One Question Quiz

KaiApril 8, 2024

Meet the ‘health sensation’ scouting Wellington’s best cheap CBD lunches


With a fast-growing TikTok and Instagram following, food blogger Bryer Oden is serving up a delicious ode to Wellington’s food scene – all while embodying a genuinely healthy attitude towards food and eating.

Filming meals during the lunch break at her marketing job, Bryer edits her food vlogs every day after work. Using CapCut on her phone, she cuts out her shaky hands, lines up the clips and records a voiceover. It’s not scripted, “I just yap,” she says.

I was hooked the first time I heard the jingle to one of Bryer’s “Cheap CBD lunches” videos (yes, it’s all her voice layered on top of itself). In the video, she scouts out a spot recommended by a follower, seeking the holy grail of a time-poor CBD worker: a tasty lunch that won’t break the bank. It represents what’s great about Bryer’s content – it’s funny, well-edited and exudes a joy over food that’s rare in my algorithm, whether it’s over a humble butter chicken pie from BP or an aesthetic crumpet from Squirrel. She’s gained nearly 10,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram, under the name @healthsensation (@health_sensation on TikTok). 

I’m slightly distracted by a delicious blueberry danish at The Lab on Victoria St – Oden’s recommendation – as she tells me the account started as a joke. The year was 2016, and “toxic online diet culture” reigned supreme. “Instagram still had the feature that showed what other people were liking and almost everyone was looking at dodgy things. I was surrounded by people who were so brilliant, so funny, and so clever, who were often over-exercising and under-eating”.

Oden started in high school by posting pictures on Instagram of her McDonalds or mac’n’cheese with captions like “getting my calcium intake through the cheese in my mac’n’cheese”. Others started sending similar pictures to become the “Health Sensation of the Moment”. She didn’t realise she was having a positive ripple effect until a  classmate thanked her. “She said, ‘you’re showing girls around you they can eat food unapologetically and that’s fine’. I was like, ‘oh shit, this is for real’. It’s not supposed to be healthy, but it is ‘health’. ‘Health’ as in eating what you want to eat. In a way, it’s not ironic.”

After moving to Wellington for university, Oden kept running the page. It’s grown, especially since she joined TikTok. “You know when your parents say ‘don’t talk to strangers on the internet’? I’ve accidentally made that my entire life, and it’s yet to backfire.” It’s still a community page. She’s less of an influencer than “the one being influenced,” she says. “I got hundreds of recommendations for the best cheese scone in Wellington. That’s every cafe! If there was only one spot with a good cheese scone you’d know about it, but the fact that everyone’s got different opinions means there must be so many good places.”

Oden’s social media following is hyper-local to Wellington. “I get recognised on the street all the time,” she says. Drunk girls sing her the Cheap CBD lunches jingle in town; she was even recognised at the Ohakune carrot (the peak of New Zealand fame). “It’s not even that many people!? It shows people who are watching are invested, which I appreciate so much.” She also gets almost zero negative comments, which she finds “crazy”. “But hate comments are the mark you’re reaching outside your bubble, so I’m like ‘keep going!’”

Personally, I think it’s Oden’s’s joyful attitude towards food that attracts all this positivity. It’s an attitude she’s uniquely qualified to share. She recently completed a Master’s degree in linguistics, focused on how language is used on Instagram to normalise disordered eating.

After sharing her research at conferences, academics used to ask her, “how do we make people spend less time online?” To Oden, that’s not the solution. She prefers what she calls “mindful media consumption”, an approach of trying, as much as possible, to consume the things you like and use a platform’s filters to block the rest.

Through her page, she takes the approach of “being the content you want to see in the world”. “I guess it’s everyday activism. You don’t always have to be out there on the streets protesting for body positivity, you can just show up, love food, and be happy in your body and that is enough to help other people.”

Oden quizzes me about whether her reviews seem honest; “I don’t want to sound like a stereotypical food blog saying ‘Omg guys, you must try this’.” She was so motivated to give honest reviews, and worked at a cafe for six months after university to understand the world more. She says she didn’t want to be “like the food critic in Ratatouille being like ‘this isn’t good enough’ even though I know nothing about how it works”. 

I ask Oden why she likes food. “To live?” she jokes, before taking a second to reconsider. “Actually, I ask myself this all the time. The main thing is community. Everyone eats food, so everyone’s automatically in this club.” She was a picky eater as a kid, so by exploring new foods she feels she can enjoy more of the world. “I love unlocking the excitement,” she says. “I hated having to miss out.”

Quick-fire questions

Best cafe in Wellington for vibes?

Either Pickle & Pie or Prefab.

Best “value for money” dinner spot?

Hideout is really cheap and good. The Cheap CBD lunch place I’ve gone back to the most is Satay Me – it’s so delicious.

Best cheese scone?

  1. Pickle & Pie – it comes with pickles!
  2. New Chapter – the scones are often fresh out of the oven
  3. Collective at the library on Brandon St – they have kimchi scones! 

(Oden is still working her way through a list of cheese scone recommendations.)

The discontinued New Zealand food you want brought back?

My curse is every time I love a flavour of something, that flavour gets discontinued. The first one that comes to mind is the mint with dark chocolate Paddle Pop. They brought it back for a couple months a few years ago, but bring her back forever!

Favourite movie snack? 

It used to be Mars Pods with popcorn. But guess what, they discontinued Mars Pods!

Keep going!