The Twisted Health Trends of Social Media
This article contains discussions of eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
Today, you cannot take one bite of food without being bombarded by advertisements and media telling you that you should stop eating. Fad diets like Keto and Paleo constantly tell people that sugar, carbs, fat and pretty much everything except for lean protein and vegetables are bad for you. These diets are restrictive, but there have been countless fad diets throughout history that are just plain weird. In the late 19th century, the chewing and spitting diet created by Horace Fletcher was wildly popular. This diet called for chewing your food at 100 bites per minute and then spitting out the food that had not turned into liquid. In the 20th century, there was the milk diet meant to increase masculinity by encouraging men to drink a quart of milk for every 25-30 pounds of body weight.
These fad diets are ridiculous, and yet society continues to promote them. They foster the idea that weight loss is the ultimate goal and that one should do anything it takes to achieve thinness. As someone who grew up with social media and television constantly pushing me and seeing ads that told me I was never thin enough or pretty enough, I can attest to the fact that these messages have the ability to destroy your body and your self-esteem. And let me tell you, it takes a long time to build both back up again.
Fad diets are any diet that promises severe weight loss in a short amount of time and often consists of strict rules and restrictions. According to an article by Betterhealth, these diets can lead to a host of health problems, including dehydration, fatigue, constipation, nausea and headaches. They can also lead to a loss in nutrients because most fad diets cut out important food groups like carbs.
More specifically, fad dieting can lead to a cycle called yo-yo dieting. According to Healthline, yo-yo dieting or weight cycling is when you lose weight by dieting, regain the weight after stopping the diet, and then diet again to lose the weight that was regained. This cycle is extremely counterintuitive and harmful to the body. As you lose weight, your body creates less leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full. This increases your appetite because your body is trying to get you to eat more so you can be energized. Excessive dieting can also cause your body to lose muscle. When you regain that weight, it comes back in the form of fat, increasing the likelihood of health problems like diabetes and heart disease. In general, yo-yo dieting is worse for you than not losing any weight, with one study showing that men who yo-yo diet had an 80% higher risk of dying during the study as compared to “obese” men who did not lose any weight and had a normal risk of dying during the study. Mentally, yo-yo dieting is extremely taxing and can cause you to feel out of control, leading to dissatisfaction with your life. Dieting is also associated with disordered eating, and a study in 1995 found that 35% of casual dieters developed disordered eating, with 30-45% of those people developing full-blown eating disorders.
Diets are dangerous, but the diet industry has convinced us otherwise. According to a video released by CNBC, the diet industry is a $71 billion industry as of 2020. This massive industry is set up for people to fail, with 45 million people attempting to diet and, as of 199, 95% of those people failing to lose weight. This industry uses marketing and advertising to convince people they need to lose weight, not because of health, but because of how they look. Companies sell subscriptions, diet plans, meal supplements — all at the expense of the consumer. These advertisements are supplemented by social media posts and ads that show airbrushed celebrities and influencers who have “perfect” bodies. And by perfect, I mean unrealistic. Although some social media platforms like Pinterest have banned weight loss ads, there are still endless amounts of content that promote diet culture, eating disorders and negative body image. These photos not only give young people unrealistic ideas about what their bodies should look like, but they promote the idea that one’s worth depends on the size and shape of their body. With this in mind, people, especially young people, will do anything to look like the people on their social media feed.
The diet industry has brainwashed people into thinking that not fitting the ideal body standard is even worse than all of the negative health effects dieting can have on one’s body and mind. It is meant to lead to yo-yo dieting as a way to make money, but the industry doesn’t want you to know that. In an interview with “The Washington Post”, Traci Mann, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota and author of “Secrets from the Eating Lab,” encapsulates this perfectly, saying “These companies make their money off failure, not success. They need you to fail, so you’ll pay them again. One-time customers are not the sort of thing that keep these diet companies in business.”
To speak plainly, diets are toxic. They are a way for a billion-dollar industry to exploit consumers so they can make a profit. They take a toll on people mentally and physically, and they create a lifestyle centered around caloric restriction rather than overall satisfaction with one’s life. They want you to fail, time and time again, convince yourself that you’re the problem, and diet yet again so they can profit off of you. To anyone struggling with dieting, disordered eating or eating disorders, know that you are more than the food that you put into your body. You are enough. And most importantly, you are not the problem. Diet culture is the culprit.
Grace Azaula is a second-year communication management and design major blocking every thin-fluencer out there. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Art by Art Editor Adam Dee.