Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

Emily Mariko's Salmon Rice Bowl Dismantles Diet Culture

Thanks to Emily Mariko, my TikTok For You Page has been filled with recreations of her salmon rice bowl. If you don’t already know, Emily Mariko (@emilymariko) is a 29-year-old food, fashion, and lifestyle influencer who has taken over TikTok with her aesthetic food hauls, meal prep, and salmon rice bowls. If you haven’t already been blessed by the salmon rice bowl, I’ll fill you in—it’s smashed salmon with rice topped with soy sauce, kewpie mayo, sriracha, avocado, kimchi, and eaten with dried seaweed sheets. 

As I was scrolling through the endless and delicious-looking salmon rice bowl TikToks, I also came across a duet to Emily’s video. The duet by @danaisabellaaaa discussed how through this simple salmon and rice meal, Emily is helping to dismantle toxic diet culture. She’s right—Emily is de-villainizing normal and typically vilified foods like white rice.

White rice has long been demonized as being a “bad” carb, and as a result, brown rice has reigned as the winner of the two. But maybe brown rice’s reign is over. I think people have avoided foods like white rice just because it’s not deemed the healthiest option, but it’s all about balance, which Emily emulates perfectly. She constantly shows off her farmer’s market hauls (which I am totally envious of), but also normal foods, like pasta, bread, pastries, cream cheese, and so much more. She’s dismantling the toxic mindset towards these normal foods, and I am so on board with it. In this way, she’s helping build positive relationships and mindsets with the very foods so many influencers before her have preached against. 

Balance is the key to healthy eating habits; I believe in "everything in moderation." It’s difficult to overcome toxic ideas surrounding eating and food, but with small changes to the culture like Emily’s TikTok, those barriers might be a little easier to break down. We shouldn’t live in fear of certain foods simply because they’re deemed unhealthy. I like to say sweets are good for the soul, so they can’t be that bad for your health. It’s healthier to have a positive relationship with food than to fall into the category of intense food restriction. 

In our society, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with food. We’re constantly bombarded with perfect-looking people all over social media, and our diets are a means to achieving that same look. Social media, no matter what platform, is toxic in this way—it promotes the picture-perfect moments of our lives where we look our best. But looks can be deceiving; so many celebrities have been caught using photoshop or other forms of body contortion to make themselves appear a certain way. TikTok falls into this same trap of toxicity, and you can get stuck in an algorithm that constantly exposes you to the same content that may perpetuate unhealthy habits. All of this is unnecessary and harmful—we know we aren’t all perfect all the time. What’s more perfect is being realistic. Food is not the enemy, diet culture is. It’s time to move beyond fit tea, low-calorie diets, and food restriction, and towards balance, like Emily’s. Food is fuel and should be treated as such. Our algorithms should be filled with more of this healthy balance. 

Emily’s impact is also important because her main audience is young women, who are so often the target audience for toxic diet culture. Emily has quickly gained popularity, which will hopefully translate to a transition towards the normalization of normal foods.   

Her salmon rice bowl has forced me to reconsider my diet as well. My brother started the vegetarian/pescatarian transition in my family because of the negative environmental impacts of the meat industry. I’m pescatarian but tend to avoid salmon because it’s usually farmed rather than wild-caught. Finding sources of protein as a pescatarian who doesn’t eat salmon at BC proves to be a challenge every day. When I don’t eat eggs at breakfast, my hopes for protein through the rest of the day dwindle. Emily’s balanced diet has helped me realize that I maybe should prioritize my own diet and health more. It’s a tough internal battle, but I believe the mere consideration is pointing me towards a healthier relationship with food and actually fueling myself with the necessary nutrition. 

It’s also important to note that much of Emily’s life is unattainable for the average person. Not everyone can afford all the organic, locally produced farmers’ market foods that she buys. It’s not an attainable or realistic lifestyle for those who cannot afford to spend their money in the ways she does. I respect Emily’s impact on social media and it’s no hate to her, but it’s something else to think about when discussing the type of lifestyle she is promoting.

I hope social media continues to redirect towards promoting healthier habits and relationships with foods. It’s important that creators, such as Emily, with large followings, use their platforms to positively influence their followers and dismantle toxic diet culture. Who knew that a salmon rice bowl would have such a huge impact on social media and our thoughts around normalizing foods?

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International studies major who's obsessed with dogs and coffee