The Disturbing and Toxic Truth Behind the "Girl Dinner"
I am a sucker for a catchy tune, and the "Girl Dinner" hymn is no exception. Like you, my entire feed has been flooded with various individuals' takes on what a "girl dinner" represents for them, like one slice of toast or being surrounded by books in a Barnes and Noble accompanied by an iced coffee. While some content might be pure satire (I'm thinking about the user who cleared their entire fridge and replaced essential items with an impressive book collection), the silent message at hand is quite jarring. Trends like "girl dinner" promote, normalize, and encourage disordered eating patterns. So what exactly is our job when choosing to participate or engage in these sorts of trends? Here's my two cents as a therapist in New York City who has experience working with disordered eating patterns and eating disorders.
The Toxic Messaging Behind the Trend
The rise of "girl dinner" showcases social media's dangerous power in perpetuating toxic messaging about body image and eating habits. Concerning messages include the normalization of restriction, the risk of nutritional deficiencies, and the glorification of thinness. So what's the correlation between engaging in these trends and our body image?
According to Muth et al. (2022), COVID-19 restrictions adversely affected eating behavior and eating disorder symptoms among female adolescents. In this study, increased social media usage was significantly associated with increased eating concerns. Instagram use was also linked to body dissatisfaction, a desire for thinness, and a decreased sense of self-esteem in young women.
The truth is social media platforms like TikTok have become a breeding ground for user-generated content that encourages disordered eating by promoting pro-ED (eating disorder) culture (Smith & Morain, 2021). With hashtags like "thinspiration," "pro-ana," or "pro-mia," videos with millions of interactions glamorize disordered eating by comparing objects to waistlines and advertising calorie-restricted versions of "what I eat in a day" (Smith & Morain, 2021).
The Role of Satire and the Fine Line
While some "girl dinner" content may be intended as satire or parody, the fine line between humor and normalization of disordered eating behaviors can be easily blurred. Research by Tiggemann et al. (2019) found that exposure to humor or self-deprecating posts related to body image on social media platforms can increase body dissatisfaction and negative affect in young women. Therefore, even seemingly harmless and humorous content may still contribute to negative perceptions of body image.
What Can We Do?
So what can we do to combat the toxic messaging of the "girl dinner" trend? Here are a few suggestions:
Be aware of the messages that are being conveyed by these trends.
Challenge the normalization of disordered eating behaviors.
Promote body positivity and self-acceptance.
Support organizations that are working to fight eating disorders.
We all have a role to play in creating a more positive and healthy environment around body image and eating habits. By being aware of the dangers of the "girl dinner" trend and taking action to challenge it, we can help to protect ourselves and others from the harmful effects of disordered eating.
I think it is important to remember that not everyone who participates in this trend is doing so with the intention of promoting disordered eating. Some people may use humor to cope with their own body image issues. However, even if the intention is not harmful, the impact can still be damaging.
It is important to be aware of the power of social media. These platforms can have a profound impact on our self-image, and they can also be used to spread harmful messages about body image. If we are not careful, we can easily become influenced by the messages that we see on social media.
If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating behaviors or body image issues, don't hesitate to seek professional help from a qualified therapist, counselor, or dietitian.
About The Author
Brianna Paruolo, MSED, CMHC-LP, is a New York City-based therapist who specializes in helping women overcome anxiety, self-esteem issues, and perfectionism. She is passionate about helping women break free from the pressures they so often place on themselves and embrace a new normal where they love themselves and face the future with hope.
To connect with Brianna, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at brimindful.com.