The dangers of dieting

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Content Warning: Discussions of harmful dieting and eating disorders

New year is seen by many as the time to recreate yourself. Whether it’s by learning another language, finally going on that holiday you have always wanted to go on or trying to finish that book that has been living on your bookshelf for years, it’s the chimes of Big Ben which tell people its time to make a lifestyle change.

There is no group of people this applies to more than for the estimated 20 million people in the UK who will be trying to achieve their perfect summer body by going on a diet and losing weight. 

This group sees the new year as a way of becoming healthy and achieving their “perfect body” by starting to take part in regular exercise, by eating healthy or a mixture of both.

This is something that is recognised by both the gym and food industries. Gyms often target memberships at this group, lowering prices after new year or making new deals to lure people into signing for a gym membership with the promise of it being worth their money.

However, the mindset of a “new year, new me” is deeply harmful and damaging. While it is done successfully and safely by many, the unsafe diets that are promoted by this culture are harmful for many of those who do it.

The mindset of a “new year, new me” is deeply harmful and damaging

This impact has been furthered by the rise of unsafe diets being promoted online. Open one social media app, be that TikTok, Snapchat or Instagram and it is likely you will be bombarded by young, skinny and attractive men and women trying to sell exercise videos and diets to anyone who will watch their five-minute videos.

By using themselves as living examples, these “influencers” push their lifestyles and diets as a one way fits all path to achieving what they think their viewers will want.

However the diets they are promoting are often not grounded in any sense of reality for the average watcher and lack a warning on the impact they could have on your health. Though many dieticians on social media, especially on TikTok, are working to dispel the myths surrounding the diet this has not worked. 

Despite the work of these individuals’ studies have found that TikTok is promoting unhealthy diet culture, especially among teens and young people. This is promoting excessive dieting and calorie cutting which has been seen to increase eating disorders, something that is increasingly true in the “new year new me” time of year.

It is not only social media which promotes these dangerous diets, and they are not the only source of the problem. Morning Breakfast show This Morning has continually been criticised for the diets it promotes such as only consuming 800 calories today (the recommended healthy amount is 2000 for a women and 2500 for a men) for rapid weight loss.

Society seemingly recognises the dangers of dieting in one breadth and critised, but every year seems to take the fireworks of new year as permission to promote diets and lifestyles changes which are often rooted in unfounded science and dangerous ideas.

This is despite the rise in knowledge of the harms that unhealthy dieting can have on mental health. Eating disorders are becoming more widespread with an estimated 3.4 million people impacted by them. By promoting the idea of a “new year new me” mindset without keeping in mind the harmful impact that this has, we are unwittingly helping push a mindset which leads to a disorder which has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

Eating disorders are becoming more widespread with an estimated 3.4 million people impacted by them

If you want to start taking steps to become healthy, don’t be dissuaded. Going to the gym and making healthy life choices, even if prompted by New Year, are a great way to make sure you live longer and with less health complications.

However, it is important to recognise what mindset you are doing it from and be aware that the diet you see online may not be the best one for you, even if it looked convincing when you first saw it. It is also important to recognise the importance of your mental health – never think you have to prioritise your physical health over it.

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