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As we all know, social media is fake. Of course, we know that we only see a very small part of someone’s life. People only show their best moments – why would they do anything else? But beyond this aspect, many real photos are downright fake. Celebrities are airbrushed; some lie about their plastic surgery. Many Photoshop their faces and bodies to look exactly how they want. There are countless ways to pose to change your body.

TikTok is not immune to these things. Photoshop can be more difficult when it comes to video, but people find ways around it with different angles, lighting, and poses. That’s not to say that they themselves don’t look good – it’s just that that’s not how they look all the time. We can’t hold ourselves to such a high standard when we see each other so often.

But beyond the unrealistic norms that social media propagates, TikTok strongly promotes eating disorder culture and unhealthy attitudes about food and weight in general. Despite changes to TikTok where searching for terms like “thinspo” – short for “thin inspiration”, or even “proana”, short for “pro-anorexia”, which often promoted thinness and often underweight by unhealthy and harmful methods – now leads directly to the National Eating Disorder Association helpline, TikTok is still spreading tons of thin content. Much of what I see on TikTok is tagged “#fitspo” or “#fittok”, both hashtags having billions of views. During the early days of quarantine in particular, much of my For You page focused on excessive dieting and overexercising.

TikTok circulates a lot of content glorifying unhealthy habits. “What I Eat in a Day” videos often show tiny portions of food. Additionally, meals are often mostly made up of vegetables with some protein but very few carbs. Many of these same creators also encourage over-exercise. While exercise is healthy when done right, overworking your body can be detrimental and is a component of some eating disorders. When someone exercises a lot, they need to eat more to fuel their body, but these creators often eat (or at least advertise that they eat) less than they should while pushing their body over- beyond the limit. Additionally, there are also damaging narratives that TikTok promotes, such as trying to get your “summer body”. We must realize that every body is a “summer body”. You don’t have to be thin to wear shorts, wear a bikini, or go to the beach.

People who have not had an eating disorder may not know that they are inherently competitive. Basically, people with eating disorders tend to think they’re not “sick enough.” If they meet other people with eating disorders, they constantly compare themselves. Thus, it is important to avoid sharing things that could trigger and cause a relapse. However, not everyone shares this mentality. I think it’s good to be transparent about the process, but it’s also good to censor certain things. Creators should avoid posting videos or images with body checks, obsessive weighing, or calorie counting. This type of content is simply not useful to anyone. If someone feels the need to lose weight, they should discuss it with their doctor and come up with a personalized plan. Don’t listen to strangers on TikTok who don’t know you or your body.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to escape this content. The algorithm on TikTok is impressively – and perhaps alarmingly – accurate. If you interact with a video once, similar videos will continue to appear on your For You page. The interaction can consist of liking the video, commenting, sharing, following the creator or even letting the video play multiple times. Once you’ve done that, it’s hard to escape these videos. The best thing to do is hold down and click “not interested” when one of these videos pops up.

I learned a lot from my own struggle with an eating disorder. During my treatment, the most striking thing my nutritionist said to me was, “You don’t have to love your body. I thought she was joking. It looked like a trap. But she is absolutely right. What she meant was that it’s not realistic to love your body all the time. There will be times when you don’t like something about yourself, and that’s okay. No one thinks every part of themselves is perfect. Self-love is not always realistic; self-acceptance is much better. The goal must be to take you for what you are. Aim for acceptance to begin with and learn to love later.