After beginning her recovery from an eating disorder in 2020, Charlotte Grimmer, now 30, felt determined to untangle herself from the world of diet culture.
But when she started using TikTok at the beginning of 2021 during Australia’s second lockdown, she felt the algorithm pulling her back in by showing her lots of diet-related content.
«I just kind of got frustrated with all of that,» Grimmer, who works full-time as a high school dance and drama teacher in Sydney, Australia, told Insider. «With lockdown as well, it was very much like, ‘Gotta keep working out, gotta keep fit.’ That was very big,» she said.
As a part-time comedian who has performed shows at the Sydney and Edinburgh Fringe festivals, Grimmer has focused her routines around satirizing diet culture and experiences of disordered eating, so when she began to see these messages on social media, she decided to start using her platform to amplify her message.
Now, she has a thriving TikTok following of 137,000, and her videos mocking some social media’s common diet-related tropes can receive millions of views as she attempts to educate people at the same time as entertaining them.
Grimmer had recently graduated from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art when she decided to start uploading her videos to TikTok.
She had previously made a few sketches for YouTube, but they hadn’t gained much traction, and she wanted to share some aspects of her eating disorder recovery journey, and how some people’s well-intentioned comments can have a negative impact.
«People will say, ‘Oh gosh, I couldn’t possibly eat all of that.’ Or they’ll say, ‘Oh wow, pasta is a lot for you to have at lunch.’ And I’ll be like, ‘You can’t just casually comment on what I’m eating like that,'» she said.
Grimmer said that these comments come across as judgemental and that they are «rooted in the belief that there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to eat disguised as a ‘harmless’ comment.»
«I’d learned so much from my recovery that I just really wanted the whole world to be able to see things from another perspective,» she said.
The first of Grimmer’s sketches to take off was called «Diet Culture Mom.» The video went viral soon after she posted it in March 2021, and it currently has over 1.2 million views.
In the video, a mom character can be seen eating dinner from a comically small plate before announcing to her children that she and their father would be «eating food from tiny plates» for the rest of their lives.
«If you would like to also eat from a tiny plate, I think we have a few tiny plates left over. If you would like to continue eating from your ‘piggy plates,’ that is also fine,» she said to her children in the sketch. «We are trying to watch our figures.»
At the end of the video, the character began mopping up sauce from her plate with her finger, suggesting she was still hungry after eating such a small meal.
Grimmer said the video was inspired by a real event. «My parents actually sat down once and said, ‘We’re going to eat our dinner on these smaller plates because of our serving size control.’ And I just thought that was hysterical,» she told Insider.
She said that the popularity of her video made her feel seen because it was clear that other people were just as sick of diet culture as she was. «To have others share with me a similar experience of diet culture in their lives is what inspires me to continue creating,» she said.
Grimmer said that while TikTok is an excellent platform for educators who are trained and experienced, many of the influencers who post recipes that promote diet culture don’t necessarily know how harmful they can be to some viewers.
For example, many creators make videos that suggest substituting key ingredients in certain foods for low-calorie alternatives, and label them healthier options, such as making «nice cream,» by blending up a banana with protein powder and ice as opposed to eating traditional ice cream.
«This might be great for some people and not affect them at all but for me, those sorts of recipes leave you dissatisfied and still wanting ice cream,» she said.
In a recent viral TikTok sketch titled «Healthy Mint Slice,» which she posted on June 22, Grimmer recreates a chocolate cookie covered in mint cream by mashing up broccoli, adding a small drizzle of chocolate, and waving a peppermint teabag above it.
«It’s supposed to be chaotic and it’s so clearly a parody because it is absurd,» she said.
The video currently has over 6.5 million views, and many commenters seemed in on the joke, taking it a step further and suggesting they can just look at a mint plant when they’re craving a dessert, or joking that it was too rich for them and they’d omit the chocolate altogether, substituting it for cacao nibs.
Some people have accused Grimmer of using her sketches to mock those with eating disorders, which she says is not her intention, but she does sometimes block people who are especially vocal about their criticism. «Everyone’s experience is different and you can’t please everyone,» she said
Grimmer told Insider that many of her TikTok followers seem to find this coping strategy helpful. Once, someone told Grimmer that they kept thinking of her comedy sketches when they were at a family barbecue, and it made it easier for them to deal with the situation, she said.
Before she uploads a new video, Grimmer always asks herself whether she’d be OK with her students seeing it. «I like to think that as a teacher, I’m trying to educate people to unpack things a little more,» she said.
«At the end of the day, as harmful as it is, you can laugh about it,» Grimmer told Insider of diet culture. «When I go back and I think about some of the thoughts I used to have and the things I used to do, I’m honestly like, ‘God bless her.'»
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