Evolution of diet culture creates toxic cycle for generations

By ElsaJurrens

We are always looking for a new and better way to maintain our physique and health. Just like most aspects of the world, our diet is constantly changing. What was once a normal, human action has now turned into a trend.

Graphic by MaryAmbrose

Lisa Garrett, 1984 Marian graduate, is a licensed nutritionist who helps people break away from the diet trends. Garrett tells all her patients, “nutrition is not a one size fits all.” All our bodies are unique, so all our diets and nutrition need to be unique. To fully understand the complications and dangers of diets, we must recognize the history of dietary regime.

Humans once only ate to survive. Long before refrigeration, people could only eat local foods that were available and in season. People’s diets varied depending on where they were in the world. Once modern transportation and food preservation were normalized, people began to stop simply eating to survive. Instead people began to focus on what exactly they were consuming.

The first idea of being healthy and fit originated from Ancient Greece. Greeks believed having a healthy body had direct correlation to having a healthy mind. Unlike today’s society, however, the “ideal body” in Greece wasn’t based on one’s physique, but instead on their physical abilities.

Through the 1500-1700s, many authors released books about their opinions on the perfect diet and how to remain healthy. Author Dr. George Chyne wrote “The Natural Method of Curing the Diseases of the Body,” where he describes the perfect diet as exclusively milk and vegetables.

The idea of a “flawless body type” emerged in the mid 1800s. The first “healthy influencer,” Lord Byron, also rose in popularity. He was considered the most popular and beautiful man by all the Victorians. His diet consisted of starving himself, then binge eating and lastly trying to sweat off any gained weight by layering clothes. He also invented the vinegar diet (a diet that is still used today) which became so popular that women would die drinking pints of vinegar.

For the first time in 1825, a low carb diet was introduced. In Bill-at-Savarin’s “The Physiology of Taste or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy,’’ he documents avoiding starchy and our based foods. His diet advice is the blueprint for many popular diets such as the Paleo and Keto diet.

Throughout the 1900s many odd diets came about. The tapeworm diet rose in popularity. Instead of eating, people digested tapeworms to stop hunger cramps. It wasn’t until the tapeworms grew, causing seizures, meningitis, or dementia that the U.S. outlawed them.

During the 1920s, doctors prescribed cigarettes to people who over ate. In the 1930s, soaps such as “Fat-O-NO” and “Fatoff” became popular. These products advertised washing away fat with soap. Throughout the 1960s, Elvis Presley advertised sleeping away your fat. People began to be sedated, all because one can’t eat when they are asleep.

Hundreds of weird diet trends have taken over the world, but where are diets today?

Social media and pop culture have made diet trends so much more dangerous and prevalent in society today. Many girls can relate or laugh about the “one almond a day” mom Tik-Tok trend. A trend that makes fun of moms that eat a restrictive diet, with the excuse, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Underneath the humor lies something more sinister: many girls have grown up on the idea that juice cleanses, liquid diets, and little food intake is normal.

Garrett recognizes how supplements, vitamins and pills have become increasingly popular in today’s society. Garrett said, “all the gimmicks, pills and powders might help at the start, but the effects of those can either be detrimental or they can stall weight loss in the end.” The right nutrition program should give you energy, make you feel good, support your exercise habits and help you sleep well. Finding the right foods that support you will help you nd your best self.

So, how do we put an end to the toxic mentality of diet culture? Foremost, reject the mentality. Leave behind restricting food. Stop putting weight loss on a pedestal. Don’t get distracted or inspired by the newest lifestyle fad. While trends come and go, your body stays, and everyone’s body is different. Just because Lord Byron submerged all his food in vinegar, doesn’t make it right for you and your body. There is no such thing as the perfect diet or the perfect body; diet culture doesn’t work. Family, friends and most importantly social media influences shouldn’t have a claim about dietary habits. Instead focus on food that makes you feel emotionally and physically good, not what makes you look good.

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