“It’s sad because it’s so unrealistic. People feel like they’re failing because they can’t attain that “perfect” body. Meanwhile, the “perfect” they’re aiming for is far from healthy.”
-Kayla L. White (23)
We live in a “me” society. Everywhere we look, we are told, “you want it, come get it.” Advertisements are designed to make you feel like you deserve to have what you want. The ads tell you that you will be sexier if you buy what they sell. The ads tell you that you will be popular. Most dangerously, the ads tell you that you will be happy if you buy what they’re selling. Fitness ads tell men that if they buy their clothes, their program, their supplement, they will be successful, and women will want them. Fitness ads tell women that their clothes, their program, and their supplements will make them desirable, skinny, and happy. This has led to crash dieting, over-exercising, and other unhealthy options. Today, I want to talk to you about the dangers of dieting.
A fad diet is a diet that promises you quick weight loss. They target mainly women, but a large percentage of men also buy into the lies these advertisements sell them. These diets do not have any scientific back up, and are very good at covering up that fact. Some promise to deliver all of your meals to your house, and if you stick to the plan, you will lose weight, and be happy. Some tell you to follow their meal plan and drink their supplements. Teas, shakes, and magic pills can all be sold along with the diet. Phrases often associated with fad diet marketing, and why they are lies, include:
- “10lbs in only _____ days”:When you see a promise of weight loss within a certain amount of days, it is a fad diet. Your body is unique to you, and no one can predict how much, or how quickly, weight loss will happen.
- “Fat burning”: Fat burning is a term used by the industry to suck you in. Fat burning is not a term used by medical professionals who understand how weight loss really happens. Type fat burning into google. What you will see is a whole bunch of diets and meal plans promising fast weight loss.
- “Look like _______”:Insert whatever celebrity name you want. Celebrities do not look like they do because they drink a certain brand of tea, and eat carrots for breakfast. They look like that because their livelihood depends on it. They invest hours of their time into looking that way; it is their job.
If fad diets don’t work, why do people buy them?
They do work. There is a very good chance you will lose weight. We all have that friend who did a 21-day challenge and lost 10lbs. Just because they lost 10lbs, does not mean they lost 10lbs of fat. How do you think wrestlers lose 10lbs a week before a fight? How do you think Victoria Secrets Models lose 5-10lbs the day before their show? They drop water weight. Most quick weight loss diets are designed to decrease water retention. This makes you feel successful right away, and you become a free spokesperson for them. Anytime you drastically change your carb/sugar intake, the body releases water.
When weight increases and decreases frequently in correlation with diet cycling, it is known as yo-yo dieting. You decide you want to lose weight, so you cut down on calories. The first week goes really well, and you’ve lost a couple pounds. The next week you’re invited to a birthday party. You decide to have one piece of cake, and before you know you it, you’ve eaten three pieces of cake, and are still working on the treat bag that was sent home for your kids. This makes you feel like a failure, causing you to continue eating whatever you want for a couple of weeks. By now you’ve gained back more weight than you lost while you were on the diet. So, you decide to start the diet again. Some people continue on this cycle their whole lives, never being satisfied with the results. This can cause damage to your metabolism. The body is created to survive. When you starve it, which frequently happens when people diet, your body panics, and starts to slow down its processes to conserve energy. It wants to hold onto the stored fat because it doesn’t know when it is going to receive more food. When you do decide to eat a normal amount of food again, the body takes it in and stores what it can in case you decide to starve it again later. This sets you on a cycle of weight loss and weight gain. Each round of yo-yo dieting only further damages the body.
What about Paleo, Zone, or Weight Watchers?
I have seen all three of these diets work for people. I have also seen all three of these diets go horribly wrong for others. You are a unique individual, and saying that one diet will work for you and the entire world is like forcing everyone to where the same shoe size. A few people will find it is their perfect fit, while everyone else will be horribly uncomfortable. What you should look for is a lifestyle you can adopt and stick too. You shouldn’t wake up in the morning in a panic wondering what you are going to eat. Stock your fridge with foods that you love, but are also nutrient dense. Surround yourself with better options so that it is easy to make healthy choices. Find what works for you. Some of us know what good health should look and feel like. If you’re not sure what it looks like for you, there are many health professionals that will help you develop a plan. Naturopaths, Nutritionists, and well-educated Doctors can all be excellent resources throughout your health journey.
If I don’t diet, how will I get my perfect body?
Ah, the crucial question. I won’t lie, I’ve had moments of looking in the mirror wishing I could change things. We all have moments where we judge ourselves too harshly, and forget that what we are really working towards is lifelong health. Think about that “perfect” body. Why is it perfect? Who told you that was the perfect body? I’m guessing it wasn’t anyone who truly cares about you. The people that care about and love you want you to be happy and healthy. They don’t care what you look like, as long as they know you’re healthy. Maybe an even more important question is, why am I putting so much of my self-worth in how I look rather than how I feel? A bonus of getting healthier is that the body will naturally want to be the best version of itself, resulting in you feeling and looking better.
The truth is this: health is so much more than being thin. It’s so much more than having big muscles. It’s so much more than sculpted abs. You need to know what you really want. If you want to be thin, but don’t care how you feel, fad diets might work. If you want big muscles that aren’t functional, they make drugs for that. If you want health and happiness, time and commitment are what it’s going to take. Health is a journey that you have to take one day at a time. I have no magic solution for weight loss. Like I said, each of us is so unique that one size does not fit all. I do, however, have a few life tips that have proven to help people improve their health, and for some that equates to weight loss.
- Food is fuel; give your body what it needs!Our bodies are complex machines. Ensuring we get enough carbohydrates, protein, fat, water, vitamins, and minerals is essential to our health. You can read about the first three in my previous posts. It is also important to ensure we do not get an excess of any of these. Working with a professional can help ensure you are on the right track.
- Do something active every day.This is so important to all aspects of our health. Exercise is medicine.
- Prioritize sleep. As previously mentioned in an earlier post, sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise. We need good quality sleep to keep our body balanced. If sleep is something you struggle with, you should talk to a health care professional as soon as possible, and get the help you need.
- Be kind.Try taking the focus off yourself and put it on others. There is nothing more important to our health than the relationships we have with the people we love.
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Eat your veggies!