How TikTok perpetuates harmful diet culture
All social media platforms have their pros and cons. But when it comes to fitness and nutrition advice, TikTok really is, ironically, misinformation on steroids.
If you search #fitness on the app you’ll be met with nothing but ripped physiques, steroid-enhanced bodies and extreme weight loss transformations.
The TikTok algorithm is brilliantly effective. If you watch a certain type of content, the app thinks you must like that topic or style of content, so you will be shown more of it. Sounds great.
But 30% of users are under 18 and TikTok is now a leading search engine. Young people are using the app to search for exercise or nutrition advice, and they are then being bombarded by image-obsessed fitness content with normalised over-restriction… this is going to have a huge impact on health and wellbeing.
A recent study by The University of Vermont found less than 3% of the nutrition-related TikTok videos were weight-inclusive. We are going to have another generation of people believing that health is all about how slim your body can be, and that success is measured by how much pain and suffering you can endure. Researchers found “young females who created and engage with weight or food-related content on TikTok are at risk of having internalised body image and disordered eating behaviours from other aspects of their lives.” This is already having a devastating impact.
#WhatIEatInADay videos. Transformation posts. Fat busting workouts.
We see these topics all the time from fitness influencers and coaches on social media. They have become so “normal” and part of health and fitness scene that people think you're wildly over-reacting when you start calling out the dangers of them.
I wish that I had a master plan to fix the dangerous path another social media platform is going down. But all we can do for now is continue to call out the dangerous nature of most fitness videos, challenge the narrative we are being fed daily, and surround ourselves with positive, weight inclusive, evidence-led people that genuinely have our best interests at heart.
Is that too much to ask for?