Fitness TikTok is Unhealthy


Catherine Chan, Staff Writer

“Your abs will love you and hate you at the same time,” Chloe Ting, a popular fitness influencer, said in a now viral workout video. Ting, a content creator with more than 15 million subscribers on YouTube, is known for her extremely popular workout challenges and body-transformational promises.

In the beginning of quarantine, from March to May, Ting’s YouTube channel grew from fewer than 800,000 subscribers to more than 3 million, according to Social Blade. Ting’s subscriber boom is a direct reflection of the surge in fitness culture that has spread through social media during the pandemic.

As students made the unprecedented transition towards a predominantly virtual lifestyle, social media platforms became increasingly flooded with diet tips and workout routines. This pushed viewers to strive for society’s standard of a dream body during the free time they now possess. Feeling this added pressure, sophomore Nathalie Chiu said social media made her feel as though she had to maximize her newfound time.

“Everybody was posting about all the stuff they were doing and all the workouts and other things, and I just felt like if I wasn’t getting everything I wanted done, then I was lazy and wasting time,” Nathalie said.

Although people were pressured to be more productive at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as weeks turned to months, Nathalie said the pressure shifted almost entirely to fitness and dieting.

“Basically, what I was seeing all over social media were challenges like the Chloe Ting Two Week Abs, where [Ting] said that if you did her ab workouts, you would get abs or a flat stomach in two weeks,” Nathalie said. “I would see TikToks that were saying, ‘get your butt big in five days,’ or ‘get your waist tiny,’ which is obviously not possible, but they make you think it is. My whole TikTok feed soon became full of ways to diet and get skinny.”

As a result of the sudden boom on Chloe Ting’s workout videos, many users have begun finding more and more fitness-related content videos on TikTok. The evident rise of diet culture in TikTok from the recent inundation of fitness culture throughout social media platforms in the beginning of quarantine, puts a great deal of pressure to exercise and diet on many girls, including Nathalie.

Similar to what Nathalie said before, TikTok videos would provide unrealistic goals of a dream body. On a social media platform that yields about 50 million U.S. users each day, according to CNBC, it is impossible for every individual to attain. Everyone has a different body built each in their own unique ways. When there are no results showing after many efforts into attaining a perfect physique they admire on a TikTok video, many users would turn to dieting in desperation to lose weight and change their appearance.

Oftentimes, while intentions for these videos may be good, it brings a negative self-conscious voice to many users. While one might find a video titled “Workout of the Day,” they will later open the app to find that the only content he or she now receives on TikTok is fitness. This is due to the advanced algorithm TikTok uses to find video recommendations for a personalized page. Therefore, it only requires a few interactions with a video, such as a like, comment, or share, before a user’s TikTok feed is completely taken over by fitness and diet culture. 

As someone who did compare herself to workout accounts on TikTok and shared images on social media in general, Nathalie said that for her, the discontent extended further than a simple workout routine. She said the pressure to lose weight coming from the new fitness and diet culture on her TikTok feed, pushed her into patterns of restrictive eating.

“I think that when you do these challenges and work out and it doesn’t work, you think, ‘Okay next step, food.’ You try to cut more calories or switch to only eating foods that TikTok told you would make you look a certain way.” Nathalie stated.

In efforts to escape the pressure of the TikTok feed, she began focusing on herself and took a step to delete the app. She primarily focused on changing her toxic relationship with fitness and dieting culture and had to reform her mentality. 

“I remember feeling really isolated and lonely by my problems, so I think as a community being there for each other would probably be the best way to support each other,” Nathalie said. “I think having a support system to talk about these issues with other people, especially with girls and other girls [would have been helpful]. Because for me, it was really important for me to see myself in other people.”

The myriad of work out videos do not change anything but the way people look at themselves in the mirror. The videos that fall under the “#fitness” page on TikTok, pressures individuals to all change the way they look for what is deemed as “desirable” by society. Fitness TikTok is toxic and should be avoided. With that in mind, forget about society’s standards and simply be yourself because you are perfect just the way you are. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and no one should have to change their appearance. 


Graphic courtesy of QUEENSJOURNAL.CA