The Danger of Dieting


A magazine with a dieting advertisement on the cover being burned to represent destroying the dangerous ideals that dieting culture creates. (Bella Rock)

Bella Rock, Social Media Editor

In today’s culture and the realm of social media, it’s highly likely that many find themselves bombarded with advertisements about countless diet or weight-loss programs and products. Diet culture is so normalized in our day to day lives that we don’t even realize how harmful many dieting habits can be.

While there are positive diets that can improve one’s health, many diets promote dangerous eating habits that can lead to eating disorders. However, they are disguised under the guise of a dieting program which can deceive those on the program and not even realize it’s making their eating habits unhealthy. 

A lot of the diets society has deemed acceptable recommend unhealthy restriction via calorie counting or cutting out entire food groups, which are hazardous habits. According to Eating Disorder Hope, an organization that promotes eating disorder awareness and recovery, those who diet moderately are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. 

Connie Petersen, an eating disorder specialist and therapist, expressed her concerns about diet culture, saying, “Highly restrictive diets can lead to depression, anxiety, feelings of fear and guilt, obsessive behaviors, and unhealthy changes in the body, such as hormonal changes, reduced bone density, menstrual disturbances, and lower resting energy expenditure.” This helps express the physical and mental risks faced with dieting. These obsessive behaviors and mood changes are common signs of disordered eating and shows how diet culture can easily be or become an eating disorder. However, since we normalize these behaviors, it is easy for people to fall into a trap that these are healthy ways to approach food.

Additionally, Petersen mentioned, “Risk factors for all eating disorders involve a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural issues.  One of the sociocultural risk factors that is perpetuated by the diet industry through magazines, commercials, and social media that we are often bombarded with are the messages that being thinner is better and thinness equals success and happiness.” 

This brings up the issue of how diet culture is not only harmful because it normalizes unhealthy eating patterns, but it also furthers the societal standard that being skinny is the way people should be. These ideals alone can promote disordered eating because it makes people believe there is something they must change about their body, regardless of how unhealthy the methods to attain said body are. 

In reality, all bodies are beautiful the way they are, but diet culture tries to warp our perceptions of ourselves in damaging ways. Overall, dieting culture has many negative effects both physically and mentally due to the normalization of unhealthy habits and ideas, with Petersen saying, “Therefore, the only diet I ever recommend for my clients is a social media diet, to hopefully give them a break from so many of these dieting messages.”