By Alison Harner ’24
There is nothing wrong with wanting to eat healthily and exercise to achieve one’s fitness or lifestyle goals. It is strongly encouraged that everyone makes the right decisions to fuel and strengthen their bodies. The issue comes with society’s depiction of “healthy”. Online media is teeming with photoshopped images of airbrushed models, advertising 30-day challenges to “Get abs in a month!” or “Quit Carbs and Feel Amazing!” and similar unrealistic messages.
Diet culture most commonly refers to nourishment, eating patterns, or avoiding certain foods, but it can also come in the form of a workout plan, “self-care” product, or a combination of all three.
A diet that advises people to simply limit carbs or sugars can be extremely unhealthy because each person has completely different needs when it comes to food. Often, severly controlling portion sizes can cause malnourishment and eating disorders.
“35% of ‘normal dieters’ progress to pathological dieting and that 20-25% of those individuals develop eating disorders,” National Eating Disorders Association affirms, as cited by Eating Disorder Hope.
Starvation is not the key to weight loss. Body shape and size are the most commonly thought of factors when it comes to controlling portion sizes, but a person’s everyday life, workout habits, and genetics can also play a major role as well.
If one so chooses to begin monitoring and controlling their meals, it is not recommended by health professionals to join a temporary plan or one that restricts certain foods or components completely. Instead, one should stick to a flexible plan that allows them to eat what suits their body best. Some research may be required before beginning this change, but knowing one’s body well has a more lasting and healthy effect than following a specific and temporary diet.
Restricting certain foods completely actually has the opposite effect than what most expect, as it is not effective for sustained and healthy weight loss. Often, limiting consumption of ingredients, such as carbs or sugars, causes cravings to grow stronger. Also, small amounts of carbs and sugars are necessary for the body’s everyday functions.
At the end of the day, nobody’s perfect, and strict diets will often make users feel an overwhelming sense of guilt that causes them to lose motivation.
Diets can also include workout plans, and while it is necessary for the human body to be active, diets will often advertise unachievable or very unlikely results. As mentioned previously, everyone’s body is different, and no one’s weight loss or fitness journey is going to look the same. It is important to remember to set reasonable and personal goals for a workout, and though there is nothing wrong with doing a 30-day challenge, it is important to accept that no two people are going to have the same results.
Also, workouts and challenges are often very rough on the body, as most of them are temporary, and can cause the participant to feel burnt out towards the end. If one wishes to continue their fitness journey for more than just a few weeks, it is recommended to take a slower pace at first, and slowly work towards a more intense level. Consulting a doctor before beginning a routine is also advisable.
Dieting is not inherently bad; however, fad diets advertise unrealistic results and pose specific rules and restrictions that are difficult to maintain. It is recommended that one chooses a flexible and gracious diet and sets reasonable goals in terms of both eating and working out. Make sure to research many different options and benefits before beginning a diet or workout plan.
Everyone is different, so never expect the same results as others, and remember to always be respectful towards others’ health journeys.