In a society that worships diet culture and thin bodies, our recovery is often hindered due to the triggering content that we come across. This kind of content is especially prevalent on social media, and it reached a significant low in the early 2010s when multitudes of “pro-ana” blogs plagued the Internet. Unfortunately, these kinds of trends have become wildly popular again – this time on TikTok.

By: Samreen Khan

Recovery is difficult enough on its own. It’s made even harder when our society is constantly affirming disordered thoughts and behaviors, praising them as “healthy” and “admirable.” This subtle encouragement manifests itself in different ways – celebrity endorsements of diet products, the influx of weight-loss resolutions when every New Year rolls around, and even commenting “Body goals!” on someone’s post. Social media, in particular, serves as a heavily detrimental outlet for disordered behaviors to take center stage.

Many people were victims of the “pro-ana” and “thinspo” trends that gained popularity in the 2000s and continued into the early 2010s; groups of people online, particularly on platforms such as Tumblr, encouraged each other to engage in eating disordered behaviors, often glamorizing restrictive eating disorders in a way that impacted younger, impressionable pre-teens or teenagers in hazardous ways. Not only does this paint a ridiculously romanticized picture of restrictive eating disorders that strays far from reality, it completely disregards and often shames other types of eating disorders, including but not limited to bulimia, binge eating disorder, and eating disorders not otherwise specified. Luckily, pro-ana culture on Tumblr died out later in the decade and is now recognized as unhealthy by many.

Unfortunately, history seems to be repeating itself as pro-eating disorder content resurfaces on TikTok. Like all social media, it provides certain people with platforms that they can use to amplify whatever they believe is important. It is saddening to see, then, that many people have been using it in ways that promote disordered eating behaviors to their audiences. “What I eat in a day” videos are especially popular. While these types of videos can often inspire individuals in recovery or individuals wishing to improve their eating habits in general, many of the videos going viral on TikTok portray minimal amounts of food consumed throughout an entire day. While everyone’s body has different needs, the sudden influx of extremely measly “What I eat in a day” videos is no coincidence. It misrepresents what healthy eating habits are and can be triggering for those in recovery and many younger, impressionable individuals perusing the app.

The combination of this with trends that are painfully reminiscent of body-checking is altogether a recipe for disaster. In 2020, many TikTokers would post their exact clothing measurements in hopes of being scouted by model companies. Earlier this year, the “Bodies that look like this … also look like this” sound gained popularity, to which (primarily thin) individuals would post themselves flexing or posing and then post themselves either standing normally or bloated. And let’s not forget the “hip walking challenge,” in which the camera pans down to someone’s stomach to show off how it looks when they walk. There is nothing wrong with being confident in one’s body, but creating these comparison methods when the audience may be susceptible to unhealthy behaviors is highly questionable. This glorification of thin bodies doing completely normal tasks is directly parallel to “thinspo” posted on pro-eating disorder blogs in earlier decades.

One of the many issues with many of TikTok’s pro-ED users resides in the fact that much of it is subtler than it was in earlier decades. While the app has banned pro-ana hashtags (similar to many other social media platforms, such as Instagram and Tumblr), many of these body checking and eating trends are subtly disordered enough that they manage to stay under the radar. The media can be an outlet to foster community between people struggling with the same things, but it can also feed our insecurities. According to data provided by Comscore, over 30% of TikTok users are 10-19 years old¹ – an age range that possesses a heightened vulnerability to external influences regarding their eating habits and body image compared to the rest of the population. The impact of pro-eating disorder content on TikTok is apparent when you go to the comment section: comments like “I guess I’m not going to eat today” (regarding their perceived notions on how to achieve certain users’ body types) and “I’m suddenly not hungry anymore” gain thousands of likes as people come together to express the insecurities many of these videos exploit.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to filter every single video promoting disordered behaviors from a platform that has 40 million users.¹ However, drowning out harmful content with informative and wholesome messages instead is an effective way to combat it. One user, Helena Rose Cope (@helenarosecope), uses her platform as a safe space to promote mental health and food freedom with calming, reassuring videos of her taking care of herself the best she can every day. Videos like these can serve as a friendly reminder to those struggling with this influx of triggering content that prioritizing your mental health and recovery is worth it, and your body is worthy of acceptance regardless of how it looks.

At BALANCE eating disorder treatment center™, our compassionate, highly skilled team of clinicians is trained in diagnosing and treating the spectrum of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, compulsive overeating, and other disordered eating behaviors and body image issues. In addition to our full-time Day Treatment Program and Weeknight Intensive Outpatient Program, we offer nutrition counseling with a licensed dietitian, meal support, a Body Image Group, and various other groups and resources to assist those seeking help for food concerns. Click the button below to learn more about our programs and services. 

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Looking for eating disorder treatment programs or services in the New York City area? Learn more about our options at BALANCE eating disorder treatment center™ here or contact us here.

This post was written by BALANCE Blog Contributor, Samreen Khan (she/her/he/him). 

Samreen is a senior high school student with an ardent drive to de-stigmatize mental illness and eating disorders. Born and raised in the Bay Area, she experienced the harmful effects of “fitspo” culture firsthand for most of her childhood. Throughout her own recovery journey, she became passionate about deconstructing diet culture and raising awareness about eating disorders in her everyday life. Samreen began extending her own ideology of intuitive eating and body neutrality to others by publishing her own writing online when she was fourteen, and has since received several awards for her prose and poetry. She has conducted research on the biological and evolutionary implications of familial mental illness, and is currently taking college-level Sociology and Psychology courses with hopes to delve further into the social and cultural constructs that bolster disordered eating, especially within marginalized communities. She’s grateful for the opportunity to combine two of her strongest passions — writing and mental health — by working with BALANCE!


  1. Doyle, Brandon. “Tiktok Statistics – Everything You Need to Know.” Wallaroo Media, Wallaroo Media, 14 June 2021,

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