The latest trend to take off on the social media platform? An ab workout that experts caution against trying at home.
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Problematic internet trends aren't exactly new (three words: Tide Pod Challenge). But when it comes to health and fitness, TikTok seems to have become the preferred breeding ground for questionable exercise guidance, nutrition advice, and more. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the platform's most recent viral moment is raising eyebrows among health professionals. Behold, the "Weight Loss Dance."

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Credit: AdobeStock

Admittedly, in a social media landscape full of false promises from "tummy teas" to "detox" supplements, it can be tough to spot the major issues with a trend at first glance — and the latest "get fit" fad is no different. Seemingly popularized by TikTok user, @janny14906, the weight loss dance, when viewed in isolated minute-or-less snippets, looks a little silly, sort of fun, and not all that remarkable. But a deeper dive into @janny14906's profile reveals a bigger, more concerning picture: the somewhat anonymous star (who has over 3 million followers) peppers their posts with all kinds of misleading, medically inaccurate claims and flat-out offensive captions. (FYI: While the clips indicate that @janny14906 is a type of exercise instructor, it's unclear whether or not they're really a fitness trainer and if they have any specific credentials due largely in part to the lack of information on their account.)

"Do you allow yourself to be obese?" reads the text in one video that shows a person (who may be @janny14906) performing their signature hip thrust alongside three sweat-covered students. "This belly curling exercise can reduce your belly," another video claims. And no matter which video you click on @janny14906's page, the caption will likely be, "As long as you enjoy the skinny come together," accompanied by hashtags such as #exercise and #fit.

Again, all of this may seem like another slightly ridiculous, if not eye-roll-inducing, internet trend — except for the fact that TikTok's audience is primarily made up of teenagers. And while serving up unfounded assurances may be particularly dangerous to an impressionable pool of young people, but anyone of any age is vulnerable to the detrimental effects of this kind of content. In the least troubling of scenarios, these types of videos can leave a person disappointed when they don't achieve the exact aesthetic they were promised. In the worst-case scenario, this type of diet culture content that normalizes the pursuit of thinness at any cost can trigger body image concerns, disordered eating, and/or compulsive exercise behaviors. (Related: Why I Felt Compelled to Delete My Transformation Photos)

"It's still always shocking to me how social media platforms are often the first place people go for health and nutrition advice instead of a professional or even a close friend," says Shilpi Agarwal, M.D., faculty physician at Georgetown University. "Once I got over the humor of this TikToker's moves, I was astonished how many people watched it and probably believed it, which is scary! I can laugh about it because I know to separate medical fact from fiction, but most people watching aren't equipped with that knowledge so they believe it."

There are plenty of @janny14906 supporters singing the TikToker's praises in the comments sections of the videos. "Can't you see the results look at her duh," wrote one user. Another said, "I started today I'm a believer bc I can feel the burn it's not easy so that means it works." But @janny14906's claims such as "this exercise can burn belly fat" and "this action can repair the abdomen" (presumably targeted at postpartum viewers), are completely baseless and even dangerous, according to the experts. (BTW, this is what pros say your first few weeks of postpartum exercise should look like instead.)

"It's impossible to target fat in a particular area, so creating this false expectation leads to the inevitable feeling that most of us get from fad diets and exercise trends — there is something wrong with 'us' because it didn't work the way it was supposed to," says Joanne Schell, certified nutrition coach and founder of Blueberry Nutrition. "Posts like this put value primarily on outward appearance; in truth, a six pack is either genetically created or takes significant diet and exercise changes — often to the point where sleep, social lives, and hormones [can be] disrupted and disordered eating [can] arise."

Although you can get a strong core without experiencing such negative consequences, the point is that working toward achieving, in Schell's words, "these TikTok and Instagram bodies" — which are frequently unrealistic (hi, filters!) — can be very dangerous to your physical and mental health. It's more important to "feel comfortable with [your] own choices, outside the influence of social media," she adds. (Related: The Latest Social Media Trend Is All About Going Unfiltered)

What's more, this TikTok ab workout of sorts seems to be "capitalizing on the dancer's small size to promote a trend that watchers are led to believe will allow them to look just like the person dancing," explains Lauren Mulheim, Psy.D., psychologist, certified eating disorder specialist, and director of Eating Disorder Therapy LA. "It fails to account for the fact that bodies are diverse and naturally come in different sizes and shapes and not everyone who does this dance move can ever physically look like that." But when society promotes such a weight-focused standard of beauty and "diet culture is alive and well," it can be hard for the average viewer to remember that "fitness and health are about so much more than body shape," she says.

And emergency room physician and professional dancer, Poonam Desai, D.O., agrees: "No one exercise alone will give us flat abs," says Dr. Desai. "People get very focused on the goal being weight loss, but the real goal should be creating a healthy foundation based on good eating habits and increased physical activity."

So what does that look like? "A simple recipe for a wellness lifestyle is consistent sleep, water, unprocessed food, strength training/exercise, mindful movement, and meditation," says Abi Delfico, a personal trainer, yoga teacher, and holistic nutritionist.

If building a stronger core is a goal (and if that goal in no way interferes or impedes your mental health, physical wellness, or overall happiness), gyrating along with a TikTok star is probably not the way to achieve results, adds Brittany Bowman, a fitness trainer at the Los Angeles gym, DOGPOUND. "[Instead] be consistent with your workouts" and think beyond sit-ups, as "doing things like squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, etc. are working your core just as much, if not more." (And if you need an added boost to start feeling the burn, these inspirational workout quotes are sure to help keep you motivated.)

But even if improved strength and overall fitness are on your wishlist, it's dangerous to conflate those objectives with weight loss or aesthetics. "Trending videos, especially related to weight loss, often do not come from credible health sources or have any research behind them, yet the popularity often trumps the safety and that can sometimes be really damaging," shares Agarwal. "Being 'thin' or losing weight isn't the only parameter of health, but that is what many of the videos want to make people think."

If you are set on cultivating a healthier lifestyle (good for you!), devote your time and energy to researching credentialed professionals (think: doctor, nutritionist, trainer, therapist) who can help you work toward a holistic picture of wellness — and accept the fact that that might not include achieving whatever body aesthetic happens to be trending at the moment.

"Your diet is also what you consume on social media, so if influencers, celebrities, friends, or anyone is making you feel bad about yourself, making you not feel 'thin' enough or have a flat enough stomach, always give yourself permission to unfollow or mute that information so you can focus on getting to your own personal best," says Agarwal. "Everyone's health journey is so different and supportive and uplifting accounts are the best ones to follow."