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DJEDDAH: Mukbang is an internet phenomenon that has grown steadily in popularity over the past few years. The culinary show from South Korea quickly toured the world. It is now gaining popularity in Saudi Arabia with the rise of influencers.

Among the Arab YouTubers who regularly upload Mukbang videos are Moe ASMR, with 188,000 subscribers; S7S, with 6.85 million subscribers; and Ameer Bros, with 7.08 million subscribers. Their content is to find new places to eat in their countries that reflect their typical cuisine. S7S, for example, is known to try different restaurants in Jeddah and eat big meals.
The concept of mukbang originated in South Korea and was intended to bring people together virtually around a meal, as eating is considered a social activity and doing it alone is considered depressing. The word is a combination of “muknun”, which means to eat, and “bangsung”, which is the Korean word for a show; together they form a word which translates to “show eating”. The trend started in 2010 on the AfreecaTV streaming platform and was meant to be a subset of the popular content known as ASMR. The acronym stands for “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” and the videos featuring ASMR aim to elicit this pleasurable sensation. When it comes to mukbang videos, some people find the sounds of eating associated with large amounts of food to be relaxing.
These videos are pretty straightforward, but they get a huge number of viewers. The broadcaster eats large amounts of food while chatting with his viewers. Sometimes this involves eating unique foods, such as ramen or fried chicken, for the duration of the video. Other challenges involve consuming thousands of calories of junk food, like chips or donuts.
However, the trend worries health experts, considering that a healthy diet and portion control are essential for maintaining optimal health and weight. Consuming large amounts of food can lead to a range of health problems, and studies have shown that this trend promotes eating disorders: Many broadcasters eat unusually large portions of food only to severely restrict their off-camera consumption.
Dr Ruwaida Idrees, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News that such yo-yo diets can have serious consequences. “A lean and muscular body generally means that a person is in good physical shape. However, if that person eats a lot of unhealthy foods and burns calories with a heavy exercise regimen to maintain weight, this may not be an indicator of good health.
“The burn-and-refuel mentality is dangerous. If you burn 600 to 800 calories in boxing, during a HIIT workout or while running and then treat yourself to a double cheeseburger, then your fat loss has become a Herculean struggle, ”she said.
Idrees explained that eating should be planned around your body’s needs – taking into account age, gender, and physical activity – and that while calorie counts are to be considered, so is it. important to consider the source of the calories.
“What you eat tells your hormones to store or burn fat, increase or block metabolism, and build or break down muscle. Not all calories are created the same. You would never say that the calories in spinach are the same as a pint of ice cream, right? The calories in spinach trigger different reactions in your body.
Eating unhealthy foods and burning them in the short term contributes to stress and fatigue, and depletes the energy needed for normal activities, such as work. In the longer term, it may contribute to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, eating disorders, and depression.
The physical effects on broadcasters are alarming, but mukbang shows also trigger eating disorders in viewers. Mattias Strand, senior consultant psychiatrist at the Stockholm Center for Eating Disorders, conducted the first-ever study on mukbang shows and eating disorders and said these videos can be a destructive force.
“We found that watching mukbang could certainly be problematic for people who already suffer from eating disorders, in that it could trigger binge eating or serve as an inspiration to eat too little,” said the psychiatrist. “Some people seem to come back for more, and some of them probably have their own issues with eating.”