Cooking with Creativity

TikTokker Emily Mariko and Others are Reinventing Our Perception of Food

Graphic+by+Reddin+Kehrli

Graphic by Reddin Kehrli

Reddin Kehrli, Social Media Editor

Diet culture, defined as “a rigid set of expectations about valuing thinness and attractiveness over physical health and emotional well-being,” has seized social media platforms, and the lives of teenagers and young adults across the world. 

Image-based platforms such as Tiktok, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are being critiqued for their promotion of toxic diet habits and unrealistic body standards with improbable associations of popularity, success, and happiness. 

“My entire For-You Page consists of the truth behind Victoria’s Secret models’ diets and girls starving themselves to the bone trying to just eat one meal a day,” Junior Ceci Brown said. 

These destructive videos are influencing everyone, especially teenage girls. 

Another junior Gabby Grillo added, “social media, unfortunately, creates a toxic environment when it comes to diet culture and topics that follow.” 

A study conducted by the National Eating Disorder Association studied women between the ages of 18 and 25 and demonstrated a link between Instagram and increased self-objectification and body image concerns, especially among those who frequently viewed body-image-related content.

“Most people don’t understand that almost every single teenage girl struggles with body image and eating disorders, but with the influence of mainstream media, this (dieting) is all we know,” Brown said.

Flooding the feed of every social media platform, low-calorie foods, ‘thinspo’, how to lose weight, and media advocating for the ‘ideal body’ have negatively infiltrated the comfort of home cooking. 

Like a breath of fresh air, influencer and PVPUSD graduate Emily Mariko has taken TikTok and YouTube by storm with her ‘diet-culture free’ home cooking videos.  

“Emily is showing the world that food is about the taste, and how cooking and eating are able to be enjoyable experiences, and not something to fear,” Brown said. 

With her viral salmon, white rice and ice cube meal, Mariko has detested diet culture as she soothingly de-villanizes normal foods such as regular pasta and white rice. 

In the past, staple food including various carbs and dairy products have been revamped by diet influencers who encourage their viewers to simply replace these staple products with “healthier” choices such as zucchini noodles for pasta, cauliflower for rice and nutritional yeast for cheese. 

While these alternatives may be necessary for those with dietary restrictions, diet culture has framed these changes as ‘ways to get skinny’, ultimately villainizing foods and promoting portions not even sustainable for toddlers. 

“Everything is about calories and I see how food is more of a number than the actual nutrition it provides,” Brown said. 

So what makes Mariko’s videos so capturing that she boasts over two million followers on Tiktok? Perhaps it’s her clean, put-together look? Or maybe it’s her soothing methods for preparing foods. 

Grillo believes, “The way she cooks, her recipes, and her overall lifestyle is a really good example of someone who’s trying to change the culture of food and routines on social media. She’s a great influence especially for a younger audience on the app.”

The future of social media and the health of influenceable teenagers and young adults depends on the morality of power-holding ‘influencers’ such as Emily Mariko. 

In an effort to try and reverse the negative content circulating around social media, developments including the body positivity and body neutrality movements have commenced and called for “the acceptance of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender and physical abilities, while challenging present-day beauty standards as an undesirable social construct.”