What is TikTok's Viral "Girl Dinner" Trend?
It all started when an influencer posted a video of her dinner that consisted of a couple pieces of cheese, bread, fruit, and pickles. At first, it was supposed to represent going against the expectation that women have to provide elaborate meals for others. In the first couple of videos, this was a way for women to connect in community through a fun and creative expression of freedom (1). However, others started to engage in the trend, but in a concerning way. There are now posts of “girl dinners” incorporating insufficient meals, even extremes of just coffee, water, or a cup of ice. Overall, this trend has spread the idea that smaller meals are cool and normal for girls and women. With social media already being a vulnerable place for teens, could this trend further exacerbate the problem that social media has on the development of disordered eating behaviors?
The first harmful implication of this trend is that it reinforces the unrealistic societal expectations that are placed on women. The trend hints that there is a sense of pride in eating small, dainty snack meals. When viewers, especially teens, consume this type of content on social media, it sends the message that this is what they should be doing. “If other people are solely eating pickles or drinking a Coke Zero for dinner, then I should too.” In combination with a current diet and weight loss culture, this only increases the detrimental effects that the current culture has on mental health and the development of eating disorders. With eating disorders being extremely
competitive, content like this can lead to very dangerous behaviors (3). Additionally, researchers
have found that this competitiveness has already been seen, as the “girl dinner” posts
have become smaller and smaller amounts of food in order to one up previous posts (5).
Each person's nutritional needs are personal and individualized, leading this to be extremely
unhelpful for everyone, whether one engages in disordered eating or not. With adolescents being the largest demongraphic of Tik Tok users, as well as adolescence being a critical time for the
development of body image concerns and eating disorders, it is essential to bring awareness to
the messages that this trend sends and combat the myths associated with it.
The “girl dinner” trend also adds to the stereotypes surrounding food and gender. For
example, it’s considered not ‘normal’ for a girl to eat a big steak or for a guy to be vegan. Again,
this trend further emphasizes the idea that girls need to eat less and that men need to
eat a high-protein diet and be muscular. However, this is completely false! Although the
trend originally started out as a way to combat gender stereotypes, it ended up reinforcing a new standard for the “ideal” woman. This type of disordered eating concern should not just be limited to women by labeling it “girl dinner.” All genders can suffer from disordered eating, but this type of eating being labeled feminine creates more barriers for males to be open about mental health, specifically eating disorders. Overall, portion sizes and types of food should never be associated with gender: you should eat when you are hungry, and you should eat what you want to eat (4).
This toxic trend has not only made its rounds on Tik Tok, but food companies have used
it as a new way of advertisement. Popeye’s recently introduced its “Girl Dinner Menu” which
consists of nothing but sides (2). How is telling young girls and women that it is okay for their
meal to just be sides? We are also seeing related trends like “girl math” and
“lazy girl jobs,” further perpetuating gender stereotypes and expectations for women (6).
Whether it be a “girl dinner” video on Tik Tok or a TV advertisement on weight loss, it is
important to remember that you deserve to eat, your body does not define your worth, and you
deserve to take up space. Although it started out as a way for women to come together,
acknowledging the harmful turn that the trend took is necessary in protecting not only young
women, but society as a whole. With more and more trends, advertisements, and even food
brands contributing to diet culture, challenging these ideas is more important now than ever.
Lastly, here are some affirmations/challenge statements to use fighting against diet culture:
★ I will treat my body with respect and nourish it with what it asks for.
★ I will show my body that it can trust me by not restricting food.
★ I deserve to nourish my body.
★ My worth is not determined by my appearance or body size.
★ It’s normal and acceptable to eat for reasons other than true hunger, and I will not feel
guilty about it.
★ I am enough exactly as I am.
“The female body is incredible and needs loads of energy, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from
whole foods to be able to produce hormones, have good brain function and mental clarity and a
zest for life.” - Nutritionist Nicole Frost (7).
Written By: Ali Green
Social Media Intern
The Grove Counseling & Consulting, LLC
1. Heil, E. (2023, August 7). Girl Dinner is everything, so Girl Dinner is nothing.
2. Valinsky, J. (2023, July 20). Popeyes is now offering “girl dinner.” Here’s what’s
included | CNN Business. CNN.
3. Lyons, A. (2023, October 7). Why are eating disorders competitive - April Lyons
Psychotherapy Group Boulder, Longmont, Denver. April Lyons Psychotherapy Group.
4. Cshanahan. (2023, September 11). Commentary: “Girl dinner” is promoting eating
disorders in young adults. The Ithacan.
5. Valenzuela, D., & Valenzuela, D. (2023, September 23). “Girl Dinner” Is Trending on
TikTok — But Are These Snack Plates Cute or Concerning? Katie Couric Media.
6. Hart, J. (2023, November 6). Girl dinner? Girl math? Some people are getting sick of all
the “girl” trends. Business Insider.
7. Madigan, M., & News.com.au. (2023, July 19). Gen Z’s disturbing new “girl dinner”