers in their spotless kitchens making colorful smoothies and veggie-rich foods. They usually look different and live quite differently from most of us, making us feel bad about our less-perfect meals.

"Reminder about WIEIAD videos: you can eat like this person and not look like them. Use these for inspiration, not prescription," Abbey Sharp, a dietitian, recently wrote, reviewing one of these videos.

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These videos vary hugely in content and there is never a one size fits all when it comes to diet and nutrition, according to Annabel van Griethuysen, a dietitian within the National Health Service.

These videos can be shared on social media to demonstrate new meal ideas, normalize regular eating, share recipes, and build a community interested in nutrition online.

"However, these videos often highlight the extremes of eating or promote expensive supplements and products in order to maximize monetary potential, so need to be approached with caution," Griethuysen tells Healthnews.

Moreover, social media may not be the best place to learn about healthy eating. For example, only 2.1% of nutrition information on TikTok is accurate. Nevertheless, 87% of millennials and Gen Z TikTok users have turned to the platform for nutrition and health advice, a survey found. The common trends on TikTok include detoxing diets, stomach fat-burning foods, and liquid cleanses.

A recent study suggests that online social platforms create a feedback loop of eating disorder content, which traps vulnerable individuals within pro-anorexia echo chambers.

Andrea Stokes, a registered nutritionist and certified intuitive eating counselor, says the WIEIAD videos often pose more harm than benefit. Each individual approaches health and healthy eating in a unique way, meaning one person's definition of "healthy eating" may not align with another's.

Seeing what other people eat in a day — especially if they are in small or thin bodies — tends to encourage the idea that, if I just eat like this person, I will look like them, or I will be as healthy as they are. In reality, health and body size are incredibly complex and influenced by many factors — not just what you eat.

Stokes

Stokes says that these videos can create an unhealthy comparison mentality. Because not everyone has access, money, time, and energy to make those feeds, people can feel guilty, ashamed, or overwhelmed when they can't eat the same way as someone they see on social media.

Moreover, social media isn't necessarily real life, and we don't know if WIEIAD videos are accurate. For example, we don't know if a person eats that way all the time or if they eat lots of other foods that they don't show in their videos.

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Stokes says, "I would say their only usefulness could be in giving ideas for meals and snacks for people who are looking, and only for those who have a healthy relationship with food and who are genuinely just looking for ideas, not a guide as to how they personally should be eating."

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