I have a guilty pleasure guys. And the title may just have given away what that is.
That’s right. I have a little bit of a penchant for “What I Eat in a Day” videos.
Now, these videos can be amazing for some meal inspiration. They’re also helpful for those of us trying to find out what PTs and dieticians eat, so that we can help ourselves to fuel our workouts. Coming from a background of disordered eating, I can also say that it can be vaguely comforting to see people eat a balanced diet- and include cake in that balance. But this is where it becomes complicated. Because what constitutes a balanced and healthy diet for me, may not be what constitutes a balanced and healthy diet for you.
My main issues with these videos come down to these things:
- We’re all different, so videos advertising themselves as “the best way to eat” are BS.
- Videos that promote dieting as a way of life, sometimes without even realising.
- You aren’t given the full picture, though its natural to assume that’s what you’re getting.
Let’s begin with the first point. There is no one perfect way to eat. A video telling you that you should consume 1500kcal a day as the norm/ eliminate gluten, dairy, carbs, or meat, has no right to do so. For a good couple of years I watched these videos, and thought to myself: Why am I always hungry when I eat this much food? Should I cut out X/Y/Z? Would that help me achieve my goals faster? I can only assume that I have a faster metabolism than a lot of the people I was watching, to give them the benefit of the doubt, because when I recently totalled up my rough kcal count for a few days, my intake fluctuated between 2000-2500kcal per day, sometimes more. I have to eat three meals and around 3 snacks a day, I have to eat before working out, and I have to eat plenty of slow release carbs. Or I get cranky, dizzy, and generally become a highly unpleasant person to be around. I feel as if very few videos covered this kind of eating, leaving me feeling abnormal. Nope, I’m not abnormal, I just need to eat.
Next: videos that promote living in a perpetual diet as “normal”. Okay, the first person to go “yes, but what is normal?” gets a slap. What isn’t normal is living off of in the vicinity of 1000kcal, and ignoring hunger. That isn’t a sustainable way of eating, and it will make you miserable, so don’t bloody do it. It’s what I refer to as living in “diet mode”, telling yourself you can never have certain foods again/you shouldn’t eat certain food groups in order to control your weight. At the opposite end of the scale, I can name a few channels that promote stuffing yourself with up to 3000kcal a day (understand that when I critique this I am not talking about people who need to be eating this much, such as those recovering from an eating disorder, or those who are professional athletes etc.). Again, refer to point 1: there is no one correct way of eating, and either end of the scale promoting itself as such is dangerous. Which brings me to the next point…
You aren’t being given the full picture. You are seeing one day of someone’s eating habits. They may have had a “good day of eating”. Perhaps on an average day they actually do indulge in chocolate- but everyone wants to put their best side across, and so this goes unseen, because ironically not eating chocolate is somehow seen as a sign of being in control of your life. I’m not sure who created this stupid connection, but I’m willing to bet it was the diet industry (see point 2). People making videos consistently devoid of “bad food” (because, yes, you may not eat cake and chocolate every day) may be coming from a place of the best intentions, encouraging you to make healthy choices, but ultimately a channel showing balance is much more useful- even if this is over a few videos.
So, having said in my intro that I do actually like these videos, who do I actually watch? Well, my top picks are Melanie Murphy (for a great approach to food and living a down to earth, balanced life- she’s pushed through an eating disorder and so understands the importance of this), Zana Van Dijk and Tally Rye (both are PTs, and so create amazing healthy food diaries, but over all of their videos also show you that its okay to indulge in such things as brownies, nutella French toast, and simply discover an overall balance), and The Anna Edit (for someone who loves cooking, cookbooks, chocolate, and porridge as much as I do- great for meal ideas). I love it when YouTubers do a “What I Ate” over a week too, as you tend to get a better view of how what people eat isn’t the same every day.
Separately, none of these videos would cover how I like to eat, and my lifestyle preferences. I know that personally every day of eating for me looks completely different (barring the use of leftovers of course). By watching a few different ways of eating I get the picture that everyone eats in a different way, and that’s okay . Basically, take the videos with a pinch of salt, and keep doing you. They’re great for ideas and tips, but should help you embrace new ways of cooking and eating- not reduce your options.