Toxic Diet Culture is Harmful to Your Health

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.

9 thoughts on “Toxic Diet Culture is Harmful to Your Health

  1. I agree with this article very much! Everyone is different and results are usually not the same.

  2. What a great article! Not only are everyone’s nutritional needs different, but lifestyle choices or values can also play a role (eating local, seasonal, sustainable foods, etc.) and most diets don’t necessarily consider this. Well written!

  3. I completely agree with everything that was said. Sadly, people are setting unrealistic goals on these crazy diets. Everyone’s body is different so everyone’s diet is not going to be the exact same. I think this needs to be said more because some of these diets are so unrealistic and just unhealthy in general.

  4. Great article! We talk so much about the dangers of fad diets in Health class. Unfortunately, so many people believe that diets work because they know someone who has lost weight. However, they are not sustainable, are unhealthy, and the vast majority of dieters end up gaining more weight afterwards. It should be about living an overall healthy lifestyle. Thanks for writing about this very important topic!

  5. Yes, I strongly agreed when you stated, “ 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.” I think foods, drinks, medicine, and anything else that contributes to being taken by mouth has a different effect on everyone. For example, a diabetic eating habits are obviously going to be different from a teenager’s eating habits. Your body can handle things that other bodies can’t. Additionally, this quote stood out to me as well “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.” I believe that change takes process and not everyone can handle a major difference about any changes. Therefore, when it comes to changing habits or taking part in self-care activities it’s important not to rush through the process. I enjoyed reading your article and would love to read more. Thank you!

  6. You worded this so well! Dieting, eating, and health in general is something that a lot of people struggle with, so highlighting the importance of understanding when dieting becomes unhealthy is very important.

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