Home » Inside the Mean-Girl Army Going to War for a Celebrity Dietician

Inside the Mean-Girl Army Going to War for a Celebrity Dietician

This story is the second part of an investigation into a vicious wellness-world troll fight. Read the first installment, with new information about the women involved uncovered by The Daily Beast, here.

Last summer, fashion influencer Emily Gellis Lande received an email that was particularly vicious, even by the standards of today’s anonymous internet correspondence. The subject line of the message was “Shopify Order,” all but ensuring she would read it since that is the e-commerce platform Emily uses to sell jewelry and clothes:

I can not [sic] believe you think Tanya would be jealous of you. You live in a tiny grotty studio. You are married to a pervert. You’re [sic] little boy is fucken [sic] ugly. You are unemployable. You have the worst legs in the world. You are a fat pig. You have stringy hair. You have debt of 200k. LOSER

“Tanya” was a reference to Emily’s archenemy, Tanya Zuckerbrot—Instagram influencer and dietician to the rich and famous—who had sued Emily twice for defamation after the influencer slammed her line of high-fiber products. And this particular email didn’t come from just any random troll: it originated from a member of a private Instagram chat that euphemistically called itself “The Volunteer Bake Circle.” These 20 or so women, or “bakers” as they sometimes referred to themselves, created a space to slam Emily—and sometimes to launch public attacks against her. They were on, as one member of the VBC put it, “the Emily Gellis Lande IG cancellation crusade.”

As The Daily Beast has reported, Tanya and Emily have been feuding since the summer of 2020, when Emily launched a public crusade against Tanya’s high-fiber F-Factor products and made videos personally attacking the dietician and her family. Tanya’s company collapsed in the wake of the online panic, and she’s suing Emily for defamation in two different lawsuits. Tanya’s also being sued by eight people who say her products and diet caused them medical harm like hives, malnutrition, and gastrointestinal blockages (which she denies). Over the past three years, both women have made aggressive Instagram Lives about each other, accusing each other of bullying and of putting them and their families in danger. Both have been pursued by vicious anonymous trolls.

Their followers have also waged a proxy war in various corners of social media—fueled, in part, by the digital vigilante work of the Volunteer Bake Circle (VBC). When it comes to the anti-Emily trolls online, what emerges from screenshots reviewed by The Daily Beast is the VBC was part of an organized effort—sometimes using anonymous burner accounts, known as finstas—to wreak havoc on Emily Gellis Lande’s life.

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/Instagram

Dozens of screenshots, revealed for the first time and exclusively by The Daily Beast—shared by a former member of the VBC and another person who participated in a private chat that preceded the VBC but had many overlapping players—show that the women carried out their mission through posting scathing Instagram screeds, calling out Emily’s brand partners, and allegedly through contributing to a Reddit thread, FiberFeuds, a forum with over a thousand members who bash Emily on a near-daily basis. The VBC, as a former member described it, was “a command central” for a “years-long, vicious, organized bullying campaign against [Gellis Lande] and her family.”

One defector from the group, named Alexandra E., says she participated in the chat from 2021 to the end of 2022. She estimates that the 20 or so members each had several burner accounts to target Emily. Alexandra E., who says she’s from Canada (and who provided The Daily Beast with an image of her ID card), asked that we only use her first name and first letter of her last name because she didn’t want to have “this pack of trolls on my butt and using this against me for all eternity.”

“I know how relentless they are… it’s such a big part of their lives. I don’t think they can let go,” she said.

While some might dismiss these petty and vitriolic activities among feuding Instagram influencers and their devoted followers as frivolous, they illustrate the widespread manifestation of cyberbullying today. As alarming as the harm these organized hostile campaigns wreak is the revelation that ostensibly normal, well-adjusted and successful middle-aged women are the vicious foot soldiers in these efforts. And they have capitalized on one of social media’s biggest loopholes: anonymity, which effectively gives them immunity to unleash their worst selves.

Tanya insists she did not direct the Volunteer Bake Circle to defend her. She wrote in a statement that: “I have never bullied Gellis Lande, neither have I directed anyone to bully Gellis Lande, nor have I paid anyone to bully her as is being alleged. I will continue to ask that no one bully Emily on my behalf as I have done in the past. I know firsthand how dangerous the implications of bullying can be. I don’t condone bullying. I never have, and I never will.” She declined to comment on specific allegations regarding any knowledge of, or involvement with, members of the VBC.

