Can You Trust “What I Eat in a Day” Videos?

Hello, everyone! It’s the New Year, which means millions of people around the world are going to dust off their gym clothes, break out their blenders, and try, once again, THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM, to get “well.” In the spirit of “New Year, New You,” which I firmly suspect is just a marketing slogan dreamed up by the diet industry, I’ve decided to talk about the plethora of “What I Eat In A Day” videos on YouTube, mainly in the hopes of warning would-be wellness pilgrims to stay away from them. If there’s one thing that most of these videos have in common (besides being filmed by statuesque blonde women in spaceship-sized white kitchens), it’s that they offer no dietary information of any value. They’re simply a collection of anecdotal evidence, flavored with ads for supplements, expensive blenders, and protein powder, and delivered with the practiced subterfuge inherent to all fitness influencers. You might as well call them “The Two Bites I Eat In Front Of The Camera To Fulfill My Sponsorship” videos instead.

Health Vitamin GIF by Love Wellness
The secret to wellness? Non FDA-approved supplements

For those wanting to get fit in 2022, the wellness corner of the internet has no lack of options, ranging from fitness plans created by people who have no qualifications, to diet plans created by people who have no qualifications. One of the most insidious genres of “fitspo” out there is every influencer’s favorite go-to content: the “What I Eat In A Day” video. Now, before I get all ranty, I’m sure that there are videos out there created by registered dietitians that provide useful generalized information for the average viewer. However, if there is one thing that the we know about diets, it’s that we don’t know shit about diets, and that one person’s experience with a specific meal plan can be completely different from someone else’s experience. Food science is complex, bodies are unique, and if you’re looking for a meal plan for weight loss, then there is no worse place to go than the Wild West of fitness influencer YouTube.

The problem is that “What I Eat In A Day” videos are much more accessible, appealing, and affordable to the average person than a meal plan created by a registered dietitian. That’s by design. Aiming to seem relatable, these videos, created by influencers like Whitney Simmons, Victoria’s Secret model Romee Strijd, and woman-about-town Kylie Jenner, read like a casual chat between friends. A glimpse into the kitchen and habits of a girl who’s just like you, except for the fact that she’s prettier, thinner, richer, and more disciplined, and you only see her through the lens of a camera.

Let’s start with Whitney Simmons, a popular fitness influencer with 2 million YouTube subscribers and 3 million Instagram followers. Whitney starts her day off with a smoothie containing a fruit, juice, and spinach, as well as some vanilla protein powder (lest we forget that eating is about fueling one’s body for workouts and not just an enjoyable aspect of being human). For some reason, all fitness influencers are obsessed with beginning their days with juices, smoothies, or water. She maintains that she is “eating intuitively” and not counting her macros, but then she does count her macros in case her viewers are counting their macros. We get a few glimpses of her Nutribullet blender (another influencer fav) and even though she doesn’t mention being sponsored by them, she’s probably secretly sponsored by them. If there’s one way to take away from influencer content, it’s that everything is sponsored, and they will only tell you about 1/4 of their sponsorships so they can pretend to adhere to legal disclosure standards.

After Whitney’s smoothie, she makes some breakfast tacos, made with almond flour and dairy free cheese. You will rarely see a fitness influencer eat dairy or gluten products. Again, to each their own, but I think it’s strange that the fitness community (at least the female side) is so vehemently against dairy and gluten, when aside from dietary intolerances or moral beliefs, there is nothing harmful about eating either of those things. The aversion to these normal foods (which feature prominently in many people’s diets) is one of those red flags that alert the viewer to the fact that these “WIEIAD” videos do not represent the average person’s diet. They prioritize being aspirational over being attainable.

Whitney rounds off the day with an apple-cranberry chicken sandwich on gluten free bread (naturally), which actually sounds delicious, and we see her eat one bite of it, so…did she eat it? Did Jennifer Lawrence eat pizzas and cheeseburgers while filming The Hunger Games? It’s a mystery. She later says that the two mini-sized sandwiches were too filling for her, and that she will probably just eat them on lettuce next time. So much for eating intuitively. For dinner, she eats a standard sheet pan meal of chicken, potatoes, and vegetables, which again, looks delicious, and actually filling. For dessert, she eats something called a Dolly Llama, which is a dairy-free and gluten-free ice cream.

In total, Whitney ate two meals, one smoothie, and one ice cream. As “WIEIAD” meals go, her’s is pretty well-balanced, seems filling, and although it shies away from dairy or gluten, doesn’t seem to be overly restrictive. Despite this, however, I still wouldn’t use Whitney’s meal as “inspiration” for getting healthy, as her body might process foods in a different manner than your’s or mine would, and most importantly, there is no proof that Whitney ate any of the meals that she featured in her videos. As I’ve discussed in another post, it’s a common trick for celebrities to claim that that they eat a “balanced” diet, while actually engaging in restrictive eating habits, and I wouldn’t put it past someone whose job is looking thin to engage in that same deception if it allowed them to create relatable content without having to sacrifice their Instagrammable body.

