The new disease: Diet culture

As of 2020, one report published by the World Bank stated that 2 billion adults are overweight. Thus, it is safe to say that many of us have struggled with weight issues at least once in our life. Many of us might have even gone into crazy restrictive diets, the keto diet, the intermittent fasting, the water diet, and whatnot. Are those diets fruitful? Maybe yes for the short run but a straight no for the long run. A paper published by the University Health Services, UC Berkeley, showed that 95% of the dieter regain their lost weight.

The majority of the dieters follow “Yo-Yo” dieting; it is a repetitive cycle of starting a diet plan, losing some weight (usually the water weight), and then lose the motivation to continue and stop dieting. After some time, they gain weight, go on a diet, and the cycle continues. The idea itself sounds unhealthy and exhausting, doesn’t it? This kind of dieting pattern and the diet culture increases the possibility of many physical and mental illnesses like eating disorders, osteoporosis, stress, fracture, and even depression and anxiety. It also possesses emotional stress, which could cause low-self-esteem.

Diet is a broad term, this article defines dieting as restricting the amount and the type of food one would usually consume to change physical body weight or shape. In the process, because the amount and the type of food are restricted, the body does not meet its nutritional and calorie requirements. As a result, the body switches to its energy-saving mode. The body slows down or halts its normal function to decrease energy consumption by these metabolic reactions to conserve energy. This decrease in energy is why the dieters feel dizzy, less coordinated, dehydrated, and tired frequently when on a diet.

So, the question here arises if dieting is bad, why are so many people doing it? The answer is THE DIET CULTURE. The diet culture is a belief that prioritizes weight against the individual’s overall wellbeing; it encourages people to lose weight against all odds. It has a scary influence on people of all age groups. The same paper published by UC Berkeley cited a report that found 42% of the 1st -3rdgrade female students (surveyed) in America wanted to be thin. It has a damaging effect on self-esteem and self-worth. The diet culture idolizes the concept of the “ideal body type,” making people on the other end of the spectrum anxious and forcing them to measure their self-worth based on their body weight and shape.

The social media and the “healthy food” industry is the prominent factor promoting the diet culture. Social media influencers are paid to promote so-called healthy food products. Then we get swayed by what these influencers are posting; little do we realize that there is always more than what meets the eye. We ignore the edit, lighting, angles, and other struggles to create the photograph. We are blindly taking on the advice posted online, advice that has not come from a nutritionist or a fitness instructor.

We fail to acknowledge that each body type is different, and so is its nutritional requirement and that these “healthy food” are made without considering individual body type. What works best for one might have the worst effects on the other body type. The diet culture makes us feel ashamed for our food choices, constantly making us anxious for the need to choose the “right kind” of food when what it portrays as the right might not be the right for us. It is high time for us to realize that the ideal weight for each body is different. Eating certain food in a certain way does not ensure weight loss.

To conclude, the diet culture that has been spreading like wildfire is found to have a grave impact on the dieters’ physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. We must acknowledge, there is so much more to us than just some number. It is more of a scam created by the “influencers” and the “healthy-food” industry. Good mental, physical, and emotional health are nowhere comparable to our physical shape and size. As they say, “Count Memories, not calories”. If losing weight is extremely necessary, one should regularly go on a diet as prescribed by the nutritionist and must indulge in physical activities. Even if the desired weight- loss goal is not met, a balanced diet and exercise energizes the body, rejuvenates the mind, and soothes the soul.

(The author is a BBA 1st Semester student)

Comments