Girl Dinner: An occasional indulgence for the lazy soul or a path to disordered eating?

Amid the bread and cheese boards and nibbles of flaming hot Cheetos—we’re a tad worried about the Girl Dinner girls. 

23 September, 2023
Girl Dinner: An occasional indulgence for the lazy soul or a path to disordered eating?

Think Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl who suffered from Bulimia or Hanna Marin from Pretty Little Liars, who would gorge on unhealthy amounts of pies and cakes in secrecy and suffered from immense body dysmorphia—women across the age spectrum have been all too familiar with the often glorified and glamourised notions of harmful eating habits, undereating, and eating disorders. These were often hidden, yet not-so-hidden conversations, and an accepted pattern among girlfriends. Now, with the advent of social media, its unprecedented exposure, and its endless cycle of trends, the conversation is not-so-hidden any more but continues to be glorified. Yes, we’re talking about the latest Girl Dinner trend that has been making its rounds across social media platforms. Little does the high-pitched, celebratory chorus of the audio let in on how harmful it actually is. Read on to know all about the trend and why it is more harmful than we think. 

What is the Girl Dinner trend? 


Started by digital creator, Olivia Mahr, when she posted a video of an assemblage of bread cheese and grapes and labelled it as Girl Dinner, the trend eventually opened up a once-perceived charming dialogue about the meals that women eat. The trend primarily features the various incongruent, not-so-meal-like and bite-sized foods that make up a Girl Dinner. Thousands of young girls and women hopped on to the bandwagon sharing their own version of a girl dinner and while several women took to the trend on a positive note, sharing recipes of pastas or their eating habits of the day adding a touch of humour with the occasional glass of wine, most others shared their worrisome meals of the day which included a bowl of ice cubes, a bunch of pickles, or even just a handful of cheese. 

Watch here.

Why is it harmful? 


A trend that may have begun with a charming intention to spark a conversation, transcended into a dark, perhaps harmful, trend to catch up with. First, the gendered connotation of the Girl Dinner gave rise to widespread debate when the trend’s counterpart, Boy Dinner went viral with videos of young boys sharing high-protein meals in absolute contrast to girls' dinner. An article in the Washington Post stated: “Emily Contois, a media studies professor at the University of Tulsa, who studies food and gender, likes the pure idea of Girl Dinner—that women can be freed by the expectation of society to nurture and provide for others, that they can enjoy the kind of self-indulgent “you do you” eating that men have long felt entitled to.” But the truth is, we still seem to be living in a world that runs on patriarchal energy and structures. So, the term may not be as romantic as we wish it were. Within the realm of patriarchy, the term, therefore, feeds into gender stereotypes and appears to be condescending.

Further, this gender connotation also feeds into the notion that it is cool and glamorous for young girls and women to eat small amounts and unhealthy foods, and even celebrate it. According to an article in MedPage: “Sometimes the word 'girl' can feed into these stereotypes where girls or women are expected to have smaller portions and eat less calorically dense foods, and that can sometimes exacerbate these stereotypes." Although the conversation around body types, body image issues, and dietary habits has taken centre stage in the last few years, Cosmopolitan UK writes, “One thing that makes these ideals so tricky is that most of us have been exposed to them since a very young age, meaning they are woven into our belief systems. This might mean that they believe that others can be healthy, happy, accepted, and loved at any size, but when it comes to their own body, they struggle. They feel shame and the desire to take diet-culture-related-action whenever they catch themselves looking a certain way."  


Besides the mental impact that this trend has had, its physical consequences are also worth taking notice. When trends such as these promote eating three nibbles for dinner or nutrition-less food, they disregard the sometimes irreversible consequences such as eating disorders, habits of undereating and more. “Over a prolonged period of time, crash dieting or heavily restricting your calorie intake may cause your metabolism to slow down. This will mean you burn less energy and consequently it can become more challenging to lose weight. You’re also more likely to start breaking down muscle mass rather than fat mass. Nutritional deficiencies can impact a woman’s hormone function, skin health, hair health, cardiovascular and immune systems, and can also lead to slower recovery and poor sleep and mental well-being,” reads the article in Cosmopolitan UK. 

So, what then? 

The truth is, that trends will come and go, but it’s important to regularly disengage from the culture promoted on social media. There’s no harm in hopping on to a trend that you find charming and light-humoured, the one that makes you feel or the one that you find relatable. But it can be a slippery, downhill slope when you don’t realise how it can affect your physical and mental well-being. Have a social media detox, speak to people about these issues, learn more, read more, and if you don’t feel okay, we urge you to seek professional help.