There were dog whistles within the VBC to unleash vitriol on Emily. One was “menty b,” shorthand for “mental breakdown.” Members of the chat would say things like: “I’m ordering a menty b” or “When do you think we are getting our next menty b?” Bullying Emily was met with applause. After a VBC member sent the email mocking Emily’s baby, a fellow participant said, “Smart to use Shopify order in the subject line! (laughing crying emoji)… You knew she’d open that!!” “The whole message was genius,” one member wrote. Someone else chimed in: “Send her another email about how her apartment is a fire hazard.”

There was some tacit acknowledgement of the group’s sinister tone. As one member, who reportedly claimed to other women in the VBC that she’s a trauma therapist, said to the chat after mocking Emily’s young daughter: “I’m glad that when we are all in hell we’ll have each other.”

Still, the vigilantes felt justified in their crusade—many of them were supporters of Tanya and felt Emily had worked to get her wrongly canceled, even though they claimed to have never met Tanya in real life. And when someone insulted their glossy leader, there was hell to pay. When one member of the Volunteer Bake Circle broke rank in a way that Tanya felt threatened by, another member wrote to the VBC: “She needs to leave Tanya the fuck alone.”

Alexandra E.’s entry point to the VBC was in 2021 after she set up an Instagram account called “Miss Grift” to make fun of Ingrid De La Mare-Kenny, a Monaco influencer who has also been feuding with Tanya. (Tanya accuses of being behind the initial attacks on her company, which Ingrid denies). Alexandra E. was a valuable asset in the VBC mission to discredit critics of Tanya, as she had an entire account dedicated to scrutinizing, and mocking, Ingrid’s appearance, lifestyle, and products.

Meanwhile, a woman who was a member of a chat that preceded the VBC, and who asked to remain anonymous, told The Daily Beast she did “dirty jobs” for the group by creating 14 different burner accounts, or finstas, that she used to stalk and bully Emily and Ingrid. She told me that she feels “very ashamed” of her actions and came forward because she felt the VBC had gone too far with the mocking of Emily’s young daughter, who was born in June 2021.

You can’t even distinguish between levels of threat. You are so emotionally hijacked … you spin a story of the world being against you and you have to protect yourself.

The VBC women knew so much about Emily because as an influencer, Emily put a ton of her life on her feed, which the members of the VBC would screenshot from their finstas and then report back to the group. Then the VBC would sink their claws into it.

To read the screenshots from the VBC group chat is like a masterclass in retro tropes for criticizing a woman (unattractive, bad mother, lunatic). They called Emily an “animal of a mother” and described her toddler as a “barnyard animal,” a “rude little shit” with a bad “gene pool.” They called her husband a “f*g” and a “pedo” for wearing a pink shirt. They intimated the couple was abusing their baby and were “undeserving” of being parents. They obsessed over Emily’s weight and body, fixating on her chin, her ankles, her hands. On one of Emily’s pictures, a VBC member sniffed, “These arms! I’m shrieking!” Another responded, “It’s her knees for me. 😬” They speculated on whether she was getting fatter and snarked that she was “rotund.”

When asked about the people who have been anonymously targeting and harassing her on the internet for the last several years, Emily said, “I think I must represent something that maybe they don’t have or that bothers them… I’m confident in who I am, despite my weight.”

Alexandra E. put a finer point on it: “Many of the women in that chat don’t think Emily deserves to be as confident as she is.”

Flame Wars

​​The VBC also fomented crusades to red-flag Emily’s brand partners. Alexandra E. and the other former chat member confirmed that people from the chat would contact Emily’s sponsors, mostly from finstas, and try to paint her as a horrible person. “I was dropped by brands being overly responsive to claims calling me ‘a racist’ or ‘antisemite,”’ Emily, who is Jewish, confirmed. Tanya, herself, furthered the narrative, posting on Instagram in April: “Emily Gellis is not just a danger to me. She is a danger to the Jewish Community.” (Emily came under fire during the pandemic for drawing attention to members of the Jewish community in New York state who were holding large weddings during a time when those types of gatherings were in violation of COVID rules, and for posting a video in which she appears to be laughing at Orthodox Jewish dress.)

Emily says brands such as the baby formula company Bobbie, and the maternity clothing brand Hatch stopped working with her because of mostly anonymous messages making these types of accusations. “After I lost the Bobbie deal [which was the end of 2021], I was like, ‘I’m done,’” Emily said. At the end of 2021, Emily pivoted to a direct-to-consumer business selling apparel, jewelry, and her skincare line, Poppy. “At least those were entities they couldn’t touch.” Emily estimates that she lost more than a hundred thousand dollars in future potential income because she got “so scared of reaching out to brand partners for fear of this cycle repeating again.” (In February 2021, Hatch said that they “made the decision to remove editorial content that featured Emily Gellis as the comments on the post became extremely harmful and combative.” Bobbie told The Daily Beast, “We ended our contract with Emily due to a shift in marketing strategy at the time. No contract deliverables had been met when we parted ways and we were more than happy to continue to support her feeding journey.”)

