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YouTuber Summer McKeen Missed The Mark In Her Latest YouTube Vlog On Eating Disorders

In one part of this week's newsletter: A young influencer might have shared harmful information with her mostly young fans — and a psychologist and ED specialist gives her thoughts.

Posted on July 23, 2021, at 8:00 a.m. ET

This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.

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On Sunday, YouTuber Summer Mckeen uploaded a video titled “opening up about my ED & how I live a healthy life.” In it, she says she overcame binge-eating disorder and explains how. At the time of this writing, the video only has 171 dislikes, which is shocking, considering what she says in it.

Mckeen contradicts herself throughout the video. She says it’s bad to restrict your eating, then later says that she only “treats” herself once a week. While she says she got over an addiction to eating, she also says she found Orange Theory fitness classes and quickly got addicted to them. At the beginning of the video, she warns her viewers that her approach might not be for everyone and reminds them that all bodies are beautiful. But toward the end of the video, she applauds herself for getting rid of her cellulite.

All of that would be harmful on its own, but Mckeen also never discloses if she sought help from a professional. Instead, she said Google diagnosed her disorder. (Mckeen didn’t return a request for comment on this video or the criticism.)

Alexis Conason, psychologist, certified eating-disorder specialist-supervisor, and author of The Diet-Free Revolution, told me she considers Mckeen’s advice to be dieting tips. While consumers know to expect this kind of language from Weight Watchers or other weight-loss companies, it can be surprising and harmful to hear it from a social media influencer who also says she’s promoting body positivity.

“A lot of the advice she’s recommending would tend to worsen an eating disorder or trigger an eating disorder,” Conason said.

Mckeen, 20, started her YouTube as a teen and primarily uploads lifestyle videos that focus on beauty and fashion. In 2018, she starred in Endless Summer, Snapchat’s first-ever reality show, which ran for three seasons and followed her life, as well as her relationship with Dylan Jordan, who was Mckeen’s boyfriend at the time. In the video posted on Sunday, she says that she gained nearly 20 pounds following the high-profile breakup and ate junk food in bed as a way to cope with her emotions.

Conason said she doesn’t want to come off too harsh because she suspects Mckeen is in the early stages of recovery from her eating disorder, and it’s a “hard path.” However, she wants people watching Mckeen’s video to understand that it’s not offering good advice.

“This is not healthy advice for most people,” Conason said, “especially people who are recovering from an eating disorder, because we know that recovery from an eating disorder is very much about getting rid of food rules, learning to trust your body and listen to your body, try[ing] to accept your body as it is in this moment, shifting the focus away from weight loss and the numbers on the scale.”

Social media influencers become popular for sharing their personal lives, so it’s no surprise that when they lose weight or achieve fitness goals, fans want to know their secrets. But more times than not, influencers aren’t certified to give advice about weight loss or fitness. They’re just regular people who have found things that work for them, and sharing that with their followers can be harmful.

“There’s also a lot of general misinformation out there,” Conason said. “The kinds of things that the average person thinks that they should do to be healthy or lose weight is not necessarily what we would recommend from a psychological perspective in terms of healing your relationship with food and improving body image.”

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.