Following on from the last post, a lot of information we see concerning fitness accumulates from social media and the internet. As a result, we are exposed to a range of bizarre and potentially dangerous health trends including fad diets.

According to Express “the average dieter follows 55 fad diets during their lifetime”. But why is there an addiction to quick fixes? Research shows the average person spends 22% of their day online (Parker & Thorson 2009). Consequently, there is a high risk of exposure to fad diets and health trends circulating our news feeds.

So what is a fad diet? Something that promises fast weight loss results with minimal effort required.

Trendy diets of 2018 include Atkins, “Keto”, Alkaline and Whole 30 as reported by Forbes. Each diet promises health benefits to improve ones fitness and general health. They are short term fixes and generally not sustainable diets.

But do these fad diets really work? There’s a lot of speculation regarding their effectiveness.

Ever heard of the “juice diet”…

Photograph of a green juice for juice fad diet

Image from pexels.com (no attribution required)

Detox, cleanse, fast…a few terms given to the juice diet. The diet claims to quick weight loss results as well as other health benefits; this includes clearer skin, ‘detoxing’ the liver and better mood. The diet typically consists avoiding solid foods and simply drinking various juices. Due to the restrictive caloric intake, most fad diets are recommended for a short period of time. This can range from three days to a week.

However, there is little scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of juice diets. They impose the risk of not getting essential nutrients only solid foods can provide. Although some claims to detoxing the gut may be true, it is not the best diet to follow for long periods of time.

What about celebrity diet tips? There is a lot of issues concerning celeb endorsements for weight loss products?

Did you see the controversy over Kim Kardashian promoting weight loss lollipops…

Photograph of Kim Kardashian West

Attribution to Eva Rinaldi [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Kim K was labelled a “toxic influence” (BBC News) after posting a photo on her Instagram advertising weight loss lollipops. With 122 million followers on her Instagram, this reveals the danger social media encapsulates with celeb endorsements.

The lollipop advertised was a product from a company who sell weight loss and diet products. Supposedly, the lollipop is an appetite suppressant in which you eat to deter food cravings. However, there is speculation to the safety of these products. The company previously had advertisements banned due to not meeting advertising regulations. If this is the case, it is worrying what individuals are exposed to online. Although the ad received substantial backlash, Kim Kardashian, known for her appearance, promotes a weight loss product therefore there is potential that some of her followers are blind, believing the product is safe. If it’s good enough for Kim, it’s good enough for us, right?

How has technology affected this? It exposes us to various, unreliable information!

Social media hosts a range of fitness and food trends. “We live in a hypervisual age” where we can’t escape exposure of images that present the ‘ideal’ thin and lean body type. In the Telegraph article by Emma Woolf (link above), a student she knows says she “feels bad” when images of her idols Ellie Goulding, Kylie Jenner and Miley Cyrus post-workout appear on Tumblr. Exposure to workout ‘selfies’ and fad diets emphasises the promotion of weight loss. It is debatable, social media and ‘thinspiration’ websites are detrimental to the fitness industry. Obsession over weight loss, means online users are more likely to buy into dangerous health trends because companies sell us weight loss as a goal.

With this in mind, consider what dieting used to mean. Before social media, you were on a diet if you attended a weekly meeting at Atkins. However, the emergence of social media means dieting has drastically changed. We can now connect with large communities of fitness and health enthusiasts. It is simple to connect by the click of a hashtag. Comparing ourselves to others comes as a result of exposure of diet and ‘fitspiration’ images. Viewing images of the ‘fit ideal’ has been linked to increased body dissatisfaction, anxiety and depression (Dignard 2017). Social media makes it easy to be exposed to these images meaning its emergence holds some responsibility for the rise in eating disorders and obsession with weight.

So what does this mean…

Overall, it is advised the diets seen online, we should treat with caution. Without sufficient scientific evidence to support the diet efficiency, it is not recommended to follow a fad diet for an extended amount of time. As a consequence of spending longer online, this highlights the impact digitisation has caused; we are more susceptible to potentially false information. But what we read, we shouldn’t instantly believe!