A new TikTok trend known as “Watertok” has made a splash in recent weeks — as users experiment with flavored water “cocktails” — but the trend has raised many questions, including a debate over whether the drinks are still technically “water” and whether there are health risks associated with the latest viral craze.
“Watertok” videos often feature women filling up large cups—Stanley tumblers are usually the mode of choice—with ice and water, and then creating an elixir by adding different water flavorings, typically in pursuit of drinking more water throughout the day
Some of the most infamous “water recipes” include birthday cake water, peach ring water and piña colada water—the creators use powdered flavorings from brands like Skittles, Sonic, Crush and Jolly Ranchers and syrups by Jordan’s Skinny Mixes, DaVinci and MiO to create the drinks.
While the flavorings are typically zero-calorie and sugar free, Watertok’s popularity and the vibrant color and sweetness of the drinks have caused people to wonder where to draw the line between water and juice.
Others have resorted to mocking the trend, like this TikTok video with over 330,000 likes and 2.5 millions views, in which the creator pretends to make a water recipe, but makes a pitcher of Kool-aid instead.
The trend, which began among patients of weight-loss surgery who were advised to consume water before and after their operations, has picked up steam on TikTok, causing some health experts to praise increased water consumption while others warn that replacing meals with water could lead to disordered eating.
134.2 million. That’s how many views the hashtag #WaterTok has accumulated on TikTok.
“In a perfect world, [people] would be drinking just regular water, but we know some people just don’t like it or don’t don’t drink enough,” obesity medicine specialist and medical director of diabetes reversal company Virta Health, Jeff Stanley, told Forbes. “So, adding in a bit of [flavoring] can be helpful.”
WaterTok originated from bariatric patients who needed to spice up their water intake while on pre- and postoperative liquid diets that last no more than five days, according to popular WaterTok creator Tonya Spanglo. Stanley told Forbes the reason for the liquid diet is for “people to lose a little bit of weight before the surgery… and shrink the liver a little, which makes the surgery easier.” According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, there are three common types of bariatric surgeries: gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy (or the gastric sleeve) and adjustable gastric banding (or the lap band). During the gastric sleeve, 85% of the patient’s is removed, creating a narrow tube that resembles a sleeve, during gastric bypass the surgeon removes part of the stomach to create a pouch and the lap band involves an adjustable band being placed at the top of the stomach and a port under the skin to tighten the band. Spanglo, known on TikTok as takingmylifeback42, is a bariatric patient with almost 800,000 TikTok followers. In a recent video addressing the hate she’s received, she made it clear her “dietician and surgeon approved [flavored water].” Spanglo is no longer on a liquid diet as she got her surgery three years ago, so she drinks flavored water to meet her water intake goal of at least 64 ounces a day.
The main reason people drink flavored water is to up their water intake. TikToker Haley Staggs told NBC’s Today show that WaterTok has helped her drink more water, and she now consumes “over 100 ounces of water a day.” Stanley said water recipes help his diabetic patients curb their sweet tooth, and he found flavored water was a good alternative to juice and soda because most flavorings use sugar substitutes. For the most part, Stanley believes the WaterTok trend is harmless and a way to “keep things interesting,” while having fun, and considers it water “for all intents and purposes.” Dietician Frances Largeman-Roth told Today “it’s a fun thing to make and drink,” and she loves how people are leveling up their water intakes, but advised against using artificially colored and flavored syrups.
IS IT DANGEROUS?
Just like any trend, WaterTok has become popular among people who were not originally the target audience. Some WaterTok videos are also hashtagged as weight loss videos, though the trend is not overtly related to weight loss outside of the bariatric surgery requirements. However, chief strategy officer for the eating disorder treatment organization the Emily Program and Veritas Collaborative, Jillian Lampert, told Rolling Stone flavored water is a recipe for a potential eating disorder. Lampert labels people drinking water in place of food as “long-term, old-school eating disorder behavior.” Around 28.8 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetimes, the Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports. Abdul Matin Azizi, principal dentist at Harley Private Dental, warned The Independent about the dangers the trend can pose for dental health. Azini said the additives, artificial sugars and citric acid in the flavorings can “erode tooth enamel and cause tooth decay,” and recommended rinsing the mouth after consumption. Most flavorings, like Skinny Mixes syrup, are sweetened with stevia and erythritol, both sugar alternatives used in the diabetic community. However, a recent study linked erythritol with an increased risk of heart disease, though the study only featured participants with heart problems.
TikTok Is Obsessed With Water. Experts Are Concerned (Rolling Stone)