I have a problem with diet culture, and the “New Year, New You” train is the best time to explain why. New Year’s diet fads hit us each year, and quite frankly, they’re an awful way to start off January.
Every New Year we’re bombarded by diet plans, gym wear, and influencers on Instagram trying to sell you more glorified laxative tea than usual, or detox tea as they call it, promising that you can lose weight fast and look like them if you drink it twice a day. The overarching message is that you should feel bad for indulging this Christmas and now’s your chance to make amends. There are many meal replacement shakes, fad diets, and nutritional information that’s actually factually incorrect, and reckless to prescribe to anyone.
Here why you shouldn’t buy into the New Year’s diet fads.
Diet culture is detrimental to everyone, whether you have an eating disorder or not. Diet culture is the attitude we’ve been exposed to that tells us that thin bodies are ideal, healthy, and desirable. It tells us we’ll be happier when we obtain it, yet it promotes unsafe, unsustainable, and unrealistic regimes to get there. Diet culture categorises foods as good foods and bad foods when the reality is that food is food. There’s no good food and bad food, it’s about the amount that you consume. Eating an unlimited amount of fruit because Weight Watchers (or WW as they like called now) made fruit and vegetables “sin-free” can be unhealthy, just like eating a lot of sweets is unhealthy; you’re still consuming too much sugar regardless of what it’s coming from.
New Year’s diet fads are like Christmas to the diet industry.
Eating is not a sin.
When we’re children we naturally eat intuitively, and diet culture robs us of that pretty early in our lives. While we think dietary freedom means eating crap every day, even children will self-regulate when left to their own devices soon enough.
Intuitive eating simply means that you eat what you want when you want. That statement might set off some alarm bells, but our bodies know what it wants. People who eat intuitively don’t actually eat crap all day because they’re in tune with what their body needs and give it to it, without feeling bad for their food choices. People who eat intuitively can tell what their body wants, needs, and what their cravings mean. While the beginning of trying to eat intuitively may cause weight fluctuation and indulgence, people eventually settle into a balanced diet. Being able to eat intuitively means being free of diet culture.
Diets don’t work.
Diets aren’t meant to be a long term thing, the whole point is for people to yo-yo diet so they keep coming back to diet companies. You lose weight, and usually, you lose that weight fast, but you’re miserable getting there because they encourage unsustainable practices. Although some will make you lose weight, the second you come off it, the weight will pile back on and you’ll actually be in a worse position than before. When we diet we don’t just lose fat, we also lose muscle mass. Most diets don’t promote physical activity, especially weight lifting so when you come off the diet, you only gain fat back. Muscle mass is essential for building and protecting our bones, and muscle increases our metabolism.
It’s more unhealthy to yo-yo diet than it is to not diet at all if you’re overweight. Dieting can increase your risk of heart disease and permanently affect your metabolism. This doesn’t mean that you should never try to lose weight, it just means staying away from anyone who offers a quick fix and a program you won’t be able to sustain for life.
Your body looks the way it does because of your lifestyle, and genetics which determine where you hold your weight. The only long-lasting sustainable way to keep off weight and to be healthy is to have a balanced active lifestyle, but diet culture offers a quick fix and people fall for it.
Unless you change your lifestyle, your New Year’s goal of losing weight for good, will fail.
A lot of diet companies are also owned by fast food companies, again, because they know that dieting doesn’t work. They make money off you when you eat their ready-made meals, and they made money off you when you’re off the wagon and binging, and they made more money when you go back on the diet.
Up until 1999, Weight Watchers was a subsidiary of Heinz. Nestlé bought Jenny Craig in 2006 for $600 million and sold it in 2013.
Often influencers will fabricate results by photoshopping themselves, using smart lighting and angles. Some even think people are dumb enough to fall for them pushing their stomach out and posing in an unflattering way for their “before” photo, to compare to the “after” photo they took immediately after with everything tucked in. While there are plenty of ethical influencers out there, be cautious of the ones selling diet products and plans; they’re earning commission from you using their affiliate link or promo code.
Remember all the outrage when Kim Kardashian promoted appetite-suppressing lollipops?
This series by Nerd City is a big eye-opener for how Instagram models made themselves look the way they do. Be cautious if you’re going to be “influenced” by them. While most bloggers and influencers are responsible and ethical, a lot aren’t.
They don’t care about your health, they care about your wallet.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t use the New Year as a chance to live a healthier life and make changes. Resolutions aren’t the problem. My lifestyle is the result of a New Years’ resolution that stuck. I kept the weight I lost in 2014 off because I adopted a sustainable realistic lifestyle that is more active and healthy than before, but still leaves room for treating myself and rest days. I eat the foods I love and do workouts I enjoy so it doesn’t feel like effort or punishment. The gym is my happy place and I make the best food. My lifestyle and weight no longer take effort to maintain.
I’m all for people wanting to better themselves.
The issue is with the people selling unsustainable plans and products, knowing their customers will be off the wagon by Valentine’s Day, and knowing those products and plans are anything but healthy. The New Year’s diet fads are the issue, not people wanting to live healthier lifestyles. The diet industry is just taking advantage of the New Year’s motivation and people’s insecurities.
You’re allowed to treat yourself during Christmas. I don’t agree with the idea that we should have to punish ourselves after or feel bad about it. Food brings people together, it’s something we enjoy and share together. You shouldn’t be made feel like you can’t eat for the rest of January for indulging at a family gathering. What a better way to ring in the end of 2019 than with a glass of wine and some chocolate.
Don’t buy their shit, and don’t take their impossible expectations on board. You can get healthy without buying into New Year’s diet fads.
Life is short. Treat yourself.