There’s no shortage of controversial content on YouTube. However, in an age where content creators are expected to take more responsibility over the type of content they’re producing and promoting to viewers, there’s one glaring blindspot that YouTube’s algorithm seems to be overlooking.
Despite demonetizing countless channels over milquetoast comments, YouTube continues to promote and monetize videos that glamorize eating disorders.
Should content creators like Eugenia Cooney and Nicokado Avocado face some sort of consequence for promoting harmful content to their viewers? Both YouTubers primarily use their channels to exploit the shock value of their dangerous lifestyles without offering any other substance to their content.
Who Is Nicokado Avocado?
Nicokado Avocado, also known as Nicholas Perry, is a 30-year-old YouTuber who first appeared on the scene as part of the vegan community. He created his YouTube channel in 2014, where he posted videos about his vegan lifestyle. Initially, he talked about eating a raw vegan diet – a diet that was popularized by Leanne Radcliffe (Freelee the Banana Girl).
However, his earliest existing videos on YouTube only date back to 2016, the year that he quit veganism because his health was suffering. Previously a vocal advocate for animal rights and the vegan diet, Perry began to speak about his experience with health problems like vitamin B12 deficiency, lack of energy, and skin problems, which he attributed to being vegan.
He also became vocally frustrated about the pressure to be a perfect vegan and spoke in support of a YouTuber coming out as an ex-vegan facing a lot of backlash from the vegan community. The timing of this incident, along with his health problems, seemed to be planting seeds of doubt in his worldview, and it wasn’t long before he uploaded a video announcing that he no longer wanted to be vegan anymore.
During his raw vegan mukbang days, Perry was quite slender, if not underweight. Since then, he’s gained over 200 lbs, gluttonously gorging himself with processed food from fast food chains and packaged snacks. Perry seems incapable of eating a balanced diet.
Veganism doesn’t need to be restrictive if you’re doing it for ethical reasons. Still, Perry opted to eat a fully raw diet and talked about how difficult it was because he needed to constantly eat entire watermelons and ridiculous amounts of raw fruit the entire day.
It doesn’t appear that Perry was supplementing for vitamins he wasn’t getting through his diet, which could explain the health problems he was experiencing. However, instead of learning from this experience and focusing on eating a balanced, nutritious diet with less restriction, he veered in the polar opposite direction.
He has now eaten his way into morbid obesity and serious health problems. He is diagnosed with diabetes, significant mental health issues, and claims a severe cough that he attributes to his obesity led to cracking 3 of his ribs.
It appears Nikocado Avocado is slowly killing himself on YouTube to roll in billions of views across his six mukbang-focused YouTube channels, possibly exploiting his mental and physical issues for clout.
Perry strategically chooses thumbnails that position him bawling his eyes out over a giant pile of Takis or wearing a CPAP machine on his face even though it’s only supposed to be used by sleep apnea patients while they sleep.
As he continued on this mukbang path and morbid obesity, he’s become increasingly emotionally unhinged and exhibited signs of depression. He has emotional outbursts consisting of intermittent crying and manic episodes while he stuffs his face. He admits to intentionally filming his mental breakdowns and verbal and physical fights with his husband for views.
His video titles try to reel people in by being increasingly shocking. Some titles include “I Might Have Cancer,” multiple videos titled “25,00 Calorie Challenge”, and “Celebrating My 400 Pound Milestone… Dairy Queen Mukbang.” Perry’s net worth is now in the millions.
Who Is Eugenia Cooney?
Eugenia Cooney is 28 years old and has been on YouTube since her first upload on May 13, 2013. Just six days later, her second upload, “How to Ratchetly Twerk,” a satirical guide on how to twerk while she demonstrated shaking her extremely skinny body, went viral. It now has 4.5 million views.
Cooney quickly built a brand on YouTube with her distinct, edgy style, slender frame, and vlogs, but her size was always the main topic of conversation. The entire time she’s had an online presence in the past decade, she has always been underweight, though things have only gotten worse as the years went on. Cooney was 17 years old when she first started her channel.
