Food Videos: The Psychology Of Our YouTube Obsessions
Most of us enjoy YouTube to watch the usual trending dog or cat videos, or the viral singing babies, our favorite music videos, movie trailers, and TV show snippets. It’s often a mental escape from daily life or work and you can search any topic you’d like to take your mind off of something, or on to something to learn a new skill or trade of your choice.
But like with other forms of social media, particularly Instagram, YouTube is shaping the way we think and act around food. It may even be shaping consumerism and the way we purchase foods or the restaurants we try.
If you want to watch different diet plan videos and “real people” trying them out with different suggestions, the world is your oyster on the site. Similarly, if you’re interested in what Victoria’s Secret Models eat in a day, you can find videos of Sanne Vloet and Miranda Kerr going through their daily eating habits and grocery store runs in realtime.
There’s even an entire category (read: thousands of videos) dedicated to “mukbang,” which if you aren’t familiar means watching people gorge themselves on large amounts of food at once while rating all of the dishes in question.
The other day I found myself watching a video of Yolanda Hadid (mother of models Bella and Gigi) describing her daily food intake, which seemed organic and healthy-perhaps down to a science, not to my surprise.
I also have a special affinity for the “VeganBodegaCat” channel, where a young woman roams the streets of New York City trying out different vegan restaurants and promoting all of her favorite venues. She doesn’t have to try hard to humanize herself with a very humble personality, but she also incorporates videos of herself getting new tattoos, and trying out new at-home plans like raw vegan meals for longer periods of time.
But I was left wondering, why are we so fascinated by watching what others eat? Both celebrities and ordinary humans?
And would someone be more likely to try these foods and restaurants after watching these videos?
Whether it’s in the form of watching someone prepare recipes you’d like to try out, watching them sample different cuisines, or simply wanting to watch others test out different diets or review popular meal service kits, this is a new and trending topic that we didn’t have access to in years before.
So what types of YouTube videos are out there, which are best for your visual palette, and why do we do this in the first place?
Food Videos: Popular YouTube Videos & Variety
There are a lot of different subcategories and food channels available for public viewing pleasure and visual consumption on YouTube. In fact, sometimes when we go on diets, it seems easier to fixate on videos and watching others eat (or learn how to follow specific plans) than it does our own hunger or researching how to maintain the plan on our own. Some of the most popular trending YouTube food channels and categories include:
“What I Eat In A Day”
“What I Eat In a Day” videos are definitely trending right now, with everyone from regular users to YouTube stars to models and actresses participating in content. It’s a rundown of what the user eats beginning in the morning and finishing with the last bite before bed.
This is definitely one of the more interesting concepts we’ve seen popping up and trending on the site recently, and many of the videos are dedicated to specific lifestyles or diet plans (i.e. raw vegan, gluten-free).
If you want to know what your favorite model eats in a day, or want to know what you can eat in a day on a new plan, this is a very interesting way to watch a standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner plan from a healthy perspective without having to consult with a nutritionist.
It’s important to take all of these videos with a grain of salt (or kale, or apple cider vinegar, in this case), and not use them as tools for comparison- as most of us don’t have the financial means to fund some of the raw vegan or organic diets of the top models we’re watching. This doesn’t mean we can’t use some of the foods as great sources of inspiration, or look to score deals on these foods at our local grocers.
By using popular meal kit delivery options, we can also splurge on some of these organic options that come pre-prepared, even kits and boxes used by models themselves.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating food categories available for public consumption on YouTube is the “Mukbang” user base.
Different users typically go to chain restaurants or purchase large amounts of food (usually fast food) to eat and review for the audience.
Most of us are simply left wondering, how and why? On a lot of levels. It’s uncertain how they can fund such a large food purchase on a frequent basis, how they can eat these quantities of food without becoming ill.
There’s no question, we definitely enjoy watching these users consume large amounts of food for one reason or another, and it usually stems from sheer fascination.
This should probably come with a “don’t try at home” warning label though, as most of us can’t stomach a McDonald’s entire menu sample all at once.
Recipes on YouTube pop up just as frequently as funny cat videos do. You can find everything from how to make a certain dish using a microwave or slow cooker to how to prepare an entire holiday menu option for multiple guests.
Even if you’re trying to learn how to make a low-carb or gluten-free option, or something that fits within a specific plan or eliminates a specific food or allergen, a search for that recipe will typically generate several options.
Finding recipes and watching people test them out and prepare different meals is a great way to learn how to make new meals and snacks, and it’s often a lot easier than reading off of a list and going from there.
