Whilst many of you may not be familiar with the term crunchytok, I guarantee that you’ll have seen some form of it creeping onto your TikTok ‘For You’ pages.
Like the mom of two you only started following because you wanted to get into baking sourdough, who then told you to never eat supermarket food because its poison. Or the so-called “nutrition experts” online pushing you against seed oils, telling you beef is the only healthy thing to eat and that experts warning of high cholesterol are lying to you. Or the “crunchymoms” making home-made soaps, candles, deodorant and shampoo to avoid being exposed to “highly dangerous” toxins.
So, What Is Crunchytok?
Crunchytok can be hard to define because there are so many different lifestyles and practices within it. In general, it seems to involve going against current norms and having a restrictive diet.
Some “crunchy” people do it for environmental reasons: eating vegan, using cloth nappies on their children, thrifting clothes and furniture and avoiding plastic. Others do it for alleged health reasons, insisting that the government is spreading carcinogens which have to be avoided at all costs. And then there are the ones who harken back to a ‘traditional’ homesteading past, intersecting with the tradwife aesthetic.
Influencers have been quick to make fun of crunchy content, particularly that of “crunchymoms”, which to the ordinary individual can often seem weird and crazy.
Does this type of thing seem familiar to you? If it is, crunchytok might already have its claws into you.
Now, not all crunchytok is about naming your child a hippie-esque name and never letting them touch refined sugar. Some content can be pretty useful for ordinary people. Hints and tips are shared to save money and avoid harsh chemicals.
That being said, I’m not sure I’ll be throwing out my tide pods quite yet. I’d rather not smell like salt and vinegar crisps all day long.
There’s also some slightly less moderate but ultimately not harmful tips out there. A big one seems to be going barefoot.
Other than making everyone around you without a foot fetish deeply uncomfortable, there are several risks to walking barefoot. According to Times Magazine, going barefoot exposes you to “a wide variety of threats, including sharp objects on the ground, pests, heat and invisible germs”.
The article does accept that there are also benefits to going barefoot. The alternative medical practice “Grounding” is the technical term for getting your dogs out in public. Apparently studies have shown that it can lead to stress relief and better sleep. But I think I’ll keep my shoes on, thank you very much.
When Strangeness Turns To Dangerous
The line between quirkiness and danger can be a thin one on crunchytok. Whilst “Grounding” as an alternative healing practice is risky, other popular crunchytok recommendations can be fatal.
A common one is skepticism of modern day medicine, which could cause serious harm or death if the person involved does not get treatment for a long period of time for a risky disease. Another one is the promotion of baltic amber teething necklaces by “crunchymoms”.
As someone who used to partake in the crunchymom movement, Dani Morin now speaks out against it. She first debunks the idea of these teething necklaces being a natural form of painkiller. She recounts how her son died seven years ago from being strangled by one of these necklaces.
Finally, she attacks the influencers making money off parents just wanting to do the best for their kids and spreading false information about modern medicine, leading to more dangerous situations for children.
Moms get preyed on by these influencers or other people who are pushing these things […] [like] Tylenol is bad and doctors are bad and Big Pharma and all of these things. And what’s happening is babies are not getting the help that they need and therefore they’re losing their lives.Credit: TikTok/ @danimorin13
A recent example of crunchytok encouraging people to put themselves and their families in danger is the trend of drinking raw milk. Creators have condemned influencers promoting this, and have also used the issue to talk more widely about the problems with crunchytok.
The account @itsme_lisap on TikTok talks about the crazy conspiracy theory and cult-like world of crunchytok. She explains he constant fear of toxins and wishing for a traditional time before chemicals and modern medicine can cause some pretty severe problems, including leading to alt-right beliefs.
One of the many issues with the crunchytok movement is how easily it intersects with other agendas. One day you’re just trying to eat more natural food and avoid harsh chemicals, and the next you’re being pushed ideas of racial purity, strict gender roles and religious absolutism.
Through the adjoining tradwife aesthetic to crunchytok, @thekylemarisa explores how easy it is to fall into a rabbit hole of extremism, anti-feminism and religious content.
And this is only one of many problems with the crunchy movements.
Negative Impact on Children
Alongside the dangers of hollistic medical practice and distrust of modern medicine, children face a plethora of other problems for their parents’ crunchytok lifestyles.
The TikTok user @_roadk1llcat talks about her childhood with a crunchymom and the trauma she has from it.
Through their mother’s focus on diet, her children were isolated socially and struggled around “unhealthy” food after they left home. Although many parents continue to ban refined sugar in the name of health it can lead to anything but.
Many crunchytok parenting trends are forms of abuse and neglect. Examples are restricting food, failing to provide children with hygeine products and failing to properly homeschool them. Not to mention that the most prominent crunchymom and crunchytok influencers tend to be family vloggers, which is hugely problematic for their children’s welfare.
Inequalities and Double Standards
Many have also pointed out that some eco-friendly crunchytok swaps are things that working class people have been doing for decades. From thrifting clothes to cloth diapers, money-saving hacks which are looked down upon are now being promoted by wealthy, white families.
In addition, some of these things would have led to lower-income parents being under fire from CPS. Crunchymoms, on other hand, are able to get away with neglect, abuse and starving their children in the name of health.
These double standards promote social inequalities- you can subject your kids to these lifestyles as long as it is your choice to do so. If you are forced into it because you’re poor, it is condemned.
Negative Impact on Yourself
Living in fear of invisible toxins, modern medicine and certain types of food can wear you down. A lot of crunchytok seems poised to give its participants anxiety and food avoidance issues. Many creators have come out talking about the process of recognising that the mindset is unhealthy.
On Tiktok, @blooming.lee talks about her process of becoming “un-crunchy”. In the fear it causes and the shaming of women who don’t conform to crunchytok, the process seems far more like leaving a cult than leaving a parenting style.
Is There Hope For Crunchytok?
At the end of the day, learning to bake bread or make your own soap won’t kill you. But the dangerous and extreme elements of crunchytok might very well be fatal.
But a new day is dawning. More creators are calling out the problems with crunchytok and a new term “scrunchy” has emerged for someone who makes crunchy choices but isn’t absolute in crunchiness.
Everything in balance is healthy. We’ve just got to remember that our social media can’t always be relied on to show us this.