When a young client brought up the #thatgirl TikTok trend to me, I realised quite how out of touch I'd become with social media. While without it my mental health is overjoyed, it does mean I had to look up a social media trend on YouTube. However, social media trends are not new by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, back in my day, Tumblr was the place to be for all things trending.

Our teenage years aren’t simply pivotal; they can also be so incredibly confusing, isolating, and peppered with big or small traumas, as well as a general feeling of 'who-the-hell-am-I-ness'. Trends, can often be the easy answer to fitting in and finding your tribe – goodbye isolation and hello questionable fashion choices.

But there’s a much darker side to social media trends. While they might give us a sense of safety and belonging with their cookie-cutter styles, aesthetics, and interests, they can also promote unhealthy ways of dealing with our traumas and adversities. Some are more insidious than you might realise. While some of these trends promote harmful coping modes (smoking, drug use and binge drinking), one in particular can echo the clean eating era.

The #thatgirl trend does what it says on the tin, promotes an idealised life of strict routine; 5am wake-ups, daily exercise, study, aesthetically pleasing smoothie bowls, and lots of iced coffee. But dig a little deeper, and you'll find this trend is not quite as healthy as it seems. We are becoming that girl social media covets and wants us to be.

This TikTok aesthetic doesn’t consider the need for a balanced diet. Instead, it often promotes clean and restrictive eating as a healthy lifestyle choice on top of already excessive weekly exercise. It promotes physical and cognitive perfection as an attainable ideal. It encourages young women to live in a way that is unlikely to benefit their hormone balance.

Eating disorders can slowly slip into our lives before we quite realise what's happening. Day by day, we might increasingly use exercise as a form of purging, assume we can restrict our diet in a healthy way with bowls of blended fruit, supplement lost energy with multiple iced coffees and binge in secret when this all becomes too much. We must move away from the binary ideas we still hold about what eating disorders look like and how they develop if we're to fully understand our clients' journeys.

I’m never one to promote social media use, however, my younger clients have taught me a valuable lesson - keep in touch with social media trends, as they can often explain in part the origin stories for our clients unhealthy coping modes. Even if you have to look them up on YouTube.