Falling for a Fad Diet

Losing weight. It’s what every celebrity accomplishes so easily, what every other woman dreams of, and what every trashy tabloid profits off of. From a very young age, we are all programmed to think that there is only one acceptable type of body

tabloid weight loss
Collage of tabloid weight loss headlines

but a thousand ways to acquire this body. Magazines and publications trash the idea of “fad diets,” but turn right around and encourage the best juice cleanse Gwyneth Paltrow is doing these days.

What is a fad diet?

A fad diet is exactly what it says it is. It’s specific (often outrageous, drastic, or flat out dangerous) diet or eating routine that comes around, makes waves for a bit, and eventually fades in popularity. In the meantime, news of weight loss success spreads like wildfire. The thirst for a lower body fat percentage can’t be quenched fast enough, and motivation skyrockets. Humans are inherently impatient. We crave instant success almost as much as we crave cheeseburgers. So what’s the problem with a fad diet? If it’s fast, efficient, and effective, what’s the big deal?

When we witness it firsthand, the weight loss success of our peers is often too tempting to stay away from. Momentarily, logic is taken over by a spike in motivation and inspiration. The results are right there in front of you! Last spring, my friend began a program called Ideal Protein. This program is focused on a drastic reduction of carbohydrates, and an increase in protein

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Advertisement for Ideal Protein

consumption. At first, I was skeptical. The body needs carbohydrates; they’re not all bad. Obviously everyone could cut down on their sugar intake, but how much is too much? Yet, Ideal Protein coaches are trained to counteract this skepticism. They present the science: This drastic diet change puts the body into a metabolic state referred to as “ketosis.” After the body no longer has enough carbohydrates to burn for energy, the body transitions into this ketogenic state. This metabolic process converts fat stores into ketones, which the body uses for energy instead. Then, the weight falls off. Easy, right? No more pasta, no more bread, no more sugar, period. Losing weight is finally made easy – no carbs, just protein

ideal protein energyand healthy fats. The program makes money through pre-packaged foods that serve as a replacement for food items that are typically carb-heavy, such as chips, pancakes mixes, soups, shake mixes, jello, etc. Every week, the customer purchases 3 foods for every day of the week. The foods usually come out to around $100/week on average. However, the cost is outweighed by the results: 2-3 pounds lost per week is typical. My friend lost 20 pounds in two months.

So of course, I was in. I had never successfully lost weight in my life. I tried eating healthy and exercising religiously, but the slow (or non-apparent) results always left me discouraged until I tried all over again a few months later. It was a neverending cycle, and I was fed up. I always looked down at fad diets with a hefty dose of incredulity, but seeing my friend drop over 10% of her weight in such a short period of time changed my perspective completely.

Before I started the diet, I was so fed up with my appearance. I had reached a tipping point. I would do absolutely anything to lose weight, but I was also impatient. I wanted something that worked efficiently, and quickly. I was that typical “before” picture. Unhappy and clearly trying to make the best of a bad situation.

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First week of diet / Week of weight loss goal achieved

So, the first week of the diet was difficult, but my motivation was higher than it had ever been, so it went by quickly. All I had to do was tell myself that sticking to the diet now would pay off later.

And it did.

I lost 50 pounds over the span of 6 months. This wasn’t an unhealthy rate (sticking right at about 2 pounds/week), but my habits became severely unhealthy. I refused any carbohydrates that came my way, even at social gatherings or university events. Countless times I sat around my friends and drank water as they indulged in free pizza

posse east
The good ‘ol porch of Posse East, where beer is too plentiful

or sandwiches. The only time I ever allowed myself to cheat was at parties, where 3 drinks (without any carbs in my system to soak up the alcohol) put me on the floor. One particularly bad night after a successful week on the diet, I couldn’t even finish one pitcher of Amber Ale before I was blacked out. This wasn’t a facet of a hidden problem or addiction to alcohol. The truth was, I was depriving my body of nutrients that resulted in dangerous situations.

I lost 20% of my body weight that semester. While it seemed like the happiest time of my life, I later realized that watching the number on the scale fall lower and lower became an addictionscale itself. It was the best feeling, but I started to realize it was dangerous. After I reached my goal of 50 pounds in December and decided to quit the diet, I immediately gained water weight from consuming carbs again. My body didn’t know how to react to the introduction of an entire food group that I had cut out for so long. I binged on all of the foods I hadn’t touched for 6 months. The overwhelming plethora of choices available to me made it almost impossible to make responsible, healthy decisions.

