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The reason why eating tiny portions is popular on YouTube

“Meokbang,” also known as mukbang, in which streamers showcase themselves having a huge meal, has been a globally popular form of online content.

Some of them like PaToo, Tomin and Shukii have become genuine celebrities in their native country thanks to their “mukbang” content. They can be seen eating astronomical quantities of food, alone, at home.

These videos gained popularity in South Korea in 2010, before being exported internationally. Since then, they have become commonplace on the Internet.

However, “mukbangs” are falling somewhat out of favour in the country where they originated. They have been criticised as promoting eating disorders in young people, while contributing to food waste. In other words, “mukbangs” are losing steam.

A minimalist approach to eating

And they are falling even more out of fashion since the appearance of “sosikjwa.” This Korean word comes from the contraction of the verb “sosik” (“to eat small quantities”) and the suffix “jwa (“king”). It refers to individuals who eat like a bird and flaunt it on social networks.

Meanwhile, Singer and actress Sandara Park and presenter Park So-hyun embody this ideology perfectly. They talk about their minimalist food preferences on the YouTube channel “Unnies without Appetite.” And it’s proved a major success: the videos they post have had more than 53.4 million views to date.

The transparency with which the two women talk about their eating habits explains why Korean Internet users are finding the videos so fascinating. In one of them, Park So-huyn says she usually drinks two vanilla lattes in a day… and that’s it. Sandara Park sometimes only eats one banana a day to feel full.

While some may question the nutritional benefits of these diets – and rightly so, Shim Cheong, the producer of “Unnies without Appetite,” defends the stars.

“Everyone is interested in eating well and living well. What’s important in ‘mukbang’ is not to eat large amounts of food, but eat to one’s satisfaction. That’s the whole purpose of this programme: to show that sosikjwa also enjoy food,” he told the Korea Times.

Watch out for indigestion

For the sake of the spectacle and interaction with their audience, Sandara Park and Park So-hyun try to taste the many dishes chosen by the guests they receive on their YouTube channel. But they don’t want to overeat. They usually only eat one or two bites slowly… very, very slowly.

Indeed, chewing is an art for “sosikjwa.” They chew food for at great length before swallowing it, for the greatest pleasure of viewers. Some even have fun timing how long they take to eat a hamburger or a rice ball.

In the case of comedian Ahn Young-mi, it takes her over four minutes to finish a piece of fried chicken. She ate one on camera for the YouTube channel “Celeb Five Official.”

The result: the video of this tasting has generated 450,000 views since its publication on July 13.

According to critic Ha Jae-keun, this popular craze for “sosikjwa” illustrates how Koreans have grown tired of “mukbangs.” “People are tired of watching mukbang videos where people gobble up food as if they are in an eating contest. Those who feeluncomfortable about it are turning their attention to ‘sosikjwa’,” he told The Korea Times.

However, this phenomenon can reinforce certain gender stereotypes, as did “mukbang”. With their small appetite, the “sosikjwa” perpetuate injunctions related to physical appearance – and especially to thinness.

On the other side of the screen, some Internet users may be tempted to dangerously restrict their diet to imitate these YouTubers or use this content as ‘thinspiration.’ Something that makes the trend difficult to digest wholeheartedly.

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