Navigating “What I Eat In A Day” Videos

“What I Eat In A Day” (WIEIAD) videos are a quick way to up your Instagram engagement, and garner follows and likes. However, WIEIAD videos and posts, no matter how well-intentioned also have a rather sinister undercurrent.

You Are What You Engage With

Social media is a central part to modern life. And, apps like Instagram and TikTok want to make money. You didn’t think a free app would come free did you? How the apps make money is by analysing your activity – what you search, what you engage with, who you follow and what you spend time on (regardless of whether you “like” the post or not). Thus, you get shown content and ads you are more likely to engage with.

So, users are encouraged to follow and create content in line with current trends. A massive trend in the fitspo community is the What I Eat In a Day video/post. They are great for generating engagement, with the user drawn to see how and why the influencer eats the way they do. The WIEIAD is almost always accompanied by a physique/ab shot and the users’ motivation for their current dietary choices, e.g. What I Eat In A Day Whilst Cutting, WIEIAD as “That” Girl, WIEIAD on Photoshoot Prep.

The ForYou/Explore pages on social media platforms have long-pushed the WIEIAD, as yet another trend linked with body dissatisfaction. It’s not all the fault of the apps, of course. As users, we are the ones who engage with it. As long as we express interest and interact with these videos, they will continue to be pushed on us (Korbani and LaBrie, 2021)

You Are What You Eat

We’ve discussed the role of social media in increasing body dissatisfaction here, so I won’t delve too much into it. In essence, constant exposure to physiques, in particular lean “ideal” physiques, is associated with poorer body image in both women (Fardouly, Willburger and Vartanian, 2017) and men (Sumter, Cingel and Hollander, 2021).

Now, of course, posting a clip of your protein shake alongside your glute pump doesn’t make you solely responsible for disordered eating worldwide. However, you continue to perpetuate these weird toxic comparison narratives. Regardless of how you dress it up, as long as you put your physique alongside your entire calorie intake, you are saying “this is how I eat to look how I do”. More susceptible, younger users don’t care for your “DoNt CoPy mE eVeRyOnE iS DiFfErEnt” disclaimer.

It’s For Inspiration Only

Martin Luther King, sit down. We have some real inspiration here. You’ll see this disclaimer added as an afterthought to these videos. “It’s for inspiration only”, “meant to give you a few ideas”, and so on. And yes, I do appreciate that for many, these posts do provide some ideas as to how to hit your calorie or macro targets. I’m not here to dispute this. However, I do feel that it could be done a lot better.

If it really is to inspire and give people meal ideas, why does your physique need to be there? If you’re only giving meal ideas, why do you need to include the entire day and macro splits?

It’s Not All True

Now this one is definitely going to ruffle a few feathers. We are all special snowflakes with different calorie needs and food tastes. What works for me most certainly will not work for you. And, in many cases, you don’t get the full truth or the full story. What someone eats in a day for muscle gain is great, but what if they don’t disclose they are using performance-enhancing drugs? Blindly following influencers’ diets is a fast-track to having a bad time.

We also have to consider the Hawthorn Effect. According to the Hawthorne Effect, we behave differently when we know we are being watched (Wickström and Bendix, 2000). If you’re a fitspo influencer, you might be tempted to include a little more fruit and veg than usual, because you know your viewers expect that for you. Similarly, you might be tempted to show you eat different foods than your typical diet – e.g. pizza to prove you “can eat whatever you want on my diet plan”.

You might not show the true effect of your diet either – you won’t see the Liver King telling you he hasn’t taken a dump since 2008. Monkey see, monkey do, monkey can’t understand why he doesn’t have 28 inch biceps.

Conclusion

In the absence of truth, explanation and impact of your diet, your WIEIAD video is not inspirational, educational or helpful. It is little more than an ego boost from engagement. And given how rare it is to see a WIEIAD post that covers any of those bases, it’s perhaps best left alone.

References

  • Fardouly, J., Willburger, B.K., Vartanian, L.R. (2017) ‘Instagram use and young women’s body image concerns and self-objectification: Testing mediational pathways’, New Media & Society, 20(4), pp. 1380-1395.
  • LaBrie, J., Korbani, A. (2021) ‘Toxic TikTok Trends’, AP Research, 10(2).
  • Sumter, S.R., Cingel, D., Hollander, L. (2021) ‘Navigating a muscular and sexualized Instagram feed: An experimental study examining how Instagram affects both heterosexual and nonheterosexual men’s body image’, Psychology of Popular Media, 1(1).
  • Wickström, G., Bendix, T. (2000) ‘The “Hawthorne Effect” – what did the original studies actually show?’, Scandanavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 26(4), pp. 363-367.

Published by Michelle Carroll

I am a qualified personal trainer and radiographer. I believe in empowering others to make better choices for their health through education. I think that the fitness industry has created a disconnect between best practices and “evidence-based” practices. I am hoping that by chronicling my experience as a healthcare professional and my education as a fitness professional I can assist others on the path to bettering themselves.

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