Luckily, I didn’t gain the 50 pounds back. I’m working on making healthier decisions overall, but since Ideal Protein, my entire relationship with food has changed–mentally and physically.

The issue with strict diets that cut out specific food groups, or even solid food itself (like a juice cleanse) is that our bodies were not made to live solely on protein, fat, or carbohydrates individually. Taking away certain food groups or drastically restricting food intake changes our metabolism. The human species has survived through famine and droughts. Our bodies have evolved to keep us alive through malnutrition, meaning

StarvationGraphic
“Why ‘Diets’ Don’t Work & How to Avoid Starvation Mode” by Dr. Axe

our bodies can and will adapt to a starvation trigger. An article in the Washington Post outlines an interview with Traci Mann, a psychology professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied eating habits, self-control, and dieting for over 20 years. Mann describes how neurological, hormonal, and metabolic changes encompass the 3 major biological factors that affect our bodies while losing weight. “When you are dieting, you actually become more likely to notice food. Basically your brain becomes overly responsive to food, and especially to tasty looking food. But you don’t just notice it — it actually begins to look more appetizing and tempting. It has increased reward value. So the thing you’re trying to resist becomes harder to resist. So already, if you think about it, it’s not fair,” Mann explains as she describes the neurological aspect of dieting. She goes on to describe how hormones that control hunger and fullness are affected by changes in food intake. Thus, in the long run, diets only make us hungrier as we lose the ability to feel full. Lastly, the metabolism slows down as the body adjusts to use calories more efficiently. “Which sounds like a good thing, and would be good thing if you’re starving to death. But it isn’t a good thing if you’re trying to lose weight, because when your body finds a way to run itself on fewer calories there tends to be more leftover, and those get stored as fat, which is exactly what you don’t want to happen,” she says to finalize the biological issues of dieting.

However, the biggest issue within the diet/health community is shaming. Constantly, psychologists, dietitians, and nutritionists go back and forth about the right way to lose weight and be healthy. The problem is that the community making an effort to get healthy suffers the most when one side constantly shames the other. Ketosis, for example, is a metabolic process proven to treat seizure disorders as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Yet, drastic changes in food intake can still be toxic for mental as well as physical health. Now, the most necessary action to be taken is creating an open dialogue for fad diets without faulty motivations like making money (like diet programs Jenny Craig or Nutrisystem) or acquiring a specific body that is deemed essential for happiness (as persuaded by tabloids and media).

Sources:

https://washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/05/04/why-diets-dont-actually-work-according-to-a-researcher-who-has-studied-them-for-decades/?utm_term=.f7b7f23c469f


This long-form piece would be best for Women’s Health. Psychology Today would also possibly be a good venue, but Women’s Health would be best in my opinion since it does include a personal vignette within the article. Women’s Health has a fairly good reputation of promoting healthy lifestyles and not promoting fad diets, although, as this piece describes, it’s easy to fall victim to it. Although men also suffer from body image issues, I feel that women are targeted in tabloids and media, so I feel like this piece is directed more towards a female-identifying audience. I also think that it could be placed in a younger publication like Cosmopolitan or Teen Vogue, where it could portray some of the issues with fad dieting, especially from a college-age point of view. 

Falling for a Fad Diet

Losing weight. It’s what every celebrity accomplishes so easily, what every other woman dreams of, and what every trashy tabloid profits off of. From a very young age, we are all programmed to think that there is only one acceptable type of body, but there are a thousand ways to acquire this body. fad dietMagazines and publications trash the idea of “fad diets,” but turn right around and encourage the best juice cleanse Gwyneth Paltrow is doing these days.

What is a fad diet?

A fad diet is exactly what it says it is. It’s specific (often outrageous, drastic, or flat out dangerous) diet or eating routine that comes around, makes waves for a bit, and eventually fades in popularity. In the meantime, news of weight loss success spreads like wildfire. The thirst for a lower body fat percentage can’t be quenched fast enough, and motivation skyrockets. Humans are inherently impatient. We crave instant success almost as much as we crave cheeseburgers. So what’s the problem with a fad diet? If it’s fast, efficient, and effective, what’s the big deal?

