Fat for fame: Social media stars sacrifice their health for clicks

Dying for clicks: The gluttonous social media stars who’ve become filthy rich by binge-eating in front of millions of followers on camera… at deadly cost of becoming obese

  • YouTubers who gorge on mountainous plates of food are raking in millions yearly
  • The videos, mukbangs, are meant to help solo diners feel less alone while eating 
  • There are concerns that the videos foster disordered eating and poor self image 

The camera opens on a square table laden with McDonald’s items. Fries, chicken nuggets, and burgers fill the screen in what can only be described as a smorgasbord of fast food. 

A larger-than-life host appears wearing a breathing tube meant to aid in poor sleep – a sign of drastic weight gain – before gorging himself for over 40 emotionally-turbulent minutes, in which he has a breakdown about surpassing 400lbs and pins his anxiety on the amount of fried chicken that he eats. 

Nicholas Perry – better known as Nikocado Avocado to his 3.5millon YouTube followers – is an internet sensation from Pennsylvania who has become a multi-millionaire by filming himself binge-eating ungodly amounts of food and documenting his weight-gain journey.

Mr Perry, 30, has come a long way since his first video disavowing veganism in 2016, when he appeared youthful, svelte and jovial. Fast forward seven years – and 150lbs later – he is a very different person.

Nikocado Avocado has filmed himself eating thousands of calories of fast food in popular ‘mukbang’ videos. In several, he is seen wearing a breathing mask meant to help extremely overweight people sleep through the night without snoring

He started out in 2016 with mukbangs of a different nature – more tame serving sizes often times accompanied with his pet parrot

Nicholas Perry, 30, has become wildly popular online in part for his explosive behavior for the camera 

Mr Perry, who started out a devout vegan, has grown increasingly extreme and eccentric over his career as an internet personality. 

While he began filming himself consuming hefty portions of ramen or a stack of pancakes at IHOP in 2017, he now often eats in excess of 10,000 calories in front of the camera in videos with such titles as ‘I hate myself, Goodbye YouTube & life’ and ‘Celebrating Our 700 Pound Milestone.’ 

TikTok star Waffler69, famous for eating expired or bizarre foods to 1.7M followers died from a suspected heart attack at aged 33.

But it is not only the volume of food Mr Perry consumes that has changed. His behavior has also become increasingly erratic. In one video entitled ‘nobody likes me, I’m done,’ he is seen sobbing while shaving his hair off into a plate of eggs. 

In another video, Mr Perry films himself smearing Cheetos-colored ramen noodles all over his face, while in others he is seen having screaming matches with his now-ex-husband Orlin. 

But the emotional turbulence has paid off. His net worth is reportedly $7 million, a staggering sum that landed him a $2.3 million penthouse in Las Vegas.

Mr Perry has confronted some health consequences because of his risky lifestyle. In several videos, he is wearing a type of ventilator called a BiPAP machine that very obese people need to help them breathe as they sleep. 

He has also complained of blurry vision, pain in his abdominal and testicular areas, erectile dysfunction and frequent diarrhea.

Still, Mr Perry has not voiced any plans to reverse course in an effort to restore his good health. Instead, Nikocado Avocado has worried users and medical professionals who know full well what could happen to him if he does not drastically improve his health. 

TikTok star Waffler69, real name Taylor LeJeune, who gained internet fame for eating bizarre and sometimes expired foods, died of a suspected heart attack last week.

LeJeune boasted 1.7million followers on the platform where he posted quirky videos of himself trying watermelon-flavored toast and promotional Addams Family cereal from the 90s, among other suspect food choices. 

TikTok star Waffler69 has died from a suspected heart attack aged 33 (pictured in his final video)

Waffler69 began experiencing discomfort at home and called his mother, before ringing for an ambulance to take him to a hospital  where he later died

Taylor’s father and grandfather ‘suffered from genetic heart problems’ which exacerbated his exisiting health issues

He was celebrated for his enthusiasm in sharing his eccentric food finds, such as a giant Fruit Loop or a canned cheeseburger.  LeJeune’s brother said Taylor died of a ‘presumed heart attack.’

These types of videos are called mukbangs, a South Korean phenomenon that exploded in popularity in the US in 2015. 

A ‘mukbang’ is a portmanteau of the South Korean words ‘eating’ (‘meokneun’) and ‘broadcast’ (‘bangsong’).  In the videos, users display a mammoth amount of food in front of them and chow down while the camera rolls.

It should come as no surprise that medical professionals are worried about the trend.

Dr Zak Uddin, a general medicine practitioner from the UK told DailyMail.com: ‘We are not at the door of an obesity epidemic, we’re well in the epidemic. 

‘For us to be therefore glamorizing vast calorific consumption or even binge eating is crazy isn’t it? You’re normalizing the abnormal.’

‘As a society, we enjoy the abnormal or the obscene. This isn’t a new thing. If it’s a freak show, people will gravitate towards it.’ 

A sweeping 2020 analysis of different reports detailing why people are attracted to mukbang videos concluded that many feel emotionally connected as they watch people eat and talk to the camera.

