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Digesting ‘Girl Dinner’: Dishing on the Trend


From chamoy pickles to PINK sauce, “Girl Dinner” is one of the latest social media trends to reach our palettes. Whether it’s a snack board, your favorite comfort food or leftovers from the night before, Girl Dinner is not the typical entree. For Stetson student Esther Colston 25, Girl Dinner, “always involves pickles. There’s always going to be multiple pickles in Girl Dinner.” As an infrequent social media user, she was not too familiar with the trend. Consequently, she has questions about its purpose, and she is not the only one. Sarah Lingo, a visiting Assistant Professor in the Communication and Media Studies Department, questions if we can situate Girl Dinner historically. Meanwhile, Stetson Counseling’s Dulce Barrera has certain concerns in common with certified physician, Suzanne Villalobas, who questions the validity and scope of  the conversations surrounding healthy eating that have emerged from Girl Dinner. So, what is Girl Dinner and what questions should we be asking ourselves about it?


Voicing the Unspoken:


Girl Dinner originally appeared to transcend traditional meals, by encouraging viewers and participants to showcase eclectic food combinations. It was the perfect attention-grabber for those who might be intimidated by the idea of cooking over the stove after a long day, as the trend highlighted low-effort, but substantial meals one could scrape together quickly. However, as time went on, the videos trending under the hashtag for Girl Dinner seemed to exceedingly feature single items or scraps of food. As the nourishment provided by the Girl Dinners showcased on Tik Tok began to decline, social media users, with Stetson students among them, began to give voice to the uncomfortable elephant lurking in the corners of Girl Dinner’s small plates. Girl Dinner appeared to be a reminder of how social media can encourage maladaptive eating and competitiveness surrounding calorie consumption. 


While we can not know the individual motivations for users who choose to get online, dangle a slice of cheese, and call it Girl Dinner, for young women and girls brought up on period pieces filled with corsets, Barbie, and too many other indicators of the beauty standard to mention, it does appear to be a competition. What is a greater display of femininity than winning this trend? The “girl” is right in the name. Unfortunately, the audience competing for the prize are preying on harmful ideas on femininity. Stetson Counseling’s Dulce Barrerra laughed as she described centuries old photographs and renditions of cavemen feasting while the women eat minimal portions. This is not to say body consciousness does not affect men. In fact, reflecting on it, Esther Colston expressed that, “For men, their ideal body type, what they’re told they need to be is big and strong and like, abs and everything. And then the way that women are told that they need to be is they need to be skinny. So I think it’s similar, but in different ways.” While both ideas are harmful, the pressure to be “supermodel thin” might not only fuel disordered eating– it can cause nutrient deficiencies with long-term health consequences. 


 Stetson’s Director of the Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Prevention Grant, Sara Smith, shared that she does not think “men think about their food intake near as much as women. I think so much of the dieting dieting behavior stuff is marketed towards women.” This is supported by the statements of Stetson History major, Nicole (Nico) Alonso 26, who, as she reflected on Girl Dinner, shared her thoughts on its successor, “Boy Dinner.” She compares it to Girl Dinner by sharing, “Instead of eating less for the sake of eating less, it’s like an entire rotisserie chicken.” She goes on to quip, “ I don’t know how many servings are in a rotisserie chicken, but I know it’s not one.” Although Girl Dinner may be a trend, body consciousness and beauty standards will outlast it. During its run, Girl Dinner has placed a spotlight on how harmful ideas of beauty and femininity have made meal time a different experience for men and women. Sarah Lingo, a visiting Assistant Professor in the Communication and Media Studies Department, thinks we need to situate Girl Dinner historically. She recognizes, “It’s not something new, even if there are new things about it.” Lingo sees Girl Dinner as having emerged from existing diet culture and its intersection with internet culture. She notes that sharing what you eat, especially how much or how little, “seems to be a consistent theme across time,” whether it be on older platforms such as LiveJournal and Tumblr, or new ones like Instagram and Twitter. A striking part of this food culture in Lingo’s experience has also been women online “opening themselves up to surveillance and surveilling other people,” in terms of their food intake and meal choices.


While those glamorizing disordered eating under the guise of Girl Dinner may not intend to cause harm, Sara says, “I think they know what they’re saying-I think you know, that’s not healthy. And you said it as if it were a brag. You’re promoting it.” Such promotion could have a negative impact on those struggling to discern between healthy and unhealthy eating habits. Esther Colston shared that she thinks, “People should be more educated on those decisions so that they’re making educated choices.” Bettering nutritional education to be more accessible could be one solution.