The issue with strict diets that cut out specific food groups, or even solid food itself (like a juice cleanse) is that our bodies were not made to live solely on protein, fat, or carbohydrates individually. Taking away certain food groups or drastically restricting food intake affects our metabolism. The human species has survived through famine and droughts. Our bodies have evolved to keep us alive through malnutrition, meaning our bodies can (and will) adapt to a starvation trigger.

However, the success of our peers is too tempting to stay away from. Momentarily, logic is taken over by a spike in motivation and inspiration. The results are right there in front of you! Losing weight is finally made easy – no carbs, just protein and healthy fats. This diet was proposed to me by a friend.

ketogenic diet
Picture diagram that represents portions of protein and fat in a ketogenic diet.

This drastic reduction of carb intake puts the body into a metabolic state referred to as “ketosis.” Soon, the body burns fat stores for energy, and the weight falls off. Easy, right? No more pasta, no more bread, no more sugar, period.

 

The Refined Taste of Refinery29

refinery-29

Refinery29 is a digital media platform founded in 2005 by Justin Stefano, Philippe von Borries, Piera Gelardi, and Christene Barberich. Originally established as a fashion-focused website based out of New York City, the website has branched out to cover beauty, living, entertainment, how-to, and news. They started out as guide/helpful how-tos for navigating the city’s fashion-centered landscape. What hasn’t changed, however, is their audience. They cater to an 18-35 age group of “stylish, intelligent women who crave thought-provoking conversation around limitless ideals,” as the R29 corporate website states. You’ve probably seen their articles promoted or shared on Facebook, where they’ve gathered a significant following. They publish over 2,000 stories a month, which provide readers constant updates to fashion/beauty trends, news, and entertainment.

“The mission is to build the most important media company of this generation for millennial women.”

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Justin Stefano and Phillipe von Borries, co-founders of Refinery29

When it comes to content provided, Refinery29 has significantly refined and expanded their domain. “The core has remained the same, which was producing content for our audience every day. We’ve just followed our users and what they respond to and what they want,” co-founder Justin Stefano explained in an interview by Rebecca Borison for Inc.com. From the website, it’s quite clear that Refinery29 is a comprehensive go-to guide for everything a young woman living her best life could need. With over 400 contributors, Refinery29 is able to cater to a variety of tastes and interests, as well as cover a multitude of perspectives and opinions that help an audience relate to the site. “The mission is to build the most important media company of this generation for millennial women,” co-founder Phillipe von Borries states.


 

laura delarato article
Image from Laura Delarato’s article on Plus-Size Women

Laura Delarato is a regular contributor for Refinery29. She writes about a variety of topics, almost all targeted towards a female-identifying audience. Her most recent article has a title that grabs at anyone dealing with body image issues of their own – “Plus-Size Women Are Still Not Considered Sexy—& That’s a Problem.” Some of her other articles focus on the women’s movement in light of recent events, but she also includes more light-hearted pieces that cater to the site’s fashion-focused mind. “Why We Need Female Representation in Film” and “3 Ways to Rock a Dress When It’s Super Cold Outside” are two articles by Delarato that show her ability to span a wide range of topics along a spectrum of depth. Delarato is a great example of the kind of contributors that help Refinery29 thrive. She writes what is relevant to her own life and her experiences because there is some portion of the Refinery29 audience that she will be able to reach.

refinery29-2

This is where Refinery29 shines. They have a media site similar to that of Bustle or Insider, with the sparkly essence of Marie Claire and the political undertones of Teen Vogue. They realize that the best way to reach their target audience is to understand that an incredibly diverse team of contributors is necessary. As a lifestyle guide, no category can or should be left untouched. And, such as life, categories blur together and unrelated pieces will run side by side. An article about the most efficient New York morning beauty routine can, and probably will, find itself sitting next to what happened in the most recent Homeland Security briefing with the POTUS.

refinery29-3.jpgAs for social media, Refinery29 bloomed through the success of Facebook, where they now claim over 4 million followers. With the more recent updates of Snapchat, Refinery29 has found their place among Buzzfeed, Cosmo, and MTV under the stories category. They reach their audience where they know they can find them. They refine the site’s taste based on what they know will help them succeed. Refinery29 has evolved in the digital age and we will continue to see them grow and foster relevant media to the strengthening movement of today’s women.