A photo illustration of messages sent by the Volunteer Bake Club surrounded by faceless women wielding giants forks and knives

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/Instagram

The VBC was not alone in its hatred of Emily Gellis Lande. There was also the Fiber Feuds Reddit thread, with 1.3K followers, which was allegedly moderated by at least one member of the VBC, according to two people familiar with the moderators. While there are many Reddit threads about influencers, not all of them terribly kind, what distinguished FiberFeuds was its obsessive trolling and then commenting, often multiple times a day, on everything Emily did or said. As a former participant in the Fiber Feuds Reddit claimed to me: “It’s an overlapping set of players—the moderators of Fiber Feuds are also part of the VBC.” Alexandra E. also publicly claimed that VBC members “OWN r/fiberfeuds. They carefully plot what they do on that sub. They ban and delete. They ‘ask questions’ just so the others can jump on it and ‘explain.’”

The subreddit encouraged boycotting Emily and reporting her to Instagram for violating terms of service. The tenor of the forum could be summed up in repeated comments like: “She’s a monster.” “She needs to go to jail.” “Lmao Emily, you are absolutely nauseating.” Posters also questioned her fitness as a mother (“The laziest mom in the whole damn world…Be a damn mom for once and think of your kid and not yourself!!!!!”) and called out companies that appeared on Emily’s page for associating “with this animal [Emily Gellis].” When someone commented that they should contact a lollipop company that Emily posted about, another user chimed in: “Just send them a link to this sub so they can see for themselves how damaging she is to innocent people and brands.”

A member of another subreddit, who claimed Fiber Feuds blocked them, called it an “Emily hate group,” noting, “I dislike Emily & Tanya equally … [but] their behavior and towards towards Emily is so severe. It’s really unhinged behavior.” And recently, a member of the FiberFeuds subreddit who goes by the name flindsayblohan, wrote in a goodbye message to the forum, “Make no mistake, Emily deserves to answer for what she did. But she is a human. She has not personally harmed me … I don’t hate her … some of you hate her; a dangerous sentiment.”

It’s a pile on and it’s fun to be a part of the drama—and this goes back to the very classic ‘I feel really crappy in my life and [now] I feel better.’

Two Instagram accounts that have posted publicly and critically about Emily and Ingrid—ffactorfacts account and egtruthfully—participated, at least for a time, in the VBC chat, according to screenshots shared with The Daily Beast. In one, ffactorfacts vents to the chat that “taking on Emily and Co is more than a full time job” and that to run her account well, “I would need four full time staff.” In other posts, she calls Emily “fat” and “fucked up” and criticizes her as a “lazy cunt” for feeding her one-year-old daughter pizza.

Another time, ffactorfacts gave the group instructions on how to spread disinfo on Emily’s Instagram Live with a fake account purporting to be her sister-in-law. Another idea, called “Psy Ops 2,” was to create a bunch of finstas and post a fake group chat pretending to concoct a story of someone dying from the diet in order to trap Emily. “Tell her that your sister died from FF. Emily believes whatever you tell her,” ffactorfacts said. (There’s no indication these plans came to fruition.)

Ffactorfacts even went as far as to threaten Tanya’s detractors, telling one of the women who had trolled Emily that if she contacted Emily or Ingrid, she would “post your full name and photo and contact your family,” according to screenshots of the exchange that were shared with The Daily Beast. She also gushed about meeting Tanya in person and being in touch with Tanya’s lawyer. (Tanya and her lawyer confirmed they were in touch with the founder of the account, who was identified in court papers by Tanya’s team as a woman named Romy Ranalli.)

And of course, operating anonymously gave the members of the VBC and the Fiber Feuds subreddit a certain degree of impunity to go after Gellis Lande. Gellis Lande would have to subpoena the internet company or social media platform to unmask her tormentors, says Felix Wu, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law. But that strategy is resource-intensive and rests, Wu says, on the company complying, which may not happen if they think the case is not strong and decide to challenge the subpoena.

Last year, Romy publicly posted about meeting Tanya at Amaranth, a Mediterranean restaurant favored by the social set in Manhattan just off Madison Avenue. Tanya shared a photo of herself on Instagram with a woman, gushing: “Look who came to visit @ffactorfacts. So special to meet in person–she couldn’t be kinder.”

