By: EMMA CHASTAIN
(Trigger warning for mentions of disordered eating and obsessive dieting) Was 2020 not stressful enough without the constant societal pressures that have burdened us every single other year? Recently, “Quarantine fifteen” has become a popular concept discussed around social media. It’s just another side effect of being indoors more, heightened stress, and the holiday season. The only difference between it and other things that have happened to countless people throughout the pandemic is that it sits in a sort of smog of shame and societal unacceptance. However, the idea of the “Quarantine fifteen” places greater weight on our minds than it does on our bodies, especially when carried into the new year.
The teenage mind is a fragile one, to say the least, and the faster we recognize this, the faster we can protect it from any irrevocable damage done by this environment we live in. First, we must recognize the traps set for us by societally pushed norms. Most prominently: diet culture. Keto, TikTok “what I eat in a day” videos —that are often far too restrictive, inaccurate, or do not provide adequate nutritional diversity for teenagers— unbalanced meal replacement shakes, random “flat belly” drinks, and intermittent fasting are all things that have not only potential physical consequences for teenagers, but also mental ones.
Teenagers are not the only ones that become entrapped in these unrealistic goals for their bodies. In fact, “At any given time, more than a third of Americans are on a specific diet, with weight loss as a leading reason.” said Rober H. Shmerling, MD in his article or Harvard Health Publishing: When dieting doesn’t work. He goes on to cite a study done on popular diets in 2020, found in the National Library of Medicine that reported: “At 12 months the effects on weight reduction and improvements in cardiovascular risk factors largely disappear.” some of the diets included in the study were a low carb one, and The Mediterranean Diet. Progress with these diets come full circle, just in time for the next new year when you can try a new one.
To go more in-depth on strict dieting, keto is a good subject. Originally created in the early 20th century, keto is intended to treat children with epilepsy, or even cancer— not weight loss. However, it was listed as one of the “Hottest Diets of 2020” in a Forbes article from early last year. This type of article further pushes weight-loss trends into our field of vision and adds toxicity to our online environment. Keto has been known to cause dehydration, fatigue, and impaired growth (in children and adolescents). In the state of the world and our rising stress levels from online schooling, overly restrictive diets seem like something that should be left behind with the rest of problematic 2020.
If the physical negative side effects of toxic, restrictive diet trends weren’t enough to encourage our abandonment of them, the mental ones should hammer the last nail into that coffin. According to NPR, in the later months of 2020, calls to the NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) hotline were up 70-80%. Disordered thinking around food is becoming increasingly common and is a dangerous mindset for teenagers to have; especially when nutrition fuels things like sports, quality of school work, and growth. Fad diets are marketed as healthy eating strategies and as paths toward a longer, thinner life. Billion and Billions of dollars are capitalized upon insecurities perpetuated by society each year. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, promoting a product or lifestyle that, along with her personal trainers and nutrition advisers, also promote an unattainable result that younger fans aspire for. Things that do nothing for the root of a problem are bought into, often doing more harm than good.
Finally, look to Lizzo, who, while living as a vegan, and sharing that choice on social media, captions her posts with things like, “Every journey is personal & deserves to be celebrated,” promoting acceptance of differences and health as a journey, rather than an image, or diet product. There is also a substantial population of qualified dietitians to let influence you online, such as (according to Self) Christy Harrison, Anna P. Sweeney, and Marissa Moore, who have social media accounts promoting anti-diet philosophies through their comments, videos, and even podcasts. Social media: sometimes, helping us look to gaining a better relationship with the idea of health.