Diet culture is everywhere. It’s in magazines and on TV. It’s even in the palm of your hand, on social media, as influencers post about diet and health with their picture perfect bodies and paid advertisements.
On the surface, these influencers seem to be promoting health and fitness for the benefit of their followers, but their posts are often more harmful than healthy.
According to Rebecca Hambright MS, RDN, a dietitian and nutrition therapist, influencers on the social media platform TikTok oversimplify the rules of diets, resulting in the skew of their viewer’s minds, promoting this toxic diet culture as a means to make money through the advertisements. These influencers can even overshadow actual nutritionists. Oftentimes, these diets that influencers promote are not actually tested by them, which just results in more false advertising and irreparable damage to the viewers who believe it.
These social media promoted “fad” diets should not be so widely spread, as they come with so many risks and negative effects.
With all “fad” diets, specifically the popular ones people constantly see on social media, come with many risks, even if they seem healthy or beneficial. Going on diets such as Atkins, Mediterranean and Keto diet, to lose weight can also cause crucial nutrition loss and add the risk of developing health issues such as fatigue, malnutrition, dizziness, heart problems and hypoglycemia. However, these complications won’t ever be advertised on any influencer’s page.
These diets don’t only have negative impacts on physical health, they also can be harmful to mental health. Diet culture and “Fad” diets have connections to depression, anxiety and even eating disorders. Diet culture promotes unhealthy habits and horrible relationships with food. Senior researcher Lizzy Pope, associate professor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at the University of Vermont, states that diet culture has a strong impact on young people specifically.
“Each day, millions of teens and young adults are being fed content on TikTok that paints a very unrealistic and inaccurate picture of food, nutrition and health,” Pope said. “Getting stuck in weight loss TikTok can be a really tough environment, especially for the main users of the platform, which are young people.”
Additionally, there is evidence that suggests that dieting does not even work in the long run. According to Robert H. Shmerling, MD with Harvard Health Publishing, any benefits that come out of dieting, whether it be weight loss or health improvement, will all fade away after a year off the diet. People normally don’t stick to diets as they are not permanent fixes to health issues or losing weight. There is hardly any point in risking physical and mental health for a result that will eventually unravel.
In diet culture, and simply just being a teenager comparing themselves to every social media influencer, it is common to equate health with looks and weight. Some may also argue that there is evidence that “fad” diets can help with weight loss, confidence and health.
While those diets can contribute to rapid weight loss, it is often entirely restrictive and unhealthy. Yes, the numbers on the scale go down, but so do muscle and nutrition as well as mental health. Nothing about that is healthy.
People should remember the true definition of the word “diet,” which is the food one consumes for nourishment. It is best to prioritize eating both healthy, balanced meals, and also the foods you enjoy. It is balance that promotes health, not strict unsustainable “fad” diets.