The TikTok creator known for his impressions of school administrators — and the line “the volume on this bus is astronomical” — is facing backlash for sharing his recent weight loss journey.
Mark Gaetano, 19, said he didn’t expect the negative responses when he recently posted a video about his 120-pound weight loss to TikTok, where he has a combined 5 million followers on his two accounts.
In the video, which he posted last week, Gaetano stands in his kitchen dancing to a distorted version of the song “Laffy Taffy” by D4L. Text above his head reads, “Down 120 pounds and officially not over weight anymore.”
It was immediately met with criticism. A handful of videos surfaced saying Gaetano was “fatphobic” and calling him out for embracing “diet culture” and “praising thinness.”
One user made at least seven videos about Gaetano’s weight loss. Another criticized him for not speaking out about the “dangers of fatphobia.” Some have claimed that Gaetano is promoting disordered eating and diet culture. Comments on the videos agreeing with those who criticize him have racked up hundreds of likes.
But Gaetano wants those who call him “fatphobic” to know he lost weight through diet and exercise because he felt his health was in jeopardy. And he didn't post about it to shame anyone else.
“My response to those people is that it’s a personal health advancement,” Gaetano said. “I am not singling fat people out as a whole and trying to tell my audience that fat equals wrong, because I completely disagree with that.”
Gaetano said he was lying on his bed in January when he felt his heart pounding in his chest. At the point, he had been experiencing health issues that worried him, like getting out of breath when he was walking up stairs.
So as his heart raced even though he was doing no physical activity, he decided he needed a change. He decided to diet and exercise to lose weight — which his doctors recommended — to free himself of the health issues.
Some users on TikTok continue to grapple with body issues and eating disorders, a problem that has also been an issue on Instagram and Snapchat. On TikTok, posts on For You Pages can hit users unexpectedly with information about diet and exercise. The comments sections of TikTok videos can also be filled with comments by users who disparage their own bodies.
Gaetano emphasized that he isn’t advocating for anyone else to lose weight and that he doesn’t promote weight loss on either of his TikTok accounts. He also said he knows that weight and health, for some, aren’t mutually exclusive.
Still, the negative response has become so intense that he posted a video statement Monday to TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.
A user had said in a video criticizing Gaetano, “Your celebration of thinness is inherently problematic because you are positioning thinness as something that should be glorified, as an accomplishment.”
In his video response, Gaetano said he feels he has been exiled from the body positivity movement because of his “thinness.”
“This is for my personal health, and I’m not trying to take a stand on any sort of scientific evaluation or studies done,” he said.
Ultimately, he said, he felt it was better to address his weight loss outright than to deal with speculation about disordered eating had he not said anything at all.
"If I decided not to post about [my weight loss], people would jump to conclusions, like 'Oh, he has an eating disorder.' I really can't win," he said.
A lighthearted downside to Gaetano’s weight loss, he said, is that he is no longer able to make videos doing the “principal waddle,” one of dozens of imitations of school employees that made him a star on the app.
“I’ve had people request it, and I’m like, ‘I genuinely can’t do it,’” he said with a laugh. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s a double-edged sword.”