 

 

“No” is More Than a Two Letter Word

by Joan Didion

Online re-mediation by Dauphine Sizer

There is a kind of morning when the world takes on for me the general aspect of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. The tulips on Park Avenue appear to be dirty. The mail contains a post card which touches me with malevolence because it is written in that vacant, untroubled backhand commonly affected by young women who wear sleeveless printed lawn blouses and Bermuda shorts. One friend exhibits his essential venality by failing to ask how I feel; another his pervasive banality by asking. Noli me tangere, sweetie.

hieronymusbosch
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. Bosch is known for his incredibly detailed and chaotic paintings that often portray a critique of society on various levels.

Although I would naturally prefer to think my malaise sympomatic of some acute moral superiority or perilously heightened critical faculty, this particular brand of disaffection is known, in more objective circles, by a depressingly clinical name. It happens to most of us some of the time; it happens to some of us most of the time. It is called repressed hostility, and it afflicts with most monotony those of us who most resemble Ira Gershwin’s Poor Jenny (bright as a penny), whose problem it was in twenty-seven languages she couldn’t say no.

We could scarcely feel hostile, after all, if we did not feel threatened.

To be unable to say no is eventually to feel coerced..

..so entirely at the mercy of others that the most casual or reasonable pressure—an invitation to dinner, a letter that calls for an answer—seems and unreasonable demand, one last grievance among the many with which one is asked to put up.

            All the while, we are nonetheless enmeshing ourselves in fresh webs of unwilling acquiescence. Of course we can be in Dallas Monday next, since you asked, although both love and money require that we be in New York; naturally you should come by for a drink in five minutes, although we are in bed, will have to send out for bourbon, and are reduced to quivering ennui by the very thought of you. Asked to do a favour for someone we do not much like, we will disappoint our families, miss appointments, rise from sick beds—because what excuse, however valid, could possible veil our real distate? If we are seated at dinner next to a man we have never before met and he begins a mild flirtation, we feel a certain nagging compulsion to behave as if the vichyssoise contained the potion brewed by Iseult’s mother; we appear to be forever overdoing things.

The crucial phrase here, however, is “appear to be.” Far from overdoing things, we who can not say no rarely do them at all. Once down to the wire, we seldom make it to Dallas on a Monday next. What we do instead is feel guilty that we did not.

The guilt, in at least one sense, is entirely deserved. In almost every instance, we have managed to cloud the issue with out oblique promises, tentative assurances, delicate deceptions, our compulsive variations on the theme she didn’t say yes but she didn’t say no.

An Article in Psychology Today On the Difficulty of Saying “No”

Backed to the wall, a young woman I once knew explained to an admirer that any more lasting arrangement was quite out of the question because he was in the habit of dictating letters at home and she, unlike his present wife, did not take shorthand. There was no need for me to ask how she had hit upon that particular explanation, or why she thought it was more plausible than the real one, which was simply that she did not feel one way or another about him. I knew even as she told me. Her own wishes, after all, scarcely seemed germane; this detail about this shorthand did. It had the sound of a problem one could put one’s finger on, had about it the air of reality that her own preferences or inclination so noticeably lacked. Somewhere along the way she had, in brief, lost touch with herself.

It is precisely this kind of breakdown of communication with oneself that underlies an incapacity for the straightforward no. It is possible to decide between desires and obligations; it is possible to decide between divergent desires. It is not possible—except arbitrarily—to decide between unknown quantities. Quite simply, to make up one’s mind requires knowing it.

