A TikTok went viral for critiquing food shaming and diet culture in children’s media. The video highlights a scene from the late ’00s Nickelodeon show, Zoey 101, where the teenage characters restrict themselves from eating a single slice of chocolate cake.
The clip, posted on June 28 by @mayagarland_, begins with her shaking her head as overlay text that reads, “Realizing the reason I grew up with such a bad relationship with food.” The video shows a scene of the young female characters calling themselves “weak” for wanting a slice of cake and discussing how many calories it contains. The three characters then agree to all have one bite, moan in pleasure, and go back for “one more bite.”
@mayagarland_ this is literally so insane and i feel sad for my younger self for thinking this is normal #greenscreenvideo #zoey101 #nickelodeon #healthadepopit #food #shame #guilt #netflix #strangerthings ♬ Glimpse of Us – Joji
The original video went viral with over 729,800 views, and commenters agreed that this was a perfect example of the toxicity of diet culture.
Maya posted a follow-up video on June 29, which displayed the young male characters also participating in food shaming. She wrote in the text overlay, “This makes me sick.”
@mayagarland_ “How’s your diet going”… THEY’RE 13!!!! #zoey101 #nickelodeon #foodshaming #food #greenscreenvideo ♬ Vegas (From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack ELVIS) – Doja Cat
UK-based body researcher Nadia Craddock defines diet culture as a “collective set of social expectations “telling us that there’s one way to be and one way to look and one way to eat and that we are a better person, we’re a more worthy person if our bodies are a certain way.’
The National Library of Medicine states in research findings, “The majority of the eating disorder inpatients were female patients. In 2005–2006, 89 percent of the cases were female patients and 11 percent of the cases were male patients. Hospitalizations for eating disorders increased 37 percent from 1999–2000 to 2005–2006 for male patients and increased 16 percent for female patients.” Zoey 101 aired from January 9, 2005, to May 2, 2008.
Many commenters responded to the original video with anecdotes of how the show promoted diet culture in more than one episode, with one user noting, “The first episode chase asks zoey if she wants mac n cheese and she says no, she doesn’t eat carbs. they’re like 12!!”
Another commenter said, “There’s also an episode where a teacher is on a diet and zoey talks about how fattening 1000 Island dressing is. Are the writers ok???”
A third user wrote, “Stuff like this always made me feel like dieting and restriction was not only normal but something girls and women were “[supposed]” to do.”
Others noted how Zoey 101 isn’t the only show or film from this era to promote dieting: “It was that one runway episode in suite life of zack and cody with maddy and london for me.”
“In ice princess when she gets a quarter cup of cheese on her salad and says “It’s Saturday. I can pig out if I want to.” A SALAD WITH CHEESE,” shares another.
The Daily Dot reached out to Maya via TikTok comments and to Nickelodeon via press email for this story but was not met with an immediate reply.
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