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Debunking Toxic Diet Culture

The definition of the word “healthy” looks different for everyone. However, what it doesn’t look like; switching between new diets every month, and making yourself miserable because of it. 

In today’s world, there’s no doubt you’ve had conversations with friends, classmates, co-workers, aunts, or even complete strangers who have tried to tell you about “this new diet that is totally gonna change your whole life around.” 

Well guess what, Karen; I’m not interested in your new diet. And I certainly will not be indulging in this illusion that dieting promotes a healthy lifestyle. Because it doesn’t. 

You may have heard the term “Toxic Diet Culture” before. This refers to the practice of hearing about a new diet, trying it, then abandoning it with minimal or no results. This is often because of trends or advertising which leads individuals to believe that this new food regime or way of eating is going to help them lose weight once and for all. This reels people into the trends known as “fad diets.” 

But the truth is, dieting or restricting food intake for a limited time is simply unsustainable. Changing your habits for a short period of time – or going on a diet for a few weeks – does not cause long term change. 

Let’s talk about a few of the most common “fad diets” and debunk their effectiveness once and for all. 

First up; the Low-Carbohydrate diet. 

There seems to be a longstanding taboo against bread. But why? What did that loaf of bread ever do to you? Carbs are so integral to the functioning of your body that some nutritionists suggest that you have one or more carbs with every meal. The reasoning; carbs turn into glucose, and glucose passes the barrier into your brain. Which means that bowl of pasta is literally giving your brain the energy it needs to function every day. 

Next; the Low-Fat diet. 

This is a common misconception that lowering your fat intake means less “fat” on your body. However, fats actually HELP your body absorb essential vitamins such as Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D. 

Now, Keto/Paleo/Macro Diets. 

All of these are very high-maintenance and require a lot of planning and calculating. They involve specific, strict intake levels of high fat and low carb meals. Unless you’re a professional athlete, dont go through all this trouble to create an unhealthy habit. Your heart and kidneys will thank me later. 

Intermittent fasting. 

This one has gained a lot of hype over the past few years. The concept of only eating food throughout a few hours each day is extremely inconvenient and unsustainable. Restricting the hours you’re “allowed to eat” just leads to lower calorie intake, which can lead to temporary weight loss. This has nothing to do with the time of day you consume food. 

Juice cleanses/smoothies for days/only-raw-foods-until-some-ungodly-hour-of-the-day diets. 

These all fall under the same issue. Consuming too much fruit or raw materials can cause a lack of energy, protein, and minerals in your body. All of these are unsustainable and will not lead to a more healthful lifestyle. Also, only eating raw food can put you at serious risk for food poisoning. 

In case its not already clear, fad diets are unsustainable and will not cause long-term change. Instead of bouncing from one diet to the next, follow in these three simple words. 

Moderation. Variation. Balance. 

These three words will guide you to finding a healthful mix of foods which are both nutritious, and tasty. If you want to have that last slice of birthday cake? Do it. I’ll bet it’s delicious. Do you love crafting fun salads for yourself? Go Girl! Get those greens! 

You don’t need a short term fix. There is no shortcut to physical and mental well-being.

If you want to see a change in your diet or health goals, you need to be in it for the long haul. Making lifestyle goals which are attainable and sustainable will lead to an overall more healthy and happy version of you. Instead of bouncing from one trend to another or investing in some meal plan, invest in YOU. You deserve it.


Jocelyn Visnov

Manhattan '24

Jocelyn is a Sophomore at Manhattan College, where she majors in Communication with a concentration in Journalism. She's a Campus Coordinator for HC Manhattan's Diamond level chapter. She's also a Staff Writer and Assistant Production Editor for The Quadrangle newspaper at MC. Jocelyn is a passionate writer who is always on the go, but never without a coffee in hand!
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