On her own story reposting Tanya, Romy wrote, “Very glad to stand by and support you, Tanya. You have truth, justice, and thousands of FF followers on your side.”

It could have been averted with cooler heads. This seems like a lot of bruised egos and not enough supply of Prozac.

Tanya has denied giving orders to supporter accounts like ffactorfacts and egtruthfully. In her second defamation suit against Emily, she claimed she “has no personal connection to either of the individuals behind those Instagram handles and certainly did not put them up to creating them.”

Still, she’s praised them publicly—on an Instagram Live, she said, “they call you hate accounts … I don’t view you that way. I want to thank you for the work you do on my behalf—and on behalf of humanity.”

And ffactorfacts has indeed been a lead defender of Tanya, publicly posting video explainers that aim to show how Tanya is the “victim of the most vicious takedown in social media history.”

For her part, Tanya told The Daily Beast: “I have taken the only recourse I can to hold [Emily] Gellis Lande accountable and to protect others from her in the future. I have sued Gellis Lande twice in New York State Court for defamation. In the course of the litigation, discovery has shown the merit of my claims for defamation. Gellis Lande has publicly admitted she did not verify any of the alleged statements she made about me or my company. I look forward to my day in court as that is the appropriate forum where I will discuss and prove the false claims made against me and my company. My entire career as a dietitian was dedicated to helping people—not harming them.”

There is fat shaming, mental health shaming … and required loyalty to a group of women. I was part of that and I’m ashamed.

(Emily’s attorney Rob Lorenc has claimed that discovery in the defamation lawsuits “will yield more direct evidence that will ultimately undermine [Tanya Zuckerbrot’s] allegations, especially those pertaining to Ms. Gellis [Lande] having allegedly acted with malice.”)

When reached for comment by The Daily Beast, Romy said, “if the accusation is that I encouraged anyone to bully Ingrid or Emily, I only know of two people who bullied Emily or Ingrid and I was not in the group chats these individuals were in. When these individuals would bully Emily or Ingrid, Emily would always publish them and blame Tanya Zuckerbrot. The bullies would brag about their messages to other people who would send me screenshots of the conversations in the hope that I would publish them to show Tanya was not responsible.

“Each time I would be glad I was not in contact with those people and had them blocked. The only group chat I was in when someone bullied Emily was when someone claiming to be from New Zealand sent Emily an email calling her daughter a ‘boy.’ It was awful. After that, the tone of the chat changed. It was not something I wanted to be a part of and I left the group.”

Of Alexandra E., she said, “I made a point of not following Miss Grift because I did not condone the tone and aggression of her page.”

When we reached out to egtruthfully for comment about the VBC, they sent back a rant about the author of this piece: “Could you please confirm that you’re a bottom feeding sad, pathetic woman who is desperate for relevancy at any cost.”

Devastation All Around

Tanya Zuckerbrot has not exactly called her followers off from hunting Emily online—even though she says she’s been traumatized by Emily’s videos about her and about F-Factor.

In fact, Tanya could sometimes seem like she was egging the trolls on. In an Instagram Live on May 22, Tanya promoted the Fiber Feuds Reddit group as a source of information about Emily. “There is a Reddit thread called Fiber Feuds that posts everything about Emily and that’s where I see everything. And I suggest you guys go visit this Reddit thread,” she said, clarifying that she wasn’t running it. “It is not my page. I don’t contribute to it…If you have a few minutes, go see it. And sometimes they say unkind things about me, too … but mostly they are focused on Emily and what she is doing.”

Given the VBC’s loyalty and admiration for the F-Factor founder, Alexandra E. believes that “Tanya Zuckerbrot could have denounced the Bully Moms Club, Romy, EGTruth etc. a long time ago,” as she wrote on Instagram last year. “She could have made them STOP. But she has not done that.”

Tanya has denied having any control over what her supporters post, and in videos on Instagram and in legal filings, she has denied giving orders to supporter accounts. “These accounts don’t work for me, I don’t pay them,” Tanya said on Instagram Live in 2021, adding, “A lot of times I will say I know you guys aren’t doing this for me but I thank you.”

On Instagram, Tanya has also called out the journalists who have covered her and F-Factor, questioning their integrity and motives. In June of 2021, Tanya reposted a message about me to her 100,000-plus followers, presumably referring to other Jewish journalists as well, that said: “These jealous, low, disgusting girls make all Jews look bad…They are train wrecks and to anyone with a brain, they are morally corrupt and pathetic.” Tanya thanked the person for her message. Last month, Zuckerbrot told hundreds of people on an Instagram Live where my young children went to school. Other reporters who have covered the F-Factor controversy told me they have been in touch with security at their publication because of ongoing harassment from Zuckerbrot herself.

