Hey Trish, do you think what vloggers say they eat in a day is what they actually eat in a day?
Hi there, and thank you so much for this interesting – and important – question. Before I get into your question (and my answer/advice!), I want to begin by validating the general confusion I feel in your question. There is so much diet-related information on the Internet, ranging from “What I Eat in a Day” videos to advice on the best foods to eat (or the worst foods to avoid) to diets that influencers and celebrities swear by. It can be a lot to navigate, and sometimes, hard to tell what’s true and what’s not true. And, of course, that means it can be especially hard to know how to smartly and safely engage with #digitaldietculture.
The good news is that all hope is not lost! With some general background knowledge and some tips/tricks, you can set healthy boundaries around the way you consume and process online diet culture. (I do want to note: this, of course, does not mean that the problem of false diet ads or content promoting specific body types is solved, and there’s plenty more work to be done to make the Internet a more affirming space for everyone one of its users. I also want to note that this advice does not apply to folks that have eating disorders. To those folks, I say I love you, I think you all are beautiful, and wish you well – and would really encourage you to get in touch with a doctor.) Even so, I hope this post is a helpful tool you can use to set realistic expectations around what you see on social media and elsewhere and create practices for engaging with that content.
Let’s start by answering the question you asked: is what vloggers say they eat in a day what they actually eat in a day? I couldn’t tell you – it probably depends on the vlogger. With that said, plenty of the diet habits and practices that you see on the Internet might not entirely be true. For instance, what a vlogger says they eat in one day might not be what they eat all week – so that one snapshot of their diet is an idealized, unrepresentative version of what their actual diet. And indeed, idealizing what we eat/only posting the best of what we eat is common on social media – I know plenty of my friends who are guilty of this! They’ll post their afternoon salad but not the Chunky Monkey they had for dessert. There’s also more nefarious false information about diets out there – legit #misinformation. These are often ads promising weight loss in an unrealistic amount of time or diets that claim to help you lose weight or address ailments instantly. And that leads to Tip #1: Given that so much of what we see about food on social media might at best be a snapshot and at worst false, be extremely cautious about the information you see. Just because a bunch of folks you think are cool seem to be following a diet does not 1) make that diet healthy or 2) even mean that they are actually following a diet. Which leads to Tip #2: If you’re thinking about changing how you eat, I’d recommend chatting with your doctor first. Trust me, Facebook is not a good substitute for a medical professional (and I think they’d probably agree with that, too).
Okay then, you’re thinking, but how can I tangibly be “extremely cautious about the information I see”? What does that look like in practice? In this next part of the blog post, I’ll offer some tips and suggestions for evaluating diet information when you see it online. Read them, memorize them, and use them!
- When you’re consuming diet content online, take a step back and reflect on why. Is it because you think an influencer’s recipes are cool? You’re just curious? You’re hunting for some inspiration for your next meal? All of those reasons – and many others – are totally valid reasons to be interested in online diet content. On the other hand, if you find yourself thinking that if you follow their diet, maybe you’ll look more like the influencer, it might be time to re-evaluate your relationship with diet content online. The truth is, we all have different nutrition needs, so comparing yours to someone else’s is like comparing apples and oranges. Sometimes, though, we make these comparisons implicitly – and it’s only with honest reflection that we can recognize that that’s what we’re doing and that we need to stop.
- When you see diet content, keep your expectations in check. As I discussed above, when you see a “What I Eat in a Day Video,” always keep in mind that that influencer may have edited the video, including some things but not others, and that it’s often true that what they ate on that one day is not what they eat every day. In fact, scrolling through their posts, you may just find that they were enjoying a ginormous ice cream sundae a week ago (as they should!). So come in with the expectation that what you’re seeing is not 100% realistic.
- When you’re consuming diet content, be critical. Ask yourself: who is the person sharing this content? What is their perspective or “angle”? Why might they be sharing this type of content and message? This isn’t to say that the influencer is lying to you or even has an agenda, but just to say that a more critical perspective can help you see things you may not have seen before. And of course, be very wary if someone is trying to sell you something, like a diet pill. While it’s not a blanket rule, those types of ads or content are usually not the safest.
- Remember your self-worth. Every day, when I get up, I like to verbally, or in my journaling, affirm that I am worthy, I am loved, and I am beautiful and perfect, just as I am. Our bodies do so much for us and carry us through good and difficult times – including, most recently, a COVID-19 pandemic. Love and appreciate your body for everything it does for you, and remember that beauty is not (and should not!) be one-dimensional.
I hope you found this post helpful and empowering and that you use these tips as you navigate all of the diet-related information out there. I especially hope you feel more affirmed in knowing that you are perfect, and should love your body, just the way it is! Let me know if you have any other related questions or challenges in the comments. And speaking of getting in touch with me…I also want to invite you to share any of your thoughts, questions, or concerns about the Internet (whether about online diet culture or something else entirely!) here. As I always like to tell you all, it is so simple and easy to fill out the form. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. And one other thing, too – please don’t forget to give our Ask Trish videos some love on social media. Like the videos, comment on them, and share them with your digital network! You may be helping more people than you realize. Thanks a ton in advance for sharing our #AskTrish wisdom!
Have a great week,