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What is considered a correct diet? According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, dieting is defined as “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight”. The most popular diets within the last year include Atkins, vegan, vegetarian, and even Weight Watchers, each with their own results for losing weight. The idea of dieting dates back to William Banting during the late 18th century, who was formerly obese and is known for being the first to popularize a weight loss diet.
Dieting has become a social media phenomenon due to the abundance of nutritional advice we can access, influenced often by bloggers, Instagram, and other advertisers. In recent years, several interested groups have debated the main question: does dieting really work, and can it lead to mental and behavioral disorders? One group of stakeholders tends to say that dieting is the best way to get fit and healthy, prioritizing overall appearance over mental health. Another group believes that dieting can result in negative mental health effects, prioritizing their health over physical appearance. Finally, some believe that diets are the number one way to get healthy; however, they can also lead to substantial mental health problems and disorders.
How it works
In the article “Why Dieting Doesn’t Work,” Joanna Kay argues that dieting does not work and can lead to mental health diagnoses. She claims that people should avoid dieting because it can disrupt the relationship between food and the brain. Joanna Kay is a New York City writer and a survivor of anorexia nervosa; she’s passionate about helping people diagnosed with an eating disorder due to dieting. She has written for websites like National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and Healthy Minds Canada, among others, about food and health. The stakeholders involved are the dieters, their families, and the dieting industries. Many dieters are affected due to reduced food portions, decreased calorie intake, and strict diet routines. Furthermore, according to Kay, people who diet often do not understand the negative effects it has on their body and mental health.
Kay argues that dieting can lead to weight gain rather than weight loss, and is a primary factor of eating disorders due to its disruption of the body’s natural relationship with food. She also claims that not eating and restricting foods can result in the body signaling a possible food shortage, which then sends the body into “starvation mode”. In this state, the body slows down to allocate caloric energy towards important functions such as maintaining the heart and brain. Kay asserts that health is compromised by dieting, as it can lower body temperature and, in females, halt menstrual periods due to inadequate nutrition. Additionally, ignoring hunger can increase the risk of binge eating, anorexia nervosa, or purging, because the body is desperately seeking food.
Therefore, Kay asserts that dieting can create a shortage of nutrition and caloric intake that can greatly impact your health. Another point that Kay states is the fact that many people do not understand how frustrating our body’s natural relationship with food can be, leading to misconceptions about dieting and losing weight. Kay asserts, “like our early ancestors,” our bodies tend to add on unwanted weight because they believe we are in a state of famine. Kay explains that when someone diets frequently, their body tends to protect itself by holding onto the unwanted weight due to the dieter’s erratic eating schedule. Kay also expresses that either eating according to a specific schedule or under-eating can result in “eating when you’re not hungry”.
Kay also focuses on the idea that dieting can lead to the diagnosis of mental disorders and behavioral consequences. Kay uses the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, a magazine that shows prolonged dieting can lead to an increase of depression, lethargy, and irritability during World War II. In the same article, Kay states that “…restricting certain foods rather than skipping meals… under-eating can also cause these symptoms”. Furthermore, Kay argues that adhering to a diet can lead to an increase in behavioral changes and mental disorders due to how people perceive their bodies.
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