What I Eat in a Day: An Unhealthy Comparison
CW: Eating Disorders, Disordered Eating, Body Image, Weight loss
What is #WIEIAD?
#WIEIAD (or ‘What I Eat in Day’) is a short video trend, normally in Instagram reel or TikTok format, that details the creators’ meals and snacks over a 24-hour period. While some videos only film food, others add captions and voiceovers detailing factors such as calories, portion sizes, and protein content. Sometimes shots of the person eating, cooking, or body checking are also included.
What is body checking? The repeated checking of one’s shape or weight.
Examples include: Weighing yourself, measuring body parts, looking in the mirror, filming or photographing your body over a set period. These practices are often associated with body dysmorphia and disordered eating.
Why is the ‘What I Eat in a Day’ trend harmful?
While these videos can be enticing to watch as they often feature a luxurious aesthetic or can function as meal-prep inspiration, most ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos ultimately perpetuate unhealthy practices that contribute to imbalanced diets, disordered eating, and body image issues.
One Person’s Healthy Can be Another Person’s Unhealthy
In addition to working out, food is often seen as a way to control how our bodies look. Audiences of ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos are often seeing these influencer’s posts and trying to copy them in the hopes that they will replicate the influencer’s results. The message of ‘if you eat like me, you can look like me’ is pervasive. Clinical psychologist Colleen Reichmann states ‘This is so problematic, because the vast majority of the time, the videos are being done by thin, able-bodied, younger white women—women with an immense amount of body privilege. The videos then end up promoting a specific type of body that’s unattainable for most people.” Viewers are often left to feel self-conscious or anxious about what they eat in comparison – for example, they could think that if they are eating a larger portion than what is shown in the video their diet is ‘wrong’ and they need to cut back.
What is important to remember here is that having the same diet is not guaranteed to yield the same results! In an interview with Healthline, nutritional psychiatrist Dr. Uma Naidoo stated “When talking about diet, each person has individual needs and requirements in terms of energy expenditure, metabolism, insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Even if two people eat exactly the same food, their bodies will digest, process, and use these nutrients in very different ways.” Factors such as genetics, chronic illness, and socioeconomic status can also impact weight.
Check out TikTok creator Laura Ghiacy’s video for a concise overview of how and why #WIEIAD is problematic.
Lack of Transparency
It is super important to remember these videos are a single day, in one person’s life, and are often curated to fit a certain image. It is important to reflect on the ‘reality’ of this trend.
Some factors to consider when watching a ‘What I Eat in a Day’ video:
- Is everything they have eaten actually shown?
- Did they make fancier or healthier meals than normal because it would get more views?
- Are they in a socioeconomic position to purchase more expensive food items or have more time to cook?
- Are they being sponsored or paid to promote a particular product or meal service?
- Does the creator have legitimate qualifications to provide guidance around diet and nutrition?
Misleading / Misunderstanding Intuitive Eating
WIEIAD videos can be well intentioned, however, the trend sees many videos mentioning intuitive eating practices in ways that fundamentally fails to understand the method’s principles. If a WIEIAD video mentions things like calories, portion control, or weight loss goals, it is not technically teaching intuitive eating. If a video discusses hunger and fullness without exploring concepts of flexibility, body acceptance, and food neutrality it also fails to teach the purposes behind intuitive eating.
Ultimately, this misunderstanding or misleading information surrounding intuitive eating in WIEIAD videos is related to creators using wellness buzzwords and their bodies as marketing tools. This is especially problematic when a creator is not educated in nutrition as their advice is likely not based on science but rather personal experience. While sharing your personal experience can be valuable, it does not guarantee the same results for those who do not have the same genetic makeup or body type. It is also problematic to discuss intuitive eating in the same video where lots of body checking or thin privilege is prevalent. The suggestion that a healthy relationship with food is only for those who are of a certain weight, fitness level, or societal beauty standard is not only untrue but potentially damaging to viewers’ self-esteem.
What is intuitive eating?
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, intuitive eating is about trusting your body to make food choices that feel good for you, without judging yourself or the influence of diet culture. Unlike traditional diets that restrict or ban certain foods, intuitive eating requires you to stop looking at food as “good” or “bad.” Research shows that intuitive eaters have less food preoccupation, lower rates of disordered and emotional eating, reduced stress, higher levels of self-esteem and contentment, and better body image. Intuitive Eating is an anti-diet, and a weight-inclusive model. What intuitive eating looks like for one person can look entirely different for someone else.
Reframing WIEIAD Videos
While you’re reading this article, you might think – well it can’t be all bad, can it? Or how could you even avoid seeing these videos given the trend is seemingly everywhere?
Here are a few suggestions to help reframe the WIEIAD trend to lessen its negative impacts:
- Use the videos as a way to discover new recipes to try out!
- Use the videos to learn new cooking techniques
- Use the videos to discover new types of foods or food brands
There are also several creators who highlight their eating disorder recovery process and have created a community using WIEIAD videos to connect with and support others who are also struggling. TikTok accounts @olimalinowskaa and @recoverforlittlelil are great examples.
SWC Mindful Eating Program
Wellness @ Mac Blog: Practicing Mindful Eating
Nutrition & Food Guide
Eating Disorder Help
Food & Nutrition, Mental Health & Mental Illness