THE TIKTOK DIET



The Slippery Slope of TikTok Dieting Culture

by Caitlin Haviland

Renegade. Why you so obsessed with me? Hood Baby Shit.

If you were on TikTok in 2019, you know what I’m talking about.

In the beginning, TikTok was fun. A distraction from my college work, an escape from my dorm room, a place to learn silly dances, or to watch babies giggle at their parents. I spent the majority of nights freshman year endlessly scrolling with a smile on my face.

The app was a silly pastime, and everyone I knew was using it. My friends and I copied the dance routines, quoted videos and shared ones that reminded us of one another. The app was just an easy distraction, and while I knew I spent a few too many hours scrolling, I had no idea how much of an impact it would come to have on my life.

In March 2020, the world changed. COVID-19 rocked everyone’s reality, and I, along with so many other college students, went from my dorm to my childhood bedroom within a matter of hours. The change was stark, depressing and scary; my first taste of independence was ripped away and replaced with Zoom calls and a hand sanitizer frenzy, all without warning.

With nothing to do and endless time, I turned back to TikTok. I tried to find the same mindless, silly, escape I was used to, looking forward to new dances to learn and dumb audios to entertain myself with. The problem was, as the world turned dark, TikTok did too—and I didn’t realize until it was too late.

The change started slowly. Every once in a while, a “What I Eat in a Day” or at-home workout routine would pop-up on my “For You” page. I would like the video and move on without much thought. Over time, however, these videos completely overtook my feed. It felt like overnight my TikTok went from cute boys dancing to toxic, pro-anorexia content. I was stuck in a continuous loop watching girls under-eat, over-exercise and share their low-calorie recipes and “metabolic hacks.” I was isolated at home, scrolling through video after video promoting disordered behaviors, all day, every day. I loved TikTok, but suddenly the platform was making it hard for me to love myself.

I can’t lie and say TikTok made me insecure. It didn’t—I’ve been hyper-conscious of my body since I was a little girl. What I can say, however, is that TikTok amplified that insecurity to the nth degree. I’ve been calling myself fat since I can remember, but the videos gave me so much more than the scale to worry about. I obsessed over hip dips, back profiles, and wide rib cages—flaws I had never before considered—all alone in my bedroom, with nothing to do but watch videos of skinny girls telling me how I could make myself look more like them. The little self-confidence I had was torn apart, all by the app that once brought me so much joy.

Without realizing it, I absorbed the messages and began taking the “health guru’s” advice. I became addicted to exercise, which wouldn’t have been a problem, had I not been doing it out of hatred for my body. I started obsessively calorie counting and would panic if my mom made a carb-heavy dinner. I was replacing meals with iced coffee and trying new “hacks” like chewing ice to curb my hunger. I was falling down an extremely dangerous rabbit hole, all because I was trying to entertain myself during quarantine, and somehow ended up stuck on the wrong side of TikTok.

I now see the content and my behaviors for what they are: disordered, unhealthy and extremely dangerous. I avoid the toxic videos like the plague, and day by day, I am trying to kick away the disordered behaviors I latched onto.

Every day is a struggle, and I still can’t believe it was all started by the stupid app I downloaded to learn the Renegade.