- An unusual stomach exercise is taking over people’s TikTok For You pages.
- A user, known as Janny14906, has gained millions of likes and follows with an intense ab workout.
- It may highlight problems with how the platform operates, such as allowing fad weight-loss tactics.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
There’s an intense abdominal exercise suddenly appearing on people’s TikTok For You pages. The idea is to jerk your chest and hips forwards and then backwards very quickly, while twisting, culminating in a sort of dance which aims to target the ab muscles and promises to reduce belly fat and form a slimmer waist.
The move has been posted in hundreds of videos by one user, known only as Janny14906, whose posts rack up hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of views. Janny captions almost every one of their videos with the message: “As long as you enjoy the skinny come together.”
Janny seems to be the trainer who popularized the move, having created the account in March. Dozens of comments on each of their videos suggest doing it for just five minutes every day has helped them
. Janny has also responded to comments from viewers, saying “each movement requires five minutes of exercise,” and people should “see results after a month.”
While encouraging more movement is generally a good thing, Janny’s rise to TikTok fame may highlight some problems with how the platform operates, given it allows fad weight loss tactics to become so popular. Experts weighed in on whether such a movement would have the desired results, and the impact weight loss TikToks may have on users’ mental health.
Insider has reached out to Janny in TikTok comments, but there is no other contact information on their page and there are no social media accounts linked to it. Janny has not yet responded to the request.
TikTok did not respond to a request for comment. The TikTok terms of service reference content that constitutes “self-harm” or “is intended to harass, harm, hurt, scare, distress, embarrass or upset people,” but no mention is made of content relating to weight loss or dieting.
The movement is an ineffective way to lose belly fat, a personal trainer said
Janny claims in their videos that the exercise will “reduce the abdomen,” but it’s a myth that you can target fat loss from a specific body part, personal trainer Sohee Lee told Insider. Much like endless clam-shells won’t slim your thighs and arm pulses won’t reduce your bingo wings, ab-specific exercises won’t give you a flat stomach.
In order to lose fat from your middle, experts agree you need to be in a calorie deficit which will result in fat loss from all over your body.
“This person is promoting this exercise as what do if you want to get skinny, she also has other posts where she says multiple times, ‘Exercise for an hour a day and eat whatever you want,’ which of course is completely incorrect and this kind of advice is exactly what gets people into a lot of trouble where they go for a run then eat their faces off and end up gaining a bunch of weight,” Lee said.
As Insider’s Gabby Landsverk reported, a study recently found that diet is more important than exercise in maintaining a healthy body weight, and Lee agrees it’s the biggest component in fat loss.
“No matter how much exercise you’re doing, if your nutrition is not dialled in, if you’re not eating in a calorie deficit, you’re not going to shed the body fat,” she said. “Exercise should come secondary to that.”
For many people, the stomach is a stubborn area and often one of the last parts of the body to shed fat when losing weight, but diet is really the only way to do it, nutritionist Graeme Tomlinson previously told Insider.
If you want ab definition, training the abdominals is important — the abs are muscles just like any other and can be grown. However, until you shed the layer of fat over them, your abs won’t be visible.
There are much more effective ways to work out
While Lee encourages enjoyable, pain-free movement, she says this is far from the most effective means of shaping your body and what you should be focusing on primarily if this is your goal is strength-training followed by cardio.
“Even if your goal is fat loss, you should absolutely be strength-training,” Lee said. “The purpose of strength-training while dieting is to maintain, or sometimes even gain, muscle mass, while you are shedding body fat, so you’re not losing muscle along with the fat.”
To strengthen your core using bodyweight exercises, Lee says a more effective use of your time would be to perform movements like hollow body holds, crunches, or side planks, because they engage a wider variety of muscles.
Genetics also play a big role in the appearance of our mid-sections, with some people being predisposed to having leaner, flatter stomachs than others. For women in particular, having some body fat, especially around the stomach, is healthy, as Dr. Frankie Jackson-Spence, an NHS doctor and personal trainer, previously told Insider.
Diet fads and exercise trends thrive on TikTok, which could be damaging
Şirin Atçeken, a psychologist at healthcare consultancy WeCure, told Insider that online fitness trends, not limited to TikTok, can be dangerous because they set unrealistic standards of physical health and beauty, often without providing a background or technique information, which can cause injury.
“We are constantly bombarded by adverts selling us unrealistic expectations, ‘quick fixes’, and easy way-outs,” she said. “In a time where we are calling out fake news, it can be quite dumbfounding that certain content even passes advertising standards. But sadly, the more people that engage, the wider the reach.”
She said we live in a world where we expect instant gratification and results, and fad content can prey on this. If the results shown are unattainable, this may exacerbate mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and body image issues, she said.
Licensed counselor Laura Choate, a professor at Louisiana State University with a specialty in body image and eating disorders, told Insider that weight-loss content is particularly harmful for the group who use TikTok the most frequently and intensely — young girls. According to market and consumer data website Statista, 32.5% of TikTok users in the US are age 10-19 — 18% female and 14% male. Overall, 16- to 24-year-olds make up 41% of all TikTok users.
“While an adult might be able to reason that you can’t become as thin and toned as the girls in this video from just moving your torso around for 5 minutes per day, young girls might buy into these claims and feel like they have personally failed if they don’t achieve these results,” she said.
Watching weight loss fads may be a slippery slope to more dangerous content
Therapist Sally Baker, who has specialized in eating disorders, said 16- to 24-year-olds are at a higher risk of poor self-esteem when comparing themselves with the people they see on social media. Meanwhile, the platforms gather data on how long users watch each clip to create algorithms that supply similar content. TikTok’s algorithm has been hailed as one of the most effective in doing this.
Baker said if young people are spending a lot of time watching weight loss content and constantly comparing themselves to other people’s appearances in TikToks, their stream is likely to more videos with similar content.
“The result is that TikTok viewers are less and less likely to be exposed to content that is varied or that would showcase body-positive clips or more realistic body shapes and sizes,” she said.
According to Pam Vogel, a researcher at media watchdog Media Matters, weight loss trends thrive on TikTok more than Instagram or YouTube because the algorithm is highly sensitive. The For You feed also isn’t limited to the accounts you follow, so it can show you content from anyone and anywhere.
“Users aren’t necessarily opting in to the content that they’re being served,” she said. “I’m all for wellness, I’m all for healthy living, I think it’s a great movement. But I think sometimes it can be a slippery slope into something more dangerous.”
Tik Tok, and all social media platforms, have a responsibility to the health of their users, Atçeken said. Otherwise, she’s concerned social media platforms aren’t doing enough to safeguard people’s wellbeing.
Baker said a problem with social media posts is viewers “don’t know what they don’t know” about unsubstantiated claims and the limitations of diet culture.
“What they do know though is that they often feel an increased sense of low mood after time online and greater dissatisfaction with themselves,” she said. “What they are struggling to identify its not them that have failed, it’s the content that has failed them.”