You can also watch several different versions of the same recipe being prepared (by different users), and see what works and what doesn’t. The best part about watching these recipe videos is the ability to see what types of grill settings the user has in comparison to your own, and the visual learning often makes it an easier process.
It’s also incredibly specific. If you want to learn how to make a gluten-free snack using YouTube, you can do that. If you’re trying out a new Keto meal and feeling clueless, a video is also an invaluable tool.
Diet Plans/Lifestyles and Channels
If you’re looking to learn how to make different juices, or stick to a certain diet (Keto, Paleo, gluten-free, low-carb, vegan, raw vegan, etc.), YouTube makes it easy to seek out different channels and find users who can provide tips, recipes, and help in preparing foods and sticking to your plan of choice.
While it’s difficult to dine out, read labels, and prepare foods when you’re embarking on a completely new diet plan, it can be very helpful to watch users prepare foods and share advice who have more experience with the plan.
Even if you’re looking for vegan dining-out options, you can easily search by restaurant or city name along with “vegan” and you’ll likely find users who are reviewing these locations or even giving tours of the best vegan spots in your specific city.
Other users are focused on preparing different juice cleanses and smoothie options, and provide nutrition and calorie information to help you track what you’re making.
If you’re trying to stick to and learn about a new plan, YouTube videos are a great source of help in the process.
Food Videos: Why Do We Watch?
We all have different reasons for watching food content on YouTube, and all of this content varies quite a bit, it seems to come down to a fascination with food and an appreciation for others with our shared interests (in terms of diets, plans, and recipes).
We may also strive to take on a new diet plan because of an attractive viral YouTube star or the promotion of a certain diet by a model or a public figure, in the hopes that we can eat that way, look that way, and then feel that way (or at least, how we’re perceiving them to feel from a viewers perspective).
If we see a channel that is strictly gluten-free, or one that demonstrates how to make the best healthy juices for a specific cleanse, we’re also learning a lot of new material. And it’s a lot easier for us to learn visually, and in an enjoyable way, than it would be to simply read instructions off of a list and go from there.
Sometimes it isn’t as simple as wanting to learn how to make poached eggs using a microwave alone (not recommended), or wanting to get tips on grocery shopping for a new low-carb plan.
Why are we watching what models eat in a day, as an example? Or simply watching people eat as much as they can in a single setting to rate foods?
We all have our own reasons for doing so, but there seems to be some overlap.
It may be driven out of a combined curiosity and guilty-pleasure factor. We’d like to be able to either cheat on our own diets or afford the gluten-free low-carb 100% organic foods and juices we’re watching models eat on a daily basis free of any hamburgers or cookies before bed.
We’re into watching extremes with food on both ends of the spectrum, watching the way others consume food, and questioning the way we interact with food.
Perhaps we go out and try those apple cider vinegar shots in the morning because they’re highly rated (and a part of the “Pre Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Diet”).
We don’t usually try out eating a large serving of fast food in one sitting inspired by a mukbang video, but we might splurge on the highest rated recommendation after watching the content.
So while we all have different reasons for watching this content in the first place, it definitely seems to hold a lot of psychological weight, for lack of a better term.
Food Videos: Is YouTube Changing The Way We Eat?
Youtube videos are definitely changing the way we view food, psychologically and visually.
Just like other forms of social media, the video content has become highly influential in the way that we view food and interact with it after exposure.
Youtube has allowed users to form a lot of specific communities to interact with each other, and has gained a large following of users participating in very specific lifestyle plans and diets- some which inspire us to try out the same foods.
The recipe and meal planning options also allow us to have a visual reference for new foods we may not have tried preparing otherwise.
As with Instagram, influential figures and models/celebrities on YouTube can be very powerful in our food choices after we’ve been exposed to this material. We may try out a new diet, food, or even go to a restaurant we wouldn’t have otherwise after viewing a single video.
While it’s important to realize that these videos are quite powerful and can be very positive for all of the content they provide, it’s also important for us not to start comparing ourselves or the way we eat (or can afford to eat) to Victoria’s Secret models.
We can use admiration without getting to lost in comparison or projecting that a diet is equivalent to any feelings or sense of internal worth.
But there’s no question that without YouTube food videos, a lot of us would be starving for new content on a daily basis.
Beverly joined MFS with a diverse breadth of experience in writing and digital marketing. Throughout the years of placing recipes on MFS, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of “subscription boxes” for the cooking/food market. It was then that I decided to also include my own personal review of these subscriptions on MFS.