Emily Mariko’s TikToks are so refreshing
My first reaction when I looked at this for the first time extremely viral video from TikTok lifestyle designer Emily Mariko making salmon rice didn’t have to wonder if I should cook the dish myself. Instead, I was surprised that she uses White rice. And real mayo?
When I first came onto the internet, the “healthy” lifestyle creators I followed weren’t eating white rice. Or bread. Or a lot of the things that Mariko has now become so famous for consuming.
If you are not familiar, Mariko produces lifestyle videos on TikTok that captivate with their simplicity. She cuts vegetables for preparing meals, makes tomatoes on toast with cream cheese, or eat a pie. Mariko, who lives in the Bay Area, always looks neat and beautiful but never overdone, wearing simple crop tops with leggings or denim shorts and chunky sweatshirts.
Mariko says on her YouTube channel that her content is about “looking and feeling your best.” Her recipe videos are filled with ASMR chopping, washing, and cutting sounds, and they end with beautiful plates of food. She also posts videos of herself doing household chores and shopping, like washing her sheets and going to the farmer’s market. Somehow, in her world, these mundane tasks seem fanciful. Mariko’s videos are like a head massage that also makes you want to go buy kale or clean the toilet.
Mariko is certainly not the only creator of lifestyle content on TikTok or the Internet. Ambitious lifestyle content is as old as social media itself, and many people are creating similar content on a variety of platforms (just grab content from the farmer’s market on one of them). them, and the number of videos you can watch is unlimited). But Emily’s painstaking mix of recipes, planning advice, and accessible, unpretentious luxury, along with thrilling ASMR, made her a lifestyle star of new proportions for TikTok. Its content has exploded on the platform in a truly mind-blowing way.
As Kate Lindsay wrote in her Embarked newsletter, Mariko had 70,000 subscribers on TikTok in early September, after years of creating content mostly on other platforms like YouTube and Instagram. She now has 3.9 million followers on TikTok. The salmon rice video posted a week ago has over 25 million views.
Mariko is 29 years old, but her fan base is Gen Z, with a few millennia. Perusing her comments, many of them appear to be young women in their late teens or early twenties, who write that they were inspired to learn to cook or prepare meals because of the videos of Mariko, and ask her for advice on how to live a “healthier” lifestyle themselves. “What motivates you to be active and eat so well, and how can we be motivated to do so? A commentator asked him recently. “Emily Mariko has honestly revitalized my love for life. I just stocked up on groceries, organized my kitchen and had a healthy meal,” another wrote on Twitter. As Lindsay writes, Mariko “ shows up every day with a clean kitchen, nutritious food and other ambitious and fully accessible content if I get my ass off. “
But looking through Mariko’s comments, I was struck by the example she sets for her followers and how different I have seen online as a young adult.
When I was in my early twenties I also wanted to live my best life and researched it online. I wanted to learn to cook myself, but in a healthy way, whatever that means. I quickly came across what became known as “healthy lifestyle blogs” or “HLBs,” a genre of blogging that had taken over my corner of internet culture in the early 2010s. most popular of these blogs, like Healthy Tipping Point and Kath Eats Real Food, all had a few key characteristics. They were slender white women, most of them running marathons or at least half marathons, almost all of them were married to their college sweetheart, and they all, in hindsight, had a strange obsession with them. oatmeal.
Most HLBs also had a similar story: After gaining “a few extra pounds” in college and feeling lethargic and in bad shape, the blogger had devoted himself to self-improvement. The weight was reduced, and through exercise and healthy habits, they said they are now living their best lives. By documenting their daily meals (some posted a photo of everything they ate for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner each day), the author provided a plan for eating like them. The blogs included recipes, workouts, grocery lists, and tips on how to eat “clean” in restaurants. They sang the praises of healthy, creative foods like overnight oats, zucchini noodles, and spaghetti squash (many of which can now be found in most grocery stores).
There were many blogs with great tips, some of which I still remember and adhere to today. Some bloggers, like Anne Mauney of Fannetastic Food, have accompanied readers on their journey to become registered dietitians. I still follow many of the people I followed on Instagram back then and have learned some helpful tips over the years.
However, the HLBs were a far cry from the food freedom that Mariko embraces in her TikToks. “Healthy eating,” I learned from them, called for certain rules. Bloggers shared recipes with substitutions meant to cut down on fat, oil, and carbohydrates. One of the most popular food bloggers of the time was Gina Homolka of SkinnyTaste, who provided the calories, fat content, and Weight Watchers points for every recipe she posted.
It was on these blogs that I first read about the use black beans or chickpeas for making brownies, this nutritional yeast tastes just as well like cheese, which powdered Peanut Butter it’s awesome, and that cauliflower can literally turn into anything if you try. Some ingredients were acceptable and some were not: there were some fats that could be eaten as is (nut butters, avocados), but others had to be avoided and replaced with the aforementioned substitutions. Bloggers would tell me it’s nice to have treats every now and then, but when they seemed to only eat chickpea brownies and cauliflower pizza slices, it was hard to believe them.
Some of the other habits touted by bloggers were also of concern. As Marie Claire reported in 2010, some of the bloggers’ recommendations drew rebuke from nutrition experts who pointed out how harmful some of their advice could be. “The large number of images of foods and descriptions of intense exercise can be especially triggering for followers with eating disorders,” wrote a psychologist at the time. had poorly characterized their job and denying having messy eating or exercise habits.)
I don’t mean to say that I personally felt hurt while reading these blogs or that I developed bad eating habits from them. In truth, I was mostly too lazy and too cheap to commit to cooking elaborate meals for myself (I was 22, didn’t have the patience to make a zucchini spiral for noodles) , so I was mostly a window shopper rather than a consumer.
I also think a lot of these blogs reflected the diet and weight loss culture at the time. Some blogs are now gone, but many bloggers have continued to work as influencers and have evolved over time. Writing about her past as a healthy lifestyle blogger in 2017, Jen Eddins of the blog Peanut Butter Runner admitted that she had let herself be drawn into many community welfare fashions to the detriment of her relationship with food. She’s written about giving up red meat, replacing soy milk with dairy, and avoiding bread for health reasons, even though she doesn’t have food allergies. Over time, she said, she was able to get rid of the bad habits she had developed and find “food freedom.”
“I have really come to the conclusion that I function best when I focus on feeding my body intuitively and without rules,” she wrote.
Mariko then seems to be an indication of the evolution of wellness content, and I’m heartened to see that the next generation has a more balanced lifestyle and wellness influencer than I subscribe to. Mariko is slim and beautiful, and any influencer who presents their life in an ambitious light runs the risk of presenting a filtered version of reality to young followers. But his videos are refreshing.
Mariko eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, but she also eats pastries and bread, white rice, mayonnaise, butter, whole cream cheese, ice cream, and peach cobbler. Even more exciting is the fact that she doesn’t apologize for it or even explain it.
Mariko is all about nourishing your body with whole foods that you are satisfied with and enjoying treats in moderation. In her videos, there are no calorie counting, no banned ingredients, or guilt-ridden rules governing what she decides to eat. There is no cauliflower or low fat swap. She may be an ambitious lifestyle influencer, but as far as I know the lifestyle she preaches is a lot less harmful than previous iterations.
Diet culture will always be with us, but I am encouraged by Mariko’s rise. After all, anyone could use a booster to slow down, take care of themselves, and eat a good meal. ●