For many years, she refused to confirm that she had an eating disorder or would deflect from the topic by suggesting that she was just naturally that size or had a medical condition.
People became increasingly concerned as they watched Cooney wither away over the years. Many were worried, while others criticized her for posting lots of “body checking” videos under the guise of clothing try-on hauls. Body checking is a compulsion to check your body weight, size, or shape, a common habit faced by people with eating disorders or body dysmorphia.
In January 2019, she posted a Kingdom Hearts makeup tutorial which caused a stir on the internet, with people horrified that she looked thinner than ever and was even developing reddish tinting in her legs.
This can be a sign of cardiovascular problems that cause insufficient blood flow. Fellow content creators began a rallying call to help Cooney, making videos of their own drawing attention to the fact that she looked like she was a day away from death.
Soon after this video, Cooney suddenly disappeared off the Internet, and there were rumors that she had been admitted to a treatment facility for her eating disorder. It was later revealed that her friends arranged for mental health professionals to evaluate her, and placed her on an involuntary psychiatric hold.
She was admitted to an eating disorder rehab for a month and took a five-month break from the internet. Photos had leaked showing her in higher spirits, and many commented that she looked healthier – something that can be triggering for sufferers of severe anorexia.
Cooney’s YouTube comeback came in the form of a documentary on popular content creator Shane Dawson’s channel, where he interviewed her about seeking treatment for her eating disorder. This was the first time she had ever admitted to suffering from an eating disorder, and people noticed that she seemed much more genuine than in her other videos.
Unfortunately, the documentary came far too soon in Cooney’s recovery, and even though she made a few videos where she seemed to be doing better, she quickly relapsed and is back to her old ways. Cooney is about as emaciated as she was in the video that caused such a scare back in 2019, leading to her hospitalization.
Cooney seems out of touch with reality and entirely consumed by her disorder. All of her videos are about showing off her body. Sometimes she posts clickbait with some reference to food, but she never eats it or gets any food, even in a video where she goes to the grocery store.
Cooney has broken off ties to her former friends who caused her involuntary psychiatric hold, claiming they traumatized her. She lives at home with her mother, who many blame for allowing her daughter to waste away on the internet for so many years. Of course, we don’t have details on what goes on behind closed doors.
What Is YouTube’s Responsibility in All This?
There’s no doubt that the proper response to harmful content like this online is tricky to get right. On the one hand, countless people, including children, are consuming this content and being influenced by the dangerous habits of these content creators.
On the other hand, is it reasonable to hold these creators responsible for the choices of viewers in a free society? After all, Nicokado Avocado has the freedom to eat himself into morbid obesity, even if it will ultimately be his demise.
If YouTube takes a stand against his channel through demonetization, then should they target all mukbangers? Or does the difference lay in the results produced by binge eating? Cooney is a little different in that her content does not explicitly promote disordered eating but transparently shows off her emaciated body. She parrots talking points like “everyone is a different size” and how that should be accepted.
Ideally, these creators should create content more responsibly and understand that they have influence over the people who watch them, but these creators themselves have mental health limitations. Inverse reported on viewers using these videos to fuel their own eating disorders, whether it was through motivation or disgust.
When does unhealthy content go too far? When one of these creators dies from obesity or anorexia? Then, will we say, maybe we could have taken away monetization or determined they violated the Terms of Service?
Mukbang videos have become a competition over who can eat the most calories in one sitting or eat the craziest food. While Cooney certainly needs help, it will be difficult to create a policy that just penalizes her for existing while having an eating disorder.
This might ultimately do more harm than good. If she were actively promoting her eating disorder through her videos like Perry does, then that would be another story. The unfortunate reality is that people have agency whether or not they choose to do something good or bad to themselves, and all we can do is try to minimize the harm that is done to others in the process.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.