At the start of the new year, resolutions run rampant and gym memberships are purchased with the best of intentions. However, New Year’s resolutions have a tendency of being unrealistic, which leads to them inevitably fizzling out and leaving us feeling disappointed. Some of the most difficult goals to reach are related to health and dieting. The rise of social media, podcasting, and health influencers have all led to an influx of fad diets – all being promoted as the best way to lose weight and achieve optimal health fast.
The biggest issue with the prominence of these all-or-nothing diets is that they call for calorie restrictions that are very difficult to adhere to. Diets like keto, carnivore and paleo are all heavily restrictive, and jumping into them often leads to short-term success that is unsustainable over time.
These diets are not necessarily negative, but the mindset that one is right for everyone is problematic. Different diets work for different people depending on health history, lifestyle and genetic factors. It is important to ease into changes and see how they work for you before committing fully.
The messaging surrounding weight loss is often focused on calorie counting. Sure, being mindful of what you eat is important, but counting calories is not always the healthiest way to achieve your desired results. Calories that come from whole, nutrient-dense foods are not the same as those that come from processed foods. Restricted calories do not equal a healthy, balanced diet.
Counting calories can also be detrimental to your mental health. While some people can separate their self-image from the numbers they are keeping track of, many have a hard time keeping track of everything they eat without feeling ashamed or guilty when they aren’t perfectly on track with their goals.
Social media plays a critical role in the popularity of these diet and weight loss trends, as there are hundreds of influencers sharing their health journeys online every day. Things like “what I eat in a day” videos on TikTok and YouTube and advertisements for calorie counting apps act as constant influences on the “right” way to eat and be healthy.
There is nothing wrong with looking to people online for inspiration on healthy meals, workouts and habits if you don’t know where to start, but there is a problem when people start comparing themselves to others who are likely only sharing their best days of routines.
We as a society need to work harder to spread the message dieting and exercise are subjective, and while discussing health and wellness online inspires many good ideas, each individual needs to figure out what works for them. That might be committing to an elimination diet or it may be incorporating aspects of a few; the important thing to remember is that the “right” diet is whichever one works best for you.
Liv Briley is a senior integrated marketing communications major from Lemont, Ill.