By Morgan Cole
Contrary to popular belief, TikTok is not just an app for teenagers who like to dance. People use TikTok for their news consumption, comedy, relatable content, and much more. As of recently, there has been a rise in videos related to eating disorder recovery.
For a long time, users weren’t allowed to mention eating disorders on the app because TikTok would flag and take down the video. About eight months ago, I made a video where I joked about wanting to skip meals when I see Charli D’Amelio’s TikToks because she’s so skinny. I was never told why the video was taken down, but I assume that TikTok thought it might be triggering for others.
However, TikTok users have worked around this by being discreet about their eating disorder recovery content. Most famous for this is a creator who calls herself “Aunt Amanda” on the app. If you looked at her account, you might ask yourself: Why do 3.1 million people follow a 32-year-old mother who takes videos of herself eating?
Well, the fact of the matter is that nearly 30 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder according to The Recovery Village; one of the most common is anorexia nervosa. Google defines anorexia as “an eating disorder causing people to obsess about weight and what they eat.”
What does a serious topic like this have to do with TikTok?
Well, those who struggle with an eating disorder like anorexia tend to have an immense and irrational fear of eating. This makes recovery a difficult and emotional process. And, just like any phobia, you need a guide to show you why your fear is so irrational.
Amanda Lee Fago, or “Aunt Amanda,” is a motherly figure who has been honest about the fact that she struggled with an eating disorder for most of her life.
“The breaking point for me was realizing that when you’re suffering, your family suffers too,” she said recently while answering a follower’s question on TikTok.
Amanda said that the reason she started making eating videos was to help those who are struggling to eat. She found that watching videos of people eating was extremely beneficial in her recovery, and she wanted to help others realize that they deserve to eat too.
And boy has it worked. Aunt Amanda’s comment sections are flooded with messages from young women thanking Amanda for helping them build a healthy relationship with food.
“This is the reason why I’ll never stop doing my eating videos,” Amanda said in a TikTok replying to a comment from a young girl thanking her.
As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, Amanda’s account makes me feel safe and worthy of eating. And, of course, hungry (it’s dangerous to stalk her account at 4 a.m., consider yourself warned).
Amanda isn’t the only TikToker whose mukbang (eating) videos are helping millions restore their disordered eating habits.
Kate Norkeliunas, aka “Kate,” is most famous for her sushi mukbangs. She is the founder of the “big daddy” bite, where she dips her sushi roll in eel sauce, spicy mayo, and soy sauce before eating it.
Although most of Kate’s videos are lighthearted and comedic, she often begins the video by asking her audience to eat with her — especially if they’re having a hard time eating.
And it doesn’t stop there. TikTok has formed an entire community of users who eat on camera in order to help others do the same.
Eating disorders have been a taboo subject for far too long, and 30 million is too big of a number for us to ignore just because we feel uncomfortable talking about it. We should be talking about it because it’s a serious issue. People struggle with it for years and years without reaching out for help.
It’s people like Amanda and Kate that aren’t only starting vital conversations but are helping people, like me, remember that our bodies deserve to be fed.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out for help. To contact the National Eating Disorders Association helpline, call 1-800-931-2237.
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