Next we have Romee Strijd, a Victoria’s Secret model. Even before watching this, I know to take Romee’s video with a grain of salt, as models have revealed the actual restrictive diets and workout habits that are responsible for the “perfect” model body. Surprise, surprise, you don’t look like Romee just from eating oatmeal and avocado toast.

Romee starts her day with hot water and a lemon, which is a relic from the kooky Master Cleanse from the 70s. That’s a whole wormhole – listen to the podcast Maintenance Phase if you want to know more about a how diet based around water, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper isn’t exactly “healthy.” After her lemon juice, Romee eats a tiny bowl of oatmeal with seeds, half a banana, and a spoonful of peanut butter. She eats some strawberries and almonds for a snack, and then for lunch, she eats two slices of bread (with actual GLUTEN), a single egg, and a single avocado. At 4PM, she eats a snack of carrots, cucumbers, and hummus. At 7PM we get a Hello Fresh meal/ad where Romee makes eggplants stuffed with rice, and that’s the end of Romee’s eating for a day. Her meals are very fruit and vegetable heavy, with a small bit of protein, almost zero fat, and almost zero sugar. There is not a processed food to be found. While on the one hand I admire Romee for sticking to this diet, I also doubt that Romee eats like this on a regular basis, because even a diet as regimented as this one isn’t enough to produce the goddess-tier bodies necessary for the VS runway.

I find the “WIEIAD” Victoria’s Secret model videos especially fascinating because of how hard the brand tried to push the idea that these models are “just like us,” and that it’s possible to eat fast food and look like a model if you do some pilates twice a week. Even a video like Romee’s, which probably doesn’t show the full story, is indicative of how much dedication and thought Romee has to put into her diet on a daily basis. Additionally, she has the freedom to make hand-cooked meals full of fresh vegetables without worrying about the cost or having to plan around her 9-5 schedule. Eating like Romee is inspirational, but it’s also expensive and time consuming, and not a practical diet for the average person.

Lastly, we have the most performative “WIEIAD” of them all: Kylie Jenner. Like the other two influencers, Kylie starts her day with a hand-pressed juice. She briefly mentions doing “at-home” workouts, and then mentions eating a burrito and rice for lunch. Her favorite dinner is lemon chicken and white rice, as well as kale salads. She says her favorite take-out food is a double cheeseburger, and mentions three different processed snack foods. Compared to Whitney and Romee, Kylie’s “WIEIAD” video is refreshing, because it features food that the average viewer sees in their day-to-day lives, rather than hemp seeds and protein powder. Like every aspect of Kylie’s life, however, it’s difficult to tell whether her food diary is representative of her real eating habits, or simply another way of performing relatability to the viewer.

We know that Kylie’s body comes by way of plastic surgeon, but I highly doubt that she’s eating as caloric a diet as she says she is, mostly because it’s impossible to maintain a body like her’s without eating a restrictive diet. As of August 2021, Kylie posted a “WIEIAD” video on her Tiktok showing her eating a similar diet to Romee Stridj, with oatmeal, juice, a salad, some fruit, and a small amount of carbs and protein. She also said that she goes on 3.5 mile runs, which is no small feat, and definitely more intense than a small “at-home” workout. The Kardashians have famously worked with nutritionist Philip Goglia, so we can safely assume that Kylie works with someone to maintain her physique, whether that be through meal planning or personal training. Either way, I’m very skeptical of Kylie’s food diary, and I think it’s far more likely that she eats a restricted diet like the one she showed on her TikTok.

This post may seem judgmental, but I’m not judging these women for showing their diets on camera, I’m judging them because we, as the audience, have no way of knowing if these diets are true representations of what these women eat on a daily basis, and because the “WIEIAD” videos implicitly connect these women’s model-slim bodies to their on-camera meals.

If you like these videos, it’s not my place to say that you shouldn’t watch them, but I would hope that everyone watching this genre of content see them as entertainment, rather than educational content. The wellness industry is a facade built on smoke and mirrors, and the women we hold up as health icons don’t always get that way by being “healthy.” I think it’s deceptive for viewers to see these videos and think that they’re true representations of what these women eat, and to believe that if they eat similar diets, they too can look like Whitney Simmons or Romee Stridj. These videos show only the aesthetic aspect of dieting, and gloss over the fact that changing one’s diet is a constant act of maintenance. You can’t just flip a switch and eat “healthy.” It’s a mindset and a state of being, it takes time and planning, and it costs a substantial amount of money. Videos like these make eating healthy seem much more attainable than it is in reality.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s