The Dark Side of Food Porn

The Fumbling Generalist
4 min readMar 24, 2024

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Photo by Aneta Voborilova on Unsplash

Everywhere you look, food is fetishized in books, social media, and TV shows.

Next to travel, food is visually presented as almost like a religious experience. Viewers gawk and salivate at macro, slow-motion shots of food being produced and consumed by lucky presenters who make it seem like they just had a taste of heaven.

We call it “Food Porn.”

Food has been glamourized up the wazoo, that some people’s brains have bigger reactions to food than sex.

And this has produced some horrible impacts on our society.

#1 Setting unrealistic expectations

One of the most glaring issues with food porn is its tendency to set unrealistic expectations for both amateur cooks and diners alike.

Scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest, we’re bombarded with images of flawlessly crafted dishes, adorned with exotic ingredients and intricate garnishes.

However, what these photos fail to capture are the countless hours of practice, professional styling, and sometimes even digital manipulation that go into creating such perfection.

The meticulously styled and edited images of dishes often create an idealized version of food that is unattainable for the average person.

Consider a home cook attempting to replicate something they saw online. Despite their best efforts, their version falls short of the Instagram version. Disappointment ensues, leading to feelings of inadequacy and frustration.

Also, diners who frequent restaurants based on mouthwatering posts may find themselves underwhelmed when their meals don’t live up to the hyped-up visuals.

#2 Watta Waste!

Food porn contributes to a culture of excess and waste, where aesthetics often take precedence over sustainability.

Restaurants, catering companies, and food bloggers alike prioritize the visual appeal of their dishes, sometimes at the expense of practicality.

Think of elaborate plating techniques that require multiple components, each meticulously arranged for the perfect shot. While these creations may garner likes and shares, they often result in excessive food waste behind the scenes.

Take, for instance, the trend of “freakshakes” — over-the-top milkshakes topped with an assortment of candies, cookies, and other indulgent treats.

While undeniably photogenic, these calorie-laden concoctions contribute to both overconsumption and waste. After the obligatory snapshot has been taken and posted, the excess toppings are often discarded, adding to the already staggering amount of food wasted each year.

#3 Flavor and taste take a back seat

It’s all about the visuals.

Consider the phenomenon of “Instagrammable” foods — dishes designed specifically to generate likes and shares. From rainbow-colored bagels to charcoal-infused ice cream, these creations prioritize novelty and visual impact over traditional culinary virtues.

With food porn, aesthetics reign supreme. As long as it looks good on the ‘Gram, never mind that the food is even barely edible or plain too salty.

Restaurants have responded and many have prioritized visual appeal over the fundamental elements of good cooking — balance, seasoning, and texture.

As a result, dishes that look stunning on camera may fall flat in terms of taste, leaving diners feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

While food porn may garner attention online, the actual food that we eat and put in our bodies often lack the depth of flavor and satisfaction that comes from a well-executed meal.

#4 Promotion of unhealthy eating habits

Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

We’re beginning to confuse what looks good and what’s good for our bodies.

The “Mukbang” phenomenon has normalized and glorified excessive portion sizes, decadent desserts, and calorie-laden dishes.

The constant exposure to these images has desensitized people to appropriate and realistic portion sizes and can easily lead to overeating.

Mukbang videos can quickly trigger “copycat” cravings and tempt individuals to indulge in ridiculous amounts of foods…that are high in sugar, fat, and salt.

This is getting too close for comfort because food porn has not only skewed our food expectations. It is wreaking havoc with our health.

#5 Distorts our relationship with food

Just as porn distorts our relationship with sex, preventing us from enjoying real and intimate physical contact, food porn has prevented our enjoyment of simple and nourishing meals.

We now eat with a mental image comparing what our favorite influencer has had.

As we said earlier, constant exposure to curated images of perfect meals can create an unhealthy fixation on appearance rather than taste, rather than nourishment.

Food porn creates a mindset that equates food with aesthetics and social clout rather than sustenance and enjoyment.

Photo by Kevin McCutcheon on Unsplash

Overall, food porn has profoundly influenced the way we view and interact with what’s on our plates, promoting superficiality, excess, and disconnect.

Let’s go back to basics and remind ourselves when we used to bow down in gratitude…instead of bowing down to take the perfect overhead shot.

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The Fumbling Generalist

I write about random things that I feel suddenly passionate about. And I’m man with many passions. (About 204,753 of them…and counting!)