A recent trend on TikTok is providing young people suffering with or recovering from an eating disorder with meal support by featuring creators eating food and offering users a safe space to virtually join them.
“I thought that it would be nice for you guys to have a video of me just sitting there eating so that if you ever are having a hard time eating you can come back to this video, sit there with me and enjoy your meal with me,” Clara Guillem says in a voiceover of a video of her eating a sandwich. “So, yeah. I love you guys. Use this whenever you want. I love you.” The sound has been used in 3,357 videos on the platform.
The 24-year-old who is currently living in Nashville, Tenn., tells Yahoo Life that she developed anorexia at the age of 14, sharing that social media platforms that perpetuated toxic content about body image encouraged her eating disorder. Now, as a full-time content creator focused on body confidence, eating disorder recovery and general mental health, she’s looking to change the way that young people interact with these platforms as well as with the people on them.
“My anorexia continued until I was about 20 years old,” Guillem says. “I remember the exact moment I decided to turn my account into a safe space for those with eating disorders. I had made a video asking people to stop posting toxic ‘what I eat in a days’ [videos] showing off their low-calorie meals on a kid’s app. Then, I got a comment from a 13-year-old girl saying she was struggling. I responded to the comment and all of a sudden I received hundreds of comments from kids that age saying they were unhappy with their bodies and engaging in harmful eating disorder habits. I knew then, that as an adult who had been through it all, and who they seemed to trust, it was my place to share my story and inspire others to get help.”
Guillem began to post videos where she shared her own experience with anorexia and her journey to recovery. She also would show herself eating food items that she previously deemed “fear foods” — what National Eating Disorders Association’s (NEDA) Communications Manager Chelsea Kronengold explains to Yahoo Life as different foods that might “trigger” someone with an eating disorder.
“That food can be associated with trauma for somebody, so that might be a fear food,” Kronengold says. “Generally speaking, fear foods are usually higher in calories, foods that the media perpetuates as ‘bad’ foods, even though at NEDA we don’t believe that there’s good or bad foods.”
Guillem is spreading that same message with content created specifically to share evidence of herself enjoying a variety of foods without guilt. During a TikTok live one day, she even realized the need to provide followers with more opportunities to feel encouraged to eat