Guest Posts

Guest Post: Fad Diets

A guest post by Lucy:

It has for a long time been considered that teenage girls are one of the groups of society who have the poorest diets and levels of nutrition due to pressure from media and peers to look like the ‘perfect’ woman. Being surrounded by teenage girls (I attend an all-girls secondary school) has opened my eyes recently to some of the dangerous and unproven fad diets being attempted by some of my peers at the moment.

The Russian Air Force Diet:

So called as some claim that it was developed by the former Soviet Union to keep soldiers fit. However, this seems unlikely as it encourages dieters to eat fewer than 800 calories a day; 40% of the recommended daily caloric intake for woman and 32% for men. The seven-day diet plan features a menu of a cup of coffee and toast or saltines for breakfast; and small amounts of red meat, fish, fruit and eggs for lunch and dinner. Needless to say, though the diet supposedly causes dieters to lose around 15lbs in 13 days, the side effects of such a restricted and nutrition-deficient diet include a lack of energy and concentration – hardly surprising as dieters never eat anything close to a decent meal.

Fruitarianism:

This practice promotes following a diet entirely consisting of fruit, nuts and seeds, without animal products, vegetables and grains. One of the more ‘woo’ filled diets as dieters believe that by following the practice, they will be returning to an ‘Eden-like’ diet, one supposedly adopted by the Biblical Adam and Eve. As well as causing deficiencies in calcium, protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D, B vitamins and fatty acids; the diet can create and highlight social and psychological problems such as food obsessions, cravings and social isolation. Though nutritionists advise against teenagers and children adopting a Fruitarian diet due to it causing protein-energy malnutrition and anaemia, it has recently become popular amongst some young people following the death of Steve Jobs who was a Fruitarian through some periods of his life.

The Atkins Diet:

This popular low-carb diet is built upon the principle that insulin is the root of weight problems and that by limiting carbohydrate intake, insulin levels will drop. However, what proponents of the Atkins Diet fail to explain is why they encourage eating beef and cheese when they raise insulin levels more than carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta. The most bizarre claim from the Atkins corporation is that dieters could lose 85lbs without exercising, while eating 5500 calories a day; which goes against the First Law of Thermodynamics; the most fundamental law in the Universe. There are many serious long-term side effects arising from the diet including malnutrition, cancer (from regular meat consumption), kidney damage and heart arrhythmias. This diet is particularly appealing to teenage girls as it allows dieters to eat as much as they like (excluding carbohydrates) and appears to be effective at increasing weight loss.

It is shocking and upsetting that so many young girls are willing to risk the serious side effects of these dangerous diets just so they can conform to how the media, society, and their friends expect them to look. Perhaps most disturbing is the statistic from UK Teen Body Image Survey (January 2004) that while only 19% of teenage girls are classified as ‘overweight’, 67% think they ‘need to lose weight’. The young girls following these ridiculous diet plans are also not likely to be the ones who need to lose weight, instead they do so because of low self esteem, which advertisers, weight loss companies and health quacks target to sell their nonsense.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Lucy is a 17 year old skeptic who lives in south-east England. She hopes to study medicine at university and so needs to spend less of her life online and more on her studies but happily admits that's not going to happen anytime soon. She aims to fuse her passion for science and skepticism with her love of writing, but is slightly troubled that she manages to get writer's block whilst writing a 70-word biography…

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