Bite Sized: Episode 5

Bite Sized: Episode 5

WaterTok and french fry depression (eye roll).

Full script:

Welcome back to a (long awaited) episode of Bite Sized, a podcast for paid subscribers of Forkful where we have bite-sized discussions about the latest nutrition news. As you can tell it’s been a while since I’ve released a new episode because I’ve sort of been busy getting things ready to self-publish my first novel. It has been quite a journey so far, and while it has sucked up a lot of time (and caused me to neglect a few other projects, like this one), I am really thankful I decided to go through with it.

As paid subscribers of Forkful, I want to say thanks for your patience. I am so appreciative of your support in my work, and I’m excited to dive into some new nutrition topics today. So…let’s get it to it.

We all know TikTok is full of all kinds of crazy trends. Some of them I definitely am thankful for, like the viral baked feta pasta, or the constant inspiration to give myself an aesthetically pleasing nighttime and morning routine. But then, of course, for every lovely trend there’s always something wacky going on over on the app, like the “internal shower” or alkaline-diet pushers.

Needless to say, when I saw articles circling the Internet about WaterTok, I was immediately skeptical. A lot of people were bashing this trend, and I, of course, wondered if it had anything to do with nutrition.

Here’s a brief summary: There is a group of people on TikTok (known as the WaterTok community) that are setting up these “hydration stations.” This trend is for the girlies who love to carry around their massive Stanley cups and sip on water all day, making their drink a little bit more exciting as the day progresses. These hydration stations typically have shelves of sweeteners and syrups (whether it be sugar-based or made with artificial sweeteners), as well as different flavored water packets and ice cubes — some made with different types of fresh juices. These women take to WaterTok to share their different water recipe creations, like Pina Colada or Peach Ocean or Birthday Cake.

Now, I get it. A lot of the backlash coming from this trend is people saying “well this is not water” and they bash on these creators making these drinks. Well…of course it’s not plain water! It’s a refreshing beverage, kind of like those Crystal Light packets my mom would add in my lunchbox so I could make a lemonade at school. Those were, of course, full of sugar. But a lot of the creations being made on WaterTok aren’t — typically made with artificial sweeteners and are low in calories.

I guess here’s where I’m going with this: Why bash on something that brings someone joy without evaluating yourself? This is toxic diet culture at its finest. Some publications were saying that trends like this are perpetuating diet culture, and I guess some of these creators are claiming weight loss while drinking their WaterTok bevvies, so yeah that makes sense. But it’s also toxic coming from the commenters, the people who feel entitled to have to comment on what these people are creating and set the record straight on “what’s right” when it comes to health.

What we choose to consume throughout the day, what we decide are worth it calories or not worth it calories, are our own individual choices. These WaterTok folks love to create drinks that they enjoy sipping on, especially if it means saving money on those popular Pink Drinks at Starbucks. Yes, it is not plain water, but people are finding they are drinking more liquids when enjoying something like this.

We all know at this point that if you choose to drink something that has sugar, you should enjoy it in moderation. And you know what has sugar? Cocktails (and mocktails!), wine, soda, beer, coffee beverages that aren’t just plain black, smoothies, sweet tea. All the drinks we all consume on a regular basis.

So I end it with this thought: Toxic diet culture goes both ways. Both for a person perpetuating a particular ideal, and for the people making comments and setting impossibly high standards for everyone else. In the end, it’s just food — and we can’t create healthy, wholesome, shame-free habits unless we all step away from this idea that being “healthy” has to look a particular way.

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People are blaming french fries for depression.

At least…that’s what’s all over the news recently.

A study, published by researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that frequent fried food consumption has been linked to a higher risk of anxiety and depression. In particular, the researchers pointed out that fried potato consumption was linked to a higher risk.

This was actually a review of previous data, evaluating over 140,000 people in the United Kingdom, looking at dietary habits and health information (including mental health conditions) over an 11-year period.

Because fried food consumption (and a particular shout out to fried potatoes) was linked to an increased risk, of course, all of the headlines I am seeing say “french fries are causing your depression!”

But…the study said frequent fried food consumption? I mean geez, aren’t we passed this tactic of fear mongering everytime a juicy angle comes from a study? Aren’t we taking this out of context…again?

Friends I’m telling you right now that if you eat french fries, you will not instantly become depressed. Yes, we know that eating fried foods over time can cause inflammation and affect our gut health, which many times research has linked to an increased risk of these mental health conditions (depression, especially). But enjoying it once in a while really won’t hurt you. It brings us back to moderation, and why a healthy balance of foods (especially a variety of plants, which makes your gut super, super happy) is important for our overall health and well being. A juicy cheeseburger and a side of fries won’t completely unravel your mental health.

Don’t let headlines and articles like this scare you. As someone who has worked in food and nutrition media, these headlines are meant to get you to click. They are a good angle to hook the reader…but then the article will eventually end up saying that eating these foods once in a while is perfectly fine for your health, and nutrition experts say to not overdo it. But I know, deep down, the damage has already been done. That readers who didn’t actually click on the article will start thinking that french fries are basically the devil and we should avoid them at all costs.

Any headline that has you fearing a food should be approached with caution.

And on that note, we hop into our third story…which feels like such a huge juxtaposition compared to french fry depression.

They’re calling it the “ice cream diet”, based on an analysis that found that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed more ice cream had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. So of course, the media went with the headline. “Is Ice Cream Really Healthy For You?” and “Should We Switch To An Ice Cream Diet?”

Totally and completely taken out of context in order to get you to click.

Here’s the skinny: This particular analysis also found that for people who ate ice cream, they also generally followed a healthy diet. Ice cream was incorporated into their daily lives because they were able to balance it well. The study also looked at a very specific group of people, not the general population.

Also, while ice cream is high in sugar and saturated fat, it also has some protein from the dairy. So yeah, it could be considered as a filling dessert and snack. It can absolutely be a part of a healthy overall diet.

But to claim that an ice cream diet makes us healthier? It’s just insane. The analysis used for this trending article topic was based on a follow-up after 20 years of evaluation. It wasn’t a randomized control trial, where scientists were able to evaluate the specific cause and effect. We actually have no idea if ice cream can positively benefit cardiovascular disease, it’s just an observation that would need a lot more research to actually make that claim.

But that doesn’t stop people from taking a headline and running with it. And brings me back to my point before: Take everything you read with a grain of salt, and be sure to really read what the article says. Because in reality, it all comes back down to the same simple truth when it comes to healthy eating: moderation. I know we don’t want to hear it and it’s not sexy or quick like a fad diet. But it’s what actually works, and research shows time and time again that a variety in the diet without restriction (from fresh produce to french fries) does benefit long-term health and happiness.

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