But for the more extreme and grotesque videos, experts warn people with eating disorders may watch them to fulfill a fantasy or fetishists for sexual reasons. 

Dr Andrew Harris, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University and co-author of the 2020 analysis told DailyMail.com: ‘It is easy to see how this trend of watching others eat can move West when we consider that there is arguably nothing more relatable than food consumption and our love of food. Mukbang therefore transcends culture.’

In this video from Summer 2022, Mr Perry is celebrating his ‘400 Pound Milestone’ with food from the Cheesecake Factory

Mukbangs typically involve large portions of less-than-healthy foods including ramen and fast food

Dr Harris added: ‘There are of course further negative consequences associated with Mukbang, such as excessive food consumption and weight gain due to social comparison and mimicking, as well as creating altered perceptions of food portioning, healthy eating, and the glorification of binge eating behaviour.’ 

The types of mukbang videos differ geographically, according to Dr Harris, who said content creators in Korea are more interested in highlighting the foods in front of them rather than their personal lives.  

Dr Harris said: ‘Western versions appear to shift the focus on to the content creators themselves. 

‘The West appears to have brought a contest or “food challenge” element to the concept, not too dissimilar to those seen in popular TV shows such as Man Versus Food.’ 

Watching a mukbang video can feel like catching up with an old friend, even if that old friend lives across the country and is eating a mountain of KFC compared to your turkey sandwich. 

Some of the videos are designed to feel like a gathering with friends. Nikocado Avocado often appears alongside fellow mukbanger Hungry Fat Chick, or Candy Godiva, who has become a fixture in the mukbang video scene with more than 261,000 YouTube subscribers. Her net worth hovers around $1 million.

A 2017 report on the subject said: ‘One possible motivation of mukbang viewers was that they were forming a kind of viewing community via interacting and communicating with each other on a common interest, which promoted elevated feelings of pleasure and belonging.’ 

But an innocuous want for companionship over dinner has the potential to send viewers down a dangerous path of physical and emotional unwellness.

The excess depicted in the videos is treacherous for people with a history of disordered eating, which has become more common in recent decades, especially in combination with obesity.

Mental health experts fear that the videos glorify binge eating, a disordered eating practice in which a person loses control and eats with abandon. 

The 2020 analysis of mukbang studies said: ‘Since individuals eat with their eyes, seeing someone bingeing on these unhealthy foods could trigger a response in the viewers because it might cause viewers perceive bingeing as a normal behaviour.’ 

The total prevalence of lifetime eating disorders among U.S. adults is reported to be about two percent and young adults appear to be more at risk of disordered eating compared to their older counterparts. 

And while young women account for the majority of individuals with anorexia and bulimia nervosa, males and females are almost equally at risk for having binge eating disorder.

Watching the videos could have an extremely deleterious effect on an already unstable person. 

A 2020 report from Swedish psychiatrists found that while many viewers of the mukbangs with a history of binge eating feel more able to stave off a binge, another large share ‘attest to how watching mukbang videos may trigger them to relapse into loss-of-control eating.’

Nikocado Avocado is pictured above with popular YouTuber Hungry Fat Chick, or Candy Godiva, who has become a fixture in the mukbang video scene with more than 261,000 YouTube subscribers. Her net worth hovers around $1 million

During mukbangs, video makers chat with viewers while they eat, simulating a conversation that one might have around the table at meal times 

Mukbangs exploded in popularity around 2015 in the US, which is in the grips of an obesity crisis that has only worsened in the past few decades. In fact, worldwide obesity has tripled since 1975.

Nearly 43 percent of American adults are obese and, per federal 2021 data, more than seven in 10 U.S. adults aged 20 and older are either overweight or obese.

Obesity is a complex disease that is influenced by outside factors such as the frequency at which a person exercises and their socioeconomic status. 

But doctors are increasingly treating it as a physiological disease that has roots in a person’s genetics. In most obese people, no single genetic cause can be identified.

Though since 2006, genome-wide association studies have identified more than 50 different genes associated with obesity.

Despite the condition’s strong roots in genetics, poor diet and lack of exercise can do a lot of damage in a short window of time.

A search for mukbangs on Youtube will generate thousands of results. The trend has shown no signs of ebbing and public appetite for mukbang videos remains strong, despite the severely negative effects on their stars’ health. 

Nikocado Avocado claimed to have purchased a Las Vegas apartment in 2021 for more than $2 million

Public records do not reflect a purchase of a Las Vegas penthouse apartment, per an investigation by DailyMail.com 

Mr Perry has also bragged about other real estate deals in the past, including for a $3 million home in Hawaii. 

Mr Perry has publicly announced in Spring 2021 that he purchased a penthouse apartment in Las Vegas for $2.3 million. DailyMail.com could not verify the purchase in public records. 

This is not the first time Mr Perry has shared photos of his home online. Other videos of his show that Nikocado Avocado has also purchased homes in Los Angeles and Hawaii for $1.17 million and $2.98 million respectively.   

DailyMail.com reached out to Nicholas Perry for comment ahead of publication. 

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