Binge eat­ing videos find big au­di­ence, even for weight loss

The Korea Times - - FEATURE -

NEW YORK (AP) — While try­ing to lose weight, Becky Beach found as­sis­tance in an un­likely place: thou­sands of on­line videos fea­tur­ing peo­ple bing­ing on mas­sive amounts of ra­men, burg­ers, chicken wings and seafood boils brim­ming with crab and lob­ster.

The South Korea-rooted video trend is known as “muk­bang,” and it has spread to the U.S. and around the globe on YouTube, Face­book and In­sta­gram.

“I watch one when­ever I feel like eat­ing sweets or bad foods,” said Beach, a Dal­las-based prod­uct de­signer for a For­tune 500 com­pany. She has lost 10 pounds and views up to three muk­bang videos a day. “It’s just sat­is­fy­ing to watch.”

Ash­ley Cobb, a math teacher in Washington, D.C., is also a fan af­ter one of her eighth-graders turned her on to the videos.

Cobb said it’s “fun and sooth­ing” to watch peo­ple dip food in sauce and “eat with so much en­joy­ment.” The footage trans­ports her to “a dif­fer­ent place” and “has a way of mak­ing you leave re­al­ity for a sec­ond, sort of like a good book.”

Such glow­ing feed­back is pure gold to top cre­ators like Bethany Gaskin in sub­ur­ban Cincin­nati. The 44-year-old, who has 2.2 mil­lion sub­scribers to her Bloves­life chan­nel on YouTube, is a top earner, clear­ing more than $1 mil­lion in ad money as she eats her way through seafood boils, gi­nor­mous serv­ings of bar­be­cue ribs and other drool-wor­thy spreads.

She re­cently put out a Ca­jun but­ter dip­ping sauce, Bloves Smack­a­li­cious, and counts Cardi B and Am­ber Rose among her 1.1 mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram.

“I started off try­ing to cook in videos,” Gaskin said. “I cook re­ally well, then peo­ple wanted to see me eat. I un­apolo­get­i­cally eat what­ever I want, how­ever I want, food drip­ping down my chin.”

Gaskin has some ad­vice for crit­ics who say the ex­cess of muk­bang pro­motes an un­healthy life­style: “If you don’t like it, don’t watch.”

The word muk­bang is a mashup of the Korean words for “eat­ing” and “broad­cast,” trans­lat­ing in English to “eat­cast.” Livestream­s in South Korea started sprout­ing up around 2009. It didn’t take long for fans to catch on and YouTu­bers to cash in.

“The core prin­ci­ple be­hind muk­bang is that eat­ing is a so­cial ac­tiv­ity,” said Vic­tor Chang, mar­ket­ing man­ager for the South Korea-based fried chicken restau­rant chain Bon­chon. It’s “a way of con­nect­ing peo­ple through meals even when they are miles apart.”

The com­pany’s wings ap­pear fre­quently in videos.

The muk­bang phe­nom­ena is not fo­cused on fancy food. It’s “more about the ‘treat your­self’ mo­ment and the sim­ple joy of ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion over a no-frills, de­li­cious meal,” Chang said.

Some muk­bangers avoid speak­ing in their videos, us­ing spe­cial­ized mi­cro­phones to heighten the crunches and slurps. Oth­ers like Gaskin are in it for the chat­ter. Vis­it­ing with Gaskin on YouTube as she talks, dips and eats feels like catch­ing up with a neigh­bor over the back­yard fence.

At 4-foot-11 and about 130 pounds, Gaskin said she’s able to put away the amounts of food that she de­vours on cam­era due in part to her high me­tab­o­lism. Dur­ing a 30-minute video, she said she may ac­tu­ally eat for only 11 to 15 min­utes.

Gaskin, who grew up poor in Chicago, was mak­ing cir­cuit boards for the mil­i­tary in Jan­uary 2017, when she put up her first muk­bang video. She re­tired from her day job that May. Her hus­band, Nate Gaskin, re­tired af­ter 20 years at Gen­eral Elec­tric to help man­age her muk­bang ca­reer, which is packed with speak­ing en­gage­ments, Make-a-Wish vis­its with sick kids and brand deals.

To round out the fam­ily af­fair, their two sons — the youngest is 18 — are also earn­ing in­comes from muk­bang.

So does Ni­cholas Perry, 27. He’s a clas­si­cally trained vi­o­lin­ist who gave up that ca­reer strug­gle for muk­bang in 2016. He started with videos fo­cused on the ve­gan life­style he fol­lowed for about five years. Then he gave up ve­g­an­ism for junk food-fu­eled muk­bangs that go deep into his per­sonal life. He mess­ily an­swers viewer ques­tions, burps and chows down with reg­u­lar “mmm, mmm, mm­m­mms.”

Perry has three muk­bang chan­nels un­der the han­dle Niko­cado Av­o­cado, with 1.72 mil­lion sub­scribers on the largest. He would not re­veal how much money he earns.

“One of my friends told me to try it out,” he said from his home out­side Philadel­phia. “I thought she was crazy. I said to my­self, ‘Who on Earth is go­ing to watch me eat food? Sure enough, my very first muk­bang got like 50,000 views in a cou­ple of weeks, which was a lot for me at the time, and every­body was ask­ing, when’s the next muk­bang?”

Af­ter gain­ing weight, Perry tries to counter all the fast food with ex­er­cise and nutri­tion off screen.

“I just want to do this for a cou­ple more years,” he said. “It IS very un­healthy.”

Brit­tany Mar­sicek, 28, a dancer, ac­tor and YouTu­ber, has a 2-yearold Muk­bang Mon­day chan­nel with Chan­tal Pla­m­on­don, 27. The two fo­cus on ve­gan food, but Mar­sicek eats and chats her way through non-ve­gan videos on some Wed­nes­days when she goes solo or teams up with her boyfriend.

Mar­sicek and Pla­m­on­don of­ten film in their cars while munch­ing from food con­tain­ers, rather than mak­ing videos fea­tur­ing a spread of food and peo­ple who mostly “just gorge,” Mar­sicek said.

Con­sumer psy­chol­o­gist Michal Strahile­vitz, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of mar­ket­ing at Saint Mary’s Col­lege of Cal­i­for­nia, said muk­bang “may seem crazy” at first, but “watch­ing peo­ple binge eat is a whole lot health­ier than binge eat­ing your­self.”

AP-Yon­hap

This im­age taken from video and re­leased by Niko­cado Av­o­cado shows him sur­rounded by items from fast-food chains Wendy’s and Taco Bell. Niko­cado Av­o­cado, whose real name is Ni­cholas Perry, 27, has three muk­bang chan­nels with 1.71 mil­lion sub­scribers on the largest. He is a clas­si­cally trained vi­o­lin­ist who gave up that ca­reer strug­gle for muk­bang in 2016.

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