By Sadhbh Hendrick
The seemingly permanent emphasis on scrutiny regarding the shapes and sizes of both men and women fuels many a debate. We look to Instagram and see a stream of transformation posts. Tune in to a podcast and listen to the benefits of a caloric deficit. Then, there’s an article almost shaming you for not trying Keto. Intermittent fasting commands an entire stage of its own. In an age where body positivity is finally attempting to emerge from the darkness of fat/skinny/tall/short/round–shaming, I intend to explore the land of fad diets and ‘drop 4 dress sizes’ articles, and most importantly, their impact on our peer group today.
Following singer Adele’s weight-loss, the media has been scrutinising her personal trainer, while fitness experts have been weighing in on her methods, which apparently involved cutting her food down to 1,000 calories a day and exercising profusely. Is this method sustainable in the long-term, or does it set a dangerous precedent for young women attempting to get healthy? Being honest, your guess is as good as mine. I could write an article examining one (or all) of the most popular dieting methods out there. Each provides an array of strong and scientifically correct evidence. Weight loss or gain is not as simple a solution as a quick Google search might suggest. If that was the case, the National Center for Health Statistics wouldn’t be reporting obesity levels in over 93.3 million adults in the US.
As an overview, let me quickly synopsise the above-mentioned diet methods. Caloric deficit is exactly what it says on the tin. Consuming less calories than you require. The keto diet is a low carb/high fat diet. Reducing carb consumption allows your body to enter a metabolic state called ketosis, where fat is burned as an energy source. Intermittent fasting describes a meal timing schedule involving fasting and scheduled eating times over a given timeframe. The cynic amongst you may suggest that, regardless of your method, the same number of calories will be consumed whether or not you live only on steak or only allow yourself a 4-hour grazing period a day. You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong either. I suppose it all reverts back to my earlier point that it is just not that simple.
Firstly, we all have different ‘ideal’ body types in mind. Whilst both social and printed media may influence the ‘perfect summer body,’ there is no doubt that my idea of a perfect figure differs from yours. Unfortunately, today we are under the spell of over-filtered, under-flawed pictures. Rozanna Purcell springs to mind as a rare exception to this rule. The Irish food blogger makes a conscious effort to post less than perfectly polished pictures to show followers that, hey, that six pack/ those abs/ those ridiculously perfect teeth/ that unbelievably shiny hair/ that flawless tan/ the ice–sculpting worthy jaw line/ that perfectly proportioned nose, they might not be as genuine as you’d like to believe. After her own struggles with an eating disorder, the model, affectionately known as Roz, goes that extra mile to try and remind us that laughter lines are beautiful. Thick thighs, tiny thighs, whatever size your thighs are, they’re yours, so they’re beautiful. In short, our ideal body types and goals all differ so how could it make sense for one diet plan to suit us all?
I am a strong believer that dieting, as a standalone concept itself, is not sustainable. Regardless of the hashtag-able title it has or the number of medical papers reviewing it, dieting is not a quick fix to a long-term problem. Unhealthy weight or size comes about as a result of poor lifestyle choices. How would it be possible to solve a problem as complex as this by simply following your favourite PT on Instagram? Don’t get me wrong, there is a wealth of knowledge out there and educating ourselves is key. However, I strongly believe that a lifestyle change is the single most effective ‘diet’ there is. The concept of dieting itself denotes connotations of restriction. Human nature encourages us to defy restriction and break the ‘rules’ with ‘cheat days’ and ‘cheat meals.’ Life is too short to impose such horrors upon ourselves. Being a slave to a grim meal plan for 6 days and ‘breaking the rules’ on the 7th day doesn’t seem very beneficial to me. I believe that some aspects of each of the currently trendy diets have benefits.
Indeed, it may very well be a suitable lifestyle change for you to mainly consume food associated with the keto diet. Similarly, intermittent fasting might slot into your daily schedule like a dream. If that’s the case, you will see whatever results you are hoping to achieve. If it’s a constant struggle or battle against yourself, how sustainable is that really going to be for you? Of course, dieting and body image isn’t at all a fickle subject and my constraints of a 900-word article may not do it justice. Please do remember that if this issue runs deeper than a few Instagram posts and thoughts a day, there is help available to you. Visit www.bodywhys.ie or reach out to a college counsellor or doctor. In short, pardon the pun, but I do believe that when it comes to dieting, one size does absolutely not fit all.