YouTuber Nicholas Perry, better known as Nikocado Avocado, is infamous for consuming huge and often grotesque meals on camera.
[Trigger warning: disordered eating behavior]
He ate everything from a huge serving of noodles covered in melted Blue Heat Takis to a whole 10 pound king crab coated in cheese sauce, all in the name of online fame – and profit.
Perry, who is 29 years old and based in the United States, has 4.34 million subscribers on three YouTube channels. Apart from his monetized videos, he sells t-shirts and phone cases featuring his face or tongue-in-cheek slogans like “It’s just the weight of water”. He’s also on Cameo ($ 150 for five minutes), Patreon, and, yes, OnlyFans. It’s an oversized empire that funded the purchase of Perry’s penthouse for $ 2.3 million. He also significantly enlarged his waistline.
In 2014, when Perry first became a “mukbanger” – a term for YouTubers who “mukbang” or eat for views – the vlogger weighed 140 pounds. Now he weighs 340. The former vegan recently told supporters his ribs broke after months of vigorous coughing, an issue Perry believes is linked to his obesity. In his videos, when he’s not arguing with his boyfriend or having an emotional breakdown, he often blames his viewers for his current state.
Mukbanging hasn’t always been so awful. The phenomenon, which emerged in South Korea around 2010, was intended to help viewers fight the stigma of eating alone by providing a virtual catering partner. But when Western vloggers like Hungry Fatchick, Trisha Paytas, and Perry embraced it, mukbang began to transform.
Perry’s daily videos are now taken from his bed, where, between bites of food, he complains about other YouTubers. He often wears a CPAP mask, although there is no medical reason for anyone to wear the device when not asleep. Other vloggers have raised concerns about Perry’s weight gain and deteriorating health. YouTuber MoistCr1tical recently posted a video on the situation titled “This Youtuber Slowly Kills Herself For Views”, which alone has nearly 10.6 million views.
Perry’s fan base is also concerned about his behavior. “He’s outright trying to kill himself,” said viewer Tanya, 28, from New York. Tanya is a military veteran turned stay-at-home mom who has battled anorexia and bulimia for the past decade. (Grab retains the last names of those interviewed in this article for the sake of their privacy). âI’m in awe of the amount of food he packs,â she says. “I don’t think I could ever eat as much as he did, even when I was throwing up.”
Tanya’s observation highlights a disturbing connection between Perry and his viewers – one that Mattias Strand, an eating disorder specialist (ED) and researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, noticed in his research on the mukbang. âMukbang viewers describe how destructive watching these videos can be and triggering episodes,â he says. Many mukbang watchers, including Tanya, use the videos to fuel their own eating disorders.
According to Jackie, a 20-year-old medical worker from the East Coast who has battled anorexia and a chew-and-spit eating disorder for the past two years, the emergency room community tends to find the videos of Perry “disgusting”. They use their disgust to encourage, or “trigger”, harmful eating habits. It’s a tactic that’s widely discussed on subtitles like r / EDAnonymous and the pro-ED MyProAna website, which has over a thousand mukbanging threads.
âWe do everything we can to make food loath to us,â says Jackie. “If someone eats badly or is nauseating to watch, then it’s easy for us to believe that all food has to be bad.”
For Sabrina, a 20-year-old college student who has struggled with various eating disorders including binge eating, the disgust is triggered by Perry’s weight. âIf I see someone much taller than me eating a lot of food in front of the camera, it makes me think about what I could become,â she says. “It scares me to be more restrictive.”
“When everyone was sleeping, I would put a ramen video. I would like to eat with the mukbanger, but I would like to spit my food outside.
Strand says his research has revealed that viewers are indeed using “these videos in order to reduce their own food intake in unhealthy ways.” The scholar analyzed mukbang video comments posted on YouTube and Reddit to better understand the links between eating disorders and mukbanging. Two hundred of the 1,316 emergency comments analyzed by the expert concerned fat-shaming, and 150 reviews described mukbanging as a way to restrict calorie intake.
On top of that, some of Strand’s research commentators explicitly stated that their distaste for the mukbangers they watched helped them avoid food. Others described pretending to eat in the mukbanger, which allowed them to restrict their consumption. âThere have been a lot of comments expressing the idea that ‘You eat for me, so I don’t have to eat’ or ‘I eat through you,’ he said.
Jackie says the sheer volume of mukbang videos on YouTube – popular YouTubers Steven Sushi and Stephanie Soo have over 800 videos each, and Perry alone has produced over a thousand on his channels – can satisfy any craving imaginable. . She used them to support her chewing and spitting eating disorder, which she is currently recovering from.
âAt night, when everyone was asleep, I would put on a ramen video,â she says. “I would eat with the mukbanger, but I would spit out my food instead of swallowing it.” It helped me to feel like I was eating; it helped me imagine it.
Sabrina also used mukbang videos to fulfill her eating fantasies. While eating bulk – consuming hearty but low-calorie foods like celery and rice cakes – Sabrina watched mukbangs to pretend she was gorging on junk food. âThe best way to explain it is, if you can’t eat it, at least you watch someone else eat it,â Sabrina says. While this makes the volume to eat “more satisfying,” it does not make her feel any better. “I still felt like crap.”
The competitive nature of mukbang videos is another trigger for the ED community. Influencers are looking for bigger portions, weirder food, and increasingly extreme challenges every time they post. This mindset is shared by people with eating disorders – and they feel the mukbang videos tap into it. As Perry pushes himself to greater extremes, his viewers join him.
âI’m trying to achieve a lower weight; Nikocado is trying to reach a higher weight, âexplains Tanya. âIt’s the same. We’re just on the other side of the spectrum.
Jackie says many people in the ED community are using the mukbang calorie count – which Perry puts in the titles of his videos – to engage in a competitive form of food restriction. They compare their daily calorie intake to what influencers like Perry consume in a single video. âIf I only ate 500 calories a day and watch a mukbanger eat 8,000 at one time, I feel great,â says Jackie.
Do mukbang stars know their videos are used in this way? âI don’t really know people who watch mukbangs without eating disorders,â says Sabrina. “I don’t know how they couldn’t.” (Grab contacted Perry and three other mukbangers for comment, but none of them responded.)
Numerous the viewers of the ED community seem to be more concerned about Perry than themselves.
Strand agrees, “I guess at this point they’re probably aware that some viewers are looking for their content for reasons that can be destructive.” He adds that anyone who watches mukbangs for such purposes should seek professional help.
Despite facing their own battles with food, many viewers in the ED community seem more worried about Perry than themselves. “I am very sad,” said Jackie. âIt’s not normal to eat a ton of food at one time. It could damage his heart, stomach or lungs.
Tanya, however, has less sympathy. After a decade of fighting eating disorders, she is well aware of the difficulties that accompany them. She thinks Nikocado Avocado has given up. âI realized I could die of it eventually,â she says. âA lot of people in the community are going through this, realizing that they could die from their eating disorder. I think he probably realizes it. He just doesn’t care.