“Videos like this are the reason why women will never feel peace,” Doyle, TikToker Michaela Rose, said in response to the trend. “When it comes to pregnancy, there are already a lot of mixed emotions, especially for our generation. This is one of many trends where people can offer feedback on women’s bodies in a very indirect way.”
Similarly, commenters on the top videos say they are erasing “body positivity” trends.
“For a second, we had this huge wave of body positivity compared to 2014. I thought we were on the right track, but the things I see on my For You page promote disordered eating,” Patrick said.
“It really takes you back to that 2012 Tumblr experience of commenting on people’s bodies in a cute, modern way,” added Doyle.
Heavy regulatory content on TikTok is more common than you think
A 2022 study of TikTok content suggests that the app’s sounds and hashtags may contribute to body dissatisfaction and eating disorders by creating space for inaccurate and normative content about weight. Despite TikTok’s censorship policies on content that promotes diet culture and eating disorders, nearly 44% of videos tagged #weight or #food include content about weight loss and body transformation. Additionally, less than 3% of videos on body-related hashtags contained content that included weight, University of Vermont researchers reported in the journal PLOS One.
In the study, researchers looked at 1,000 videos of 10 hashtags related to nutrition, food and weight that had more than 1 billion views, and then performed a more detailed analysis of the top 100 videos for each hashtag.
Common trends include “What I Eat in a Day” videos, which feature weight transformations and include references to weight loss. Intermittent fasting, high-protein, low-calorie, and liquid diets were also included under the hashtag “nutrition.”
But who is making this content? According to the analysis, they were most often white female teens and young adults (64.6% of creators featured females and 30.6% featured males).
“When we already have internal biases, the content only reinforces those biases we have, and gives young people biased views about what beauty is and how we should not only think about our bodies, but about people as well,” she said. langer. . In videos with body-related hashtags containing nutritional advice, only 1.4% of the content was created by registered dietitians.
How do young people internalize the content of body image?
Considering TikTok’s largest user demographic ranges from 10 to 19 years old, people who create and engage in weight-related content may already be at risk of negative body image or disordered eating behaviors, according to the study. 2022 on PLOS One.
“There’s a difference between ‘I have to take care of myself’ and ‘I have to do everything I can, which could include going hungry, not eating, limiting carbs and exercising excessively,'” said Rania Batayneh, a nutritionist and wellness specialist. coach. “When they see the people they admire change, it may even increase their own worries and fears about aging and their appearance.”
Teens who witness negative body comparisons on social media may have increased body dissatisfaction and strive to look a certain way, according to a 2022 study in the journal BMC Women’s Health in which researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 24 girls. Participants said they felt pressured to meet unrealistic expectations when viewing fitness accounts on social media.
What’s next for weight and food related content on TikTok?
In 2020, TikTok’s safety policy manager issued a statement declaring a change in the company’s advertising policies to promote a more positive environment around body size. The app banned ads for fasting apps, weight loss supplements, and information that may promote harmful behavior. However, this still allows “weight management” products to reach users over the age of 18.
TikTok has also partnered with the National Eating Disorders Association, adding a feature in 2021 at the end of videos that may contain unsafe content. As a result, an activation warning may appear on some videos. (BuzzFeed News contacted TikTok about the song, and a spokesperson referred us to its community guidelines. The app appeared to have removed some of the videos as of Monday.)
Additional in-app controls include reporting content, selecting “not interested” when viewing content to hide future content from the creator and sound, adding comment filters that automatically hide offensive comments, and blocking specific accounts and sounds.
Despite the trend toward greater body acceptance on social media, diet culture continues to hurt viewers who may internalize messages about aging and body image, Batayneh said.
“The simple notion of aging is that women fear gaining weight, getting wrinkles, or looking different; this idea of preserving youth is so powerful in our society,” she said. “If you admire someone for their looks, which is how we view Hollywood and celebrities, and if that person changes and doesn’t fit our memory, you may need to start thinking about yourself and how your body changes.”