New Year’s and Diet Culture?

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The New Year opens new opportunities for diet culture to push itself into our daily lives. Diet culture has impacted Leesville students and their resolutions. (Photo courtesy of public domain)

The desire to get in shape is more apparent than ever during the New Year. Many people make weight loss or healthy eating resolutions during this time. Using these resolutions, companies exploit people’s desires for self-improvement with a flood of advertisements laced with diet culture ideals. 

What is diet culture?

Diet culture is a social concept that sets the belief that physical appearance, specifically thinness, is above mental and physical well-being.  Furthermore, it encourages the idea that a person’s social acceptance depends on their body’s appearance. With values entangled in most social media posts, diet culture is everywhere.

How is diet culture taking over the New Year? 

In an Instagram survey, 3 out of 25 Leesville students reported they had a weight loss-related resolution this year. A weight loss goal is not always pernicious; it lies within the actions taken to complete it. If someone’s goal is to eat better to lose weight, and they rely on quick-fix diets, that goal tends to be difficult to follow through with and harmful. 

Diet culture promotes unsustainable diets to get expeditious results.  Many of these diets revolve around cutting out specific food groups and pinning them as evil. This method of dieting creates unhealthy relationships with food- but also creates an unhealthy relationship with oneself. These quick diets end quickly when people fail to keep up with the overly restrictive diet. Failing to be able to complete a goal leads people to feel bad about themselves and leaves them searching for more quick and expensive fixes. Diet culture companies thrive on this; they make unsuspecting people feel bad about their bodies and themselves. 

How is this impacting Leesville?

Logan Smith, sophomore, created a weight loss goal for the 2023 new year.

“I want abs, especially for the summer,” he said. 

He said he felt pressured to slim up.  “Most of my friends have them and so does everyone on TikTok. It makes me feel embarrassed to not.”

He plans to achieve abs with a rigorous workout routine. He found the workout routine from YouTube. It promised fast results in only one month. Smith, liking the influencer, blindly followed it. 

“I was doing the workouts everyday and was supposed to continue for a month, but it turned out I had to pay for the whole series of videos after the fifth day, so that ended quickly. I had missed the third day too, because I couldn’t find the time,” he said. 

He mentioned that not being able to keep up with the workouts made him feel flawed.

“I wanted to buy the videos but realized going to the gym every day was not realistic for me and my schedule. It makes me feel bad, though, like a failure,” Smith said. 

The inability to maintain an unrealistic routine, advised by an influencer, caused Smith’s self-esteem to drop. 

Another experience.

Jordan Anderson, senior, admits she had fallen for diet culture’s tricks last New Year. 

“For five days, I followed a juice cleanse. I had to drink six servings of juice every day. They tasted horrible.”

Anderson said she had found the cleanse promoted by her favorite wellness YouTuber. She mentioned she often compared her body to that YouTuber and figured she could achieve the same body with the advertised juice detox

“I figured if someone I trusted promoted it, it would work. She offered a discount code which convinced me further,” she said. 

She bought only one day’s worth of juice. She planned to make the juice herself for the other four days and bought a recipe book. 

“The juice and the recipe book were so expensive, but I figured if it was going to detox my body and make me lose weight quickly it was worth it,” she said. 

She was able to keep up with the cleanse for five days but found it did nothing. 

“I did some research after and realized nothing is going to detox my body and make me magically lose weight,” said Anderson.

The human body automatically detoxes itself. The liver and kidneys work hard to rid harmful toxins from the body. They do not need help from a juice detox. 

“In the end it was a huge money grab that did absolutely nothing except make me cranky,” she said. 

Improvement.

Most New Year’s weight-loss resolutions fail because they fail to encourage people to build healthy, sustainable habits to receive lasting results. 

“I think it would have been more beneficial for me to build a workout routine that fit my schedule and I knew I could maintain, even if it was only once a week,” Smith said. 

He believes having a low chance of failure will prevent him from being discouraged; he will feel good about himself if he can maintain something and build the habit.

Anderson is in the same boat.

“I want to work on healthy habits this year. I heard about intuitive eating where you do not have to cut out any food groups. It seems pretty maintainable once you get the routine down,” she said. 

Diet culture worms its way into our daily life, and sometimes its presence can go unnoticed. It has worked its way into the New Year and has caused people to feel bad about themselves. It is hard to escape diet culture but focusing on building persistent and healthy habits rather than quick fixes is a good start. 

(Names changed for privacy reasons)

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