Peeling Back Leafy Greens:


Suzanne Villalobas is a certified physician-assistant with AdventHealth Medical Group and a valued member of Stetson’s Health services. Having graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, she was able to share some general tips and ingredients for stressed college students to get in their meals. “Anything with the protein and the carbs is an awesome dinner. For a lot of stressed college kids, I think eating every three or four hours is really reasonable. My basic nutrition speech is five fruits and veggies a day, protein and carbs every three or four hours, and some kind of dairy or something that has calcium in it a couple of times a day.”


While Suzanne was able to shed light on healthy eating, Counseling’s Registered Mental Health Intern, Dulce Barrera thinks that changing the culture around food consumption actually starts at home. She knows that, “Not every family introduces healthy food options to children at a young age. So [when] you’re thinking, ‘my child’s gonna create an unhealthy eating habit based off of what they saw.” Dulce wants parents to ask, “did they know it was inappropriate because you told them in your home?” She goes on to share her belief that it is in the best interest of a child for a parent to be the first person instilling healthy eating habits in them. Lingo had similar thoughts, although she points out that some of the language and learned ideas we have about food might be generational, as there are parts of her eating habits she thinks mirrors her grandparents. Some are even learned by nonfamilial influences, as her partner’s adventurous eating has rubbed off on her. Reflecting on different child/guardian dynamics and the various sources that warp our behavior both in childhood and adult life, it is best to say that changing the culture around food consumption starts with community. 


When those healthy eating habits are not instilled by the community, what or who should we be judging? Is it the responsibility of social media platforms like Tiktok to take down harmful content? Legally, not really. Hidden in their overviews as a disclaimer the company shares, “Although we work hard to enforce our rules, we cannot guarantee that all content shared on TikTok complies with our Terms of Service or Community Guidelines.” The site’s Community Guidelines explicitly bans showing or describing “extremely low-calorie” meals or diets. However, it stipulates these meals have to be daily, and even more ambiguous, they need to be “associated with disordered eating.” Which brings to the forefront a question posed by Dulce about some of her own judgements of meals she has seen posted under the Girl Dinner trend, “Is that appropriate to censor it if it’s not what that person’s intentions are? Because that’s our perception.” In a larger context, this “meal” is only a snapshot into someone’s day and if you’ve had a large lunch, you may not be in need of a large dinner. At any time of the day, two similar people may not need the same amount of food to feel satiated. 


In fact, Girl Dinner may be affected by plenty of things beyond the pantry. Trying to compromise her beliefs with the validity of the criticism she has seen and heard of Girl Dinner. For instance, Lingo’s grandfather, who thought fruit was an essential part of the diet, was raised by parents who survived the Great Depression. It was typical for him to prepare the available canned fruit with the heavy syrup it came soaked in. While nutritionally this may be equivalent to eating a can of sugar, her grandfather was doing the best he could with what he had. Some Stetson students have admitted that their Girl Dinners might not always be voluntary, but are sometimes the consequences of their financial situations. Nico Alonso says that sometimes with her financial situation in mind, dining services like Doordash or going out and stocking up on groceries seems unfeasible. With this in mind, she has to get creative with some of her meals. With all of these factors influencing what gets on our plates, what space should Girl Dinner take up? 


Taking Responsibility Off Our Plates: 


Sara Smith thinks that in perspective, “It’s not like I’m like, avoid Girl Dinner posts. I just think the difference in the toxic parts need to be pointed out. If we talk about these differences in perception, and maybe perhaps the intent versus impact, then I think it’s okay.” We can not know what factors lead to the assortment on others’ plates or what their intentions may be when they upload videos to the internet, but we can establish boundaries. Social media has permanently bonded us all together, but when the next trend surfaces, our hunger to participate can overshadow our consideration for the potential audience. Although Tiktok may call their codes of conduct “Community Guidelines,” it’s important to remember that community should be more tangible than pixels on our screens. My advice is to accept and be accepted by a community that makes eating intuitive, something you do not have to think about. Balance the health of meals, with accessibility, and most importantly, a healthy relationship with food. Most of us aren’t nutritionists and it is ok to eat food imperfectly, like we do everything else, just try your best. Building off of this, do not be afraid to block hashtags for your peace of mind. At the end of the trend, we are strangers sharing a moment in time and the most authentic connection between us is likely the WiFi signal. Laugh at what suits you and eat what fulfills you. 


Sara Smith’s Girl Dinner: Peanut Butter Noodles

  • Peanut butter
  • Soy sauce
  • Mirin
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sesame sugar
  • Sugar to taste
  • Ramen noodles
  • Fried tofu


Please seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating. 

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders (ANAD): The Helpline

+1 (888)-375-7767

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