I know how relentless they are…it’s such a big part of their lives. I don’t think they can let go.

When we asked a source close to Tanya about how and why the VBC’s campaign against Emily got so intense and why the F-Factor founder praised people who were allegedly involved in this group, this person said: “I honestly can’t begin to understand how it unwound so fast. It could have been averted with cooler heads. This seems like a lot of bruised egos and not enough supply of Prozac.”

Last August, a former member of the FiberFeuds subreddit messaged Tanya with concerns that the forum had taken things too far, according to a screenshot shared with The Daily Beast: “Hi Tanya, can you help and stop the bullying on EG [Emily Gellis Lande’s] little girl. She is only 1 year old. Reddit/fiberfeuds are making so much fun about this little baby. We all want EG to be responsible for what she did. We don’t want her baby to be bullied on a board.” (One rule of the subreddit is no commenting on children’s looks or development.)

Tanya responded: “I would never condone a child or an adult to be bullied. With that being said, I am not on Reddit and I can not be heald [sic] responsible or control what people post.”

Yet three years into the feud, the fever pitch among Zuckerbrot and her defenders is as high as ever. Recently, Tanya reposted a message from a follower who seethed, “I do not condone anyone putting hands on another human in anger. That said, I wanted to hurt the person [Emily] who caused your children such emotional devastation.”

The F-Factor founder responded, “Beautifully said.”

Why Would Anyone Join a Hate Chat?

At its core, the screenshots shared with The Daily Beast show that the Volunteer Bake Circle was as much about mocking Emily as it was about worshiping Tanya and hoping to gain her approval. Tanya became the arbiter of so much, down to what members of the VBC felt comfortable eating. When one member told the group that she was going with Tanya to Le Bilboquet, the upscale French restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she said she would follow Tanya’s lead on what to order. She added she would “grab a snack back on the way back if I need to haha.”

Ffactorfacts responded: “I would die to see someone enjoying dessert in front of her [Tanya]!”

Some also found a sense of camaraderie and community in the VBC, albeit a rather twisted one, during what was an undoubtedly isolating and lonely period of the pandemic. Ffactorfacts called another member of the VBC her “best friend.” Another woman referred to the VBC as “an escape for many of us.”

Alexandra E. says the group bonded over “fat shaming, mental health shaming, mocking innocent kids, TZ sycophantry, bizarre posturing, and required loyalty to a group of women…I was part of that and I’m ashamed.” She added that she feels Tanya’s suffering is caused by “her narcissistic traits, and absolutely stunning entitlement not to face any criticism.”

When do you think we are getting our next menty b?

Danah Boyd, a researcher who studies the relationship between society and technology, who is not familiar with Tanya or Emily, offered the explanation that those who engage in acts of bullying are often themselves struggling. “Insecurity breeds aggression,” she said. “You get these defense mechanisms and little gangs [online] … fighting each other.” She added that, “It’s a pile on and it’s fun to be a part of the drama—and this goes back to the very classic ‘I feel really crappy in my life and [now] I feel better’…they want to knock her down a few knocks and they are trying to assert power over her.” But “why do they feel that they have to knock her down? Why does that make them feel better?”

Members of the VBC disclosed snippets of difficulties and challenges in their own lives: mental health issues, body image struggles, feeling unappreciated, and being consumed by caretaking roles. Reflecting on why she started the Instagram page Miss Grift, Alexandra E. said that “taking an honest look at myself, I was unhappy at work, and felt stuck and bored the last year. This account was definitely an outlet for my own frustrations. I don’t think anyone happy and fulfilled spends their time on something like this.”

Rosalind Wiseman, an expert on bullying who wrote the book Queen Bees and Wannabes that was the basis for the movie and musical Mean Girls, is not familiar with Tanya, Emily, Ingrid, or the Fiber Feud playing out online. But she says a common dynamic for bullies is that they can’t “differentiate enemies and [starts an] ‘either with me or against me’” campaign. “Then the person starts using language like, ‘I’m not going to let these people get me down, and I’m going to stand up against these lies and smear campaigns.’ It’s so sad, and it’s so dangerous.”

“You can’t even distinguish between levels of threat. You are so emotionally hijacked,” she notes.

“You spin a story of the world being against you—and you have to protect yourself.”


November 2023