A TikTok trend in which users pretend to show “before and after” weight loss photos is being criticized by some as fatphobic.
Using the popular editing tool CapCut, trend participants have been applying an effect called "Big Face" to make their faces appear larger. Then they export the modified image to TikTok for a comparison video: the Big Face selfie versus the original selfie, with the label "What I would look like if I lost 100lbs." In other words, the "after" images are actually photos of how the users currently look.
The videos have been met with criticism by some online who say the trend mocks plus-sized individuals and stigmatizes weight gain.
“People who are relatively in shape are making fun of fat people," said Julia Barberi, 31, who posted a critical video about the trend on TikTok. "It’s a terrible filter. There are no positives. When we constantly see things about losing weight in the media, it just encourages the point that we aren’t enough as is."
The trend comes as some users on TikTok continue to grapple with body issues and eating disorders, a problem that has also been an issue on Instagram and Snapchat. On TikTok, posts on For You Pages can hit users unexpectedly with information about diet and exercise. Also, a range of inspirational lifestyle content, usually "get ready with me" series or "outfit of the day" videos, can be met with comments of users disparaging their own bodies or comparing themselves to other creators.
A few months ago, a TikTok “bloated” filter received similar backlash. TikTok users posted videos with a double chin, before the video would transition to reveal their true face. Other filters that modify people’s faces or bodies have also sparked debate on how they could contribute to body dysphoria or self-esteem problems.
A spokesperson for TikTok did not immediately respond to request for comment.
TikTok user Dominique Navarro said at first she thought the "What I would look like if I lost 100lbs" videos were meant to be positive.
“Like many people in the comments of these videos I found myself initially impressed, went to the posters' profile and then quickly realized a filter was used to make them appear fat,” said Navarro, who documents her weight loss journey and discusses fitness on her TikTok account. “I then realized many of the encouraging comments were just satire."
The comments section of videos participating in the recent trend have generated a wide range of reactions.
Some users, not realizing this was a joke, offered encouragement and shared anecdotes about their own weight loss journeys.
Others called out the videos for being tone-deaf.
“This trend will never be funny how do you guys not understand that?” one individual said.
“It’s weird,” another wrote. “Editing yourself to look a certain way so that your original self looks ‘better’ & you get compliments.”
Navarro said she believes trends like this can be harmful for people struggling with weight or eating disorders.
“A majority of people are fatphobic whether they realize it or not,” Navarro said. “People seem to believe being fat is the worst thing you could possibly be in the world, and as someone who has been fat & within a healthy weight range, I know that's not true."
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, contact The National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237 during select hours, text NEDA to 741741 at any hour in a crisis, or visit NEDA’s website.