Viral Instagram encourages fashion and media to "get real"

Jun 26, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. ET
Image: Hamburguesa Con Queso Photostock/iStock/360/Getty Images

In case you missed the secret girl memo: These days it's not enough to be long-limbed, svelte and gorgeous. Now you're supposed to be all that (plus have a successful career and be the perfect mom) and make it look effortless.

Woman eating donut

Photo credit: Hamburguesa con queso Photostock/iStock/360/Getty Images

If you've watched any commercials, looked at any magazine ads or turned on your TV, then you've probably seen this new archetype of femininity — the girl who looks like a model but eats like a frat boy. But is this very realistic? A viral Instagram account called You Did Not Eat That aims to pull the curtain back on this scary trope.

You Did Not Eat That posts pictures of impossibly thin women and ripped men posing with decadent foods. Often the foods are poised to go into a happy, open mouth... but you never see an actual bite taken. The commentary is little — some pictures have short captions — but what makes the Instagram so popular are all the reactions from readers. It's like we're all collectively screaming I knew it!!!


This is exactly why the account was created, says the woman behind it, who has so far remained anonymous. "I've worked in media and fashion for almost 10 years," she explains in an interview with The Cut. "I feel like blogs have certainly changed everything, you know, in the lifestyle people are presenting — it's just spiraled into the absurd. All these girls who wear the most expensive outfit that they have — probably borrowed or gifted. They troll the West Village or Venice, or somewhere, [buying] "chic" lashings from different pastry shops, taking pictures in their Valentino Rockstud Stilettos. Ughhh. I call it The Emperor's New Clothes syndrome: Everybody just says, Oh my God, you look amazing. But nobody's really actually saying, Get real. And we should."

Indeed, the woman says her breaking point came when she watched dozens of bloggers swarming a dessert table, taking pictures and spending five minutes merchandising the sunglasses next to the macaroons. "Then they walked away and nothing was eaten. It was so contrived!"

So she set up You Did Not Eat That to show the chicanery behind the chic. But it's not about calling out specific people or even thin body types and setting them up for ridicule. "If you're a size zero, and you're frolicking in a tiny bikini on the beach, you probably did not eat the doughnuts that you posed with the sunglasses," she says, echoing what the rest of us are thinking. "It's just presenting this curated life that's beautiful and perfect and totally unrealistic. More power to you for rocking that! You look awesome! Don't lie about how you got there! It's fine."

And it's not just bloggers and Hollywood types being deceptive. This mentality has trickled down to the mainstream. I remember one day at the mall, with my 2-month-old baby in tow, eying the sale racks sadly and wondering if I'd ever fit back in my normal clothes. And then I saw a gorgeous, thin woman with twin infants about my baby's size picking up extra-small tops and happily hanging them off the handles of her double stroller. I'm embarrassed to say I basically stalked her through the store. Maybe they're adopted? Maybe she's a nanny? Maybe she's just a freak of nature with a metabolism like a Ferrari?

Finally my internal chatter got to me and I spoke to her. After the obligatory chatter about our babies, I just asked her: How did you do it? She nonchalantly waved her hand and mumbled something about yoga with her babies. I was crushed. I did yoga and Pilates every day and I didn't look anything close to what she did. I'd wanted her to just tell me the truth, even if the truth was that she was genetically blessed, stuck to a perfect diet or even was addicted to Adderall.

I don't think she meant it to be rude. In fact, I think I probably embarrassed her and caught her off guard. But I think it says a lot about our society that I felt so compelled to ask her such a personal question and she felt so compelled to answer dismissively. And if a picture says a thousand words, then the Instagram of a model holding a pink frosted doughnut on her lap, hovering over her eight-inch thigh gap, pretty much sums up how I felt.

Do bloggers have a duty to be scrupulously honest with their readers? Especially when mainstream media so pointedly isn't? Is it our duty as women to be honest with each other? These are questions we're still trying to figure out but in the meantime, I'm still nodding along with You Did Not Eat That and feeling a tiny bit better.

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