Those who lack that sense of reality about their own present or future are naturally incapable of saying no; they can make, in fact, no decisions at all. Instead, they play roles, the more improbably the better. I recall thinking, one hot California July, that I wanted to marry a golf pro.golf1 It was not his charm, although he may even have had some; nor was it that we shared what marriage counselors sometimes call “a mutuality of interests.” It was precisely that we did not. Although my aversion to outdoor games normally approaches the pathological, he first endeared himself to me by assuming, when I once mentioned Joseph Conrad, that I had in mind a Lieutenant Joe Conrad who had that year won both the Trans-Mississippi and the Southern Amateur, the latter, if I recall correctly, by a six-to-four margin at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas. I instantly perceived the dramatic possibilities in my being the wife of a golf pro: it had overtones of Main Street and A Lost Lady and Follow the Sun and even Pylon, and I was so entranced that it took me some weeks to realize that not only did this particular gold pro have every intention of entering the Bank of America training program come September but he also had a fairly clear idea of who the other Joseph Conrad was, had even read Almayer’s Folly, which I had not. Once these and similar points were established, the spell was broken; the role had ceased to be playable, had threatened to present the same troubling uncertainties and ambiguities that characterized real life.

Whether our indecisiveness is chronic or occasional, those of us who harbour uncertainty as to what we want have, clearly, a vested interest in not finding out. It relieves us of the possibility of discovering that our feelings, in general or in regard to some one question, are something other than we might have hoped. As a counter agent devises a cover story, we devise situations that would seem to preclude the possibility of choice, remove the threat of responsibility. We like our stage directions clear: enter the wronged wife. If there is one thing irresistible to us, it is a good cross to bear; we are fatally drawn toward anyone who seems to offer a way out of ourselves. No one, of course, really does. At first attracted to those who seem capable of forcing the hand, we then resent their apparent refusal to understand us, their failure to be both Svengali and someone to watch over me.

theater1          There is a kind of dream—a nightmare, really—in which one is pushed onto a stage just as the curtain rises. Because it is too late to find out what the play is, let alone what part one is expected to play, one can only watch nervously for clues; could that cocker spaniel in the wings mean that someone is playing Elizabeth Barrett? Who? Why, in any case, is the orchestra playing the Pal Joey overture? And if the spaniel is accidental and the game really Pal Joey, what are those Lunts doing downstage? In mounting desperation, one scrutinizes the other actors, strains for possible cues, leaps miserably from improvisation to improvisation.


It is a dream that inevitably ends in cold panic, as does the malaise it so resembles. When we have so lost the sense of self that we have no idea what part we want to play, we feel compelled to succeed in every role offered—and end up succeeding in none. Oversensitized to every ambiguous cue, our performances emerge at best as brilliant improvisations. In no case do they bear even the most tenuous relation to our own wants, interests, or obligations. Incapable of perceiving exactly what we are, we try instead to be everything that’s asked of us—or, more accurately—everything that we think has been asked of us.

The irony is that we never really know. Our very anxiety gives us a peculiar selective deafness; listening obsessively for certain nuances in the lyrics, we never quite catch the tune. Should a friend call to say that she is ill, we wonder not what we can do for her but what she expects us to do for her; should someone say that he loves us, we respond not to him but to something we interpret as the claim in his voice.

Claim is a word that crops up in the inner vocabulary of someone who can’t say no with the approximate frequency that it does around the Metropolitan Life office. No claims on me: It gives us away, even to ourselves. Although the compulsively complaisant appear to be loving and generous to a fault, they are, in the most disabling sense, closed to the world. To be unable to say no is really to be totally egocentric: one wants to please only because pleasing alleviates one’s own angst.

Forced to please everyone, we usually end up pleasing no one—least of all those we should want most to please. It is easier to snarl at one’s husband than to tell a casual acquantance that one is too busy to see him; easier to disappoint one’s father than to refuse a favour to someone one scarcely knows. One’s husband and father, after all, can be won again; the rest of the world must be won now or not at all.

If we fail to discriminate between our real and imagined obligations, we become so paralyzed by the enormity of what seem to be the claims and cross-claims upon us that we are unable to meet even the most reasonable ones. There is no charm strong enough, no sedative potent enough, to enable us to be all things to all people; to try to be Hetty Green at four o’clock, Guinevere at five, and Caroline English at six is finally to forget whoever it is we see in the mirror. One finally loses all sense of one’s own wants and needs, comes to exist only in the approval of others. Something seems to have been mislaid, and it is futile to look in the drawer with the birth certificate, the passport, and the Book of Common Prayer inscribed by the Bishop; useless to call the lost-and-found, pointless to wonder whether one had it that day on the New Haven. The article lost would would be hard to describe. When did I last have my self?