Every holiday break, I gain five pounds.
I drive home to Helena, make Christmas desserts with my family, drink way too much wine and sit in my favorite comfy chairs with a book and my cat.
Every holiday break, at some point — usually in the shower crying — I tell myself that this semester is going to be different. THIS SEMESTER I WILL START EATING HEALTHIER. THIS SEMESTER I REALLY WILL EAT MORE VEGETABLES.
And hey, maybe this semester I will. Like, maybe 21 is the breaking point, and I’ll finally learn to start being healthy on my own, without the weirdly strong metabolism of my youth. It’s also almost impossible to avoid the New-Year’s resolution, weight-loss-pill, hip-new-diet-fad advertising content on every major social media platform, and it’s more tempting than any other time of year to drink the fad diet Kool-Aid and buy that Skinny Shake™ mix your Instagram influencer of choice swears by.
DON’T. I’m certain this isn’t news to anyone by now, but restrictive fad diets don’t work. So why do we keep hoping they will?
Painfully, it might be as simple as the fact that people keep telling us they will. Diet culture is everywhere in our daily lives, and it has been for years, but fad and flash diets are never going to be a long-term solution. According to studies from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, participants regained over half of the weight they lost in just two years, and more than 80% in five years. It can seem easy to cut off nutrition to your system for just a few months and reach your goal weight, but flash dieting just isn’t conducive to long-term weight loss.
Crazy restrictive diets hyped up on Instagram and Pinterest rely on the instant gratification we’ve all grown so used to, and the popularity of diet culture on social media means it can be way too easy to figure out exactly what kind of way you could torture your body this year. According to Cosmo, Pinterest searches for “eating pegan” (a mix of paleo and vegan) jumped 337% last year. Advertisers have it easier than ever to find their way onto our search pages and into our diets, and if a diet can rely on a “natural” or “lifestyle change” commentary, it can perpetuate the idea that limiting ourselves and our bodies is healthy.
Packaging some bonkers-restrictive diet plan as a “lifestyle change” puts a toxic twist on all the progress we’ve made in changing our dialogue surrounding diet culture. “Going keto” couldn’t be unhealthy because it’s more natural, right? Trying paleo and refusing to eat anything containing dairy, alcohol, added sugar or grains totally won’t foster an incredibly unhealthy relationship with food, right?
I would be lying if I said I never thought about intermittent fasting or pretending that bread doesn’t exist. If I said I was never tempted to restrict myself “just for a little bit” and lose a few pounds, I’d also be lying. But I’m tired now. I’m tired of constantly thinking about my body. I’m tired of scrolling through Instagram and being told about the newest juice cleanse. I’m tired of people telling me that a super restrictive “lifestyle change” will make me feel complete. Fuck all of that.
I want to work out more. I want to cook healthier meals. I know I can make those changes. But I’m tired of being told how much I need to limit myself. I’m tired of being told that I need to be smaller.
Listen, I get it. I really do. The new year is a great time to hit the reset button and give yourself a set of goals to continue to improve yourself. I love New Year’s resolutions, too. And if yours include working on getting back in shape, or cooking yourself healthier meals, or being more conscious about what you put into your body, absolutely power to you. But can we please all agree that punishing our minds and bodies by such intensely restricting fad diets is not the look for 2020? We deserve better.