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 did not expect the negative responses when he posted a recent video about his 120-pound weight loss to his 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 calling Gaetano “fatphobic,” and called him out for embracing “diet culture” and “praising thinness.”
One user made at least seven videos about Gaetano’s weight loss. Another user who posted a video about Gaetano’s weight loss video 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 criticizing him have racked up hundreds of likes.
But Gaetano wants those calling him “fatphobic” to know that he lost weight via diet and exercise because he felt his own 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 told NBC News. “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.”
In January, Gaetano said he was lying on his bed when felt his heart pounding in his chest. At that point, he’d been experiencing health issues that worried him, like getting out of breath when walking up stairs.
So, as his heart raced despite doing no physical activity, he decided he needed a change. He decided to diet and exercise to lose weight — something his doctors recommended he do — in an effort to free himself of these health issues.
The backlash comes as 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 a For You Page (FYP) can hit a user unexpectedly with information about diet and exercise. The comments sections of TikTok videos can also be filled with users disparaging their own bodies.
Gaetano emphasized that he’s not advocating for anyone else to lose weight, and doesn’t promote weight loss on either of his TikTok accounts. He also said he knows that weight and health, for some, are not mutually exclusive.
Still, the negative response to his videos has become so intense that he posted a video statement on Monday about his weight loss to TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.
“Your celebration of thinness is inherently problematic because you are positioning thinness as something that should be glorified, as an accomplishment” one user said in a video criticizing Gaetano.
In his video response, Gaetano said that he feels that he’s 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,” Gaetano said.
Ultimately, he said he felt it was better to address his weight loss outright than deal with speculation of 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.
One lighthearted downside to Gaetano’s weight loss, he said, is that he’s no longer able to make videos doing the “principal waddle,” one of dozens of school employee imitations that made him a star on the app.
“I’ve had people request it, and I’m like, “I genuinely can’t do it,’” Gaetano said with a laugh. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s a double-edged sword.”
This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.