Emily Mariko is Reinventing TikTok’s Toxic Diet Culture one Salmon Bowl at a Time


Photo courtesy @emilymariko/TikTok

Emily Mariko making her famous salmon bowls on TikTok.

TikTok is the epicenter of the newest trending meals and recipes, like avocado toast, whipped coffee, and now the much-loved salmon rice bowl. With 5 million followers and over 100 million likes, the creator of this bowl, 29-year-old Emily Mariko, has taken TikTok by storm. The Bay Area influencer gained her following through her lifestyle and cooking videos, some of which you may have seen on your own “For You” page. Mariko’s popularity can be attributed to her iconic salmon rice bowl, which is inspired by a spicy salmon roll and consists of salmon, white rice, seaweed, avocado, and a concoction of sauces such as sriracha, soy sauce, and kewpie mayo. Mariko’s casual yet enticing videos walk us through her cooking step-by-step, show us her farmers market hauls, and give us recipes for quick and easy gourmet breakfasts. She leaves us all fascinated by her seemingly perfect life and unbelievably organized kitchen. Aside from just her viral salmon rice bowl, Mariko teaches her followers an array of recipes from several different lines of cuisines and helps make the kitchen a less intimidating place for those new to cooking.

Not only has Mariko accumulated a massive social media following, but she has helped TikTok users move past social media’s toxic diet culture. Misinformation regarding health and nutrition is often spread through social media platforms such as TikTok. The most popular example of this is the labeling of some foods as “bad” and others as “good.” We are in a time in society where nearly every food has a label, such as chips, chocolate, and pasta being “bad” foods or considered a “treat” to eat. Salads, fruits, and vegetables, on the other hand, are seen as “good” and “healthy” foods and should be the foods we eat if we want to live the ideal “healthy lifestyle.” Everyone has a different definition of health, so what might be considered healthy to one person might be completely different for another. We are all in charge of our own lives, and we all portray our so-called “healthy lifestyles” in different ways. However, it’s important to highlight that shaming others for what they are eating, whether it is healthy or not, is not going to resolve diet culture, but will only heighten the problem. The reality is we eat food to fuel our bodies throughout the day, so there does not need to be a negative stigma around what we put in our bodies as long as it makes us feel good. Social media users are often left confused about what is healthy and what is not, and subsequently form harmful relationships with food.

Mariko’s balanced lifestyle has given the media a change of scenery, as she is someone who eats what she wants when she wants it with no qualms. This confidence and transparency help support a better relationship with food for others. In the past, TikTok has generated a cult around diets such as keto and intermittent fasting. Thus, it has created an ideology of what the “perfect” body looks like, feeding young vulnerable people myths about diet culture and making them eager to meet unrealistic goals. Mariko’s perspective on food is now used as guidance for many people as she is not focused on meeting unrealistic standards and instead eats what she likes and enjoys her life. It is refreshing to see an influencer on social media not promoting crazy diets and insane workout routines, instead providing  a realistic lens on intuitive eating as well as not trying to meet a certain beauty standard. Although we will never be able to fully renounce TikTok’s unsettling diet culture, we are moving forward as a society and are bringing awareness to this recurring problem. As Emily Mariko continues to make her mark in the social media world, we can only hope that she shares more delicious recipes along the way, all while helping in the elimination of diet culture.