by Elena Arida
It’s day four; finally, your juice cleanse has ended! You arrive to school late, having skipped breakfast because you’re trying to conserve calories. At lunch, you grab a piece of pizza and two cookies on your way to Quiet Study. That night, you sprinkle diet powder on your Chinese takeout before heading to your makeshift home gym for your P90X workout.
You, like millions of others, are part of the binge diet and exercise culture that consumes our nation. What is it about fad diets’ empty promises that reels in so many people? They target our attitudes, our social norms and taboos, to lure consumers who want to be healthy into a practice that is in fact very unhealthy. There is unarguably a lifestyle problem, dietary and exercise related, that’s fueling these “get fit quick” gimmicks.
The holidays, characterized by overeating, followed by periods of drastic dieting, represents the war between wanting to be “fit” and living a stereotypical American lifestyle. This obsessive binge culture is unhealthy and ineffective, leaving 36 percent of Americans obese, according to cdc.org.
Eric Oliver, political science professor at the University of Chicago, reports that Americans associate being overweight with laziness and being thin with higher social status, according to news.uchicago.edu. He argues that people are putting their health at risk with these fad diets.
These diets and exercise videos capitalize on our culture’s expectation of instant gratification. A Google search of the term “fad diet” will return headlines promising “Your Dream Body in Two Weeks,” to “Get Slim without Dieting,” as well as before and after pictures of extreme weight loss.
Americans seem impatient and want to overturn bad habits and lifestyle choices in a matter of weeks, with as little effort as possible. According to livestrong.com, Americans spend more money in dieting, dieting products and weight loss surgery than any other people in the world. This spending supports the weight loss industry while promoting the idea that Americans can buy their way into a healthy lifestyle.
The reality is that drastic and rapid lifestyle change is unhealthy and rarely results in long-term weight loss success. The key to overturning the quick-fix obsession is education. By learning about and making healthy lifestyle changes, desired weight loss and fitness will follow naturally. The “Eat Healthily And Exercise Daily” Diet might not have the same ring to it as the “Dr. Oz Miracle Juice Cleanse,” but it definitely has better—and longer lasting—results.