Following the publicity regarding extreme female slenderness, many American women, both teens and adults have resorted to fad diets to shed weight rapidly (Dalton, 2007). The Chicken Soup Diet, the Zone Diet, the Master Cleanse Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet, and many others promise drastic effects within a short duration. Nevertheless, while they might be tempting, they have not been successful in offering the balanced diet that a healthy body requires. Latner & Wilson (2007) argue that fad diets lead to malnutrition; sadly most women do not seem to care. A good number are willing to do anything to shed weight faster thus producers of these fads take advantage of this. An estimated 30 million US professional women are so busy and do not have time to exercise thus they rely on fad diets (American Heart Association, 2011). This has become a serious problem in a country where professional women are becoming depressed twice as often as their male counterparts and exhibit higher chances of developing eating disorders. Roughly 50% of professional women in a recent survey admitted to using diet pills while 15% (Latner & Wilson, 2007) used diuretics or laxatives for weight loss. Research question: Why, then, are fad diets so popular among American women despite their repeated lack of success? The report offers a historical overview of the issue. Then, it highlights the pros and cons of fad diets. In the end, the results are analysed.
This essay proves the hypothesis: Diet pills are popular with approximately 30 million American professional women because they are so busy at work and at home that they do not have time to exercise enough, so they depend on pills and miracle diets to compensate.
Historical overview of the issue
Historically, the culture of US has had a preoccupation with dieting and thinness (Roberts, 2011). Worship of thinness has only heightened poor body image and low self-esteem as a normative and expectable element of female development. Over time, American women have been judged by their appearance, and precisely, thinness. In the last century, a media explosion occurred which perpetuated the message that thin implies a person is intelligent, beautiful and in control of one’s life. Emerging trends reveal that women are influenced by modern pop cultures that reflect thin to equal happiness and beauty. The portrayal of waif-like models by the media is also another way the press has exacerbated the deterioration of women’s self-image via the diet business. Today, in the US, the value of the diet industry is estimated at $40 million dollars (Gardner et al. 2007). The majority of magazines targeting women greatly emphasize weight loss; this is contrary to magazines that target men. Peer pressure, magazines, and television have promoted an obsession with dieting and fear of fat. The current day American woman culture had become easy prey to the diet sector that targets these females, leaving them with low-self esteem, depression, and false hopes.
Negative messages regarding overweight women started early in the 20th century and early in a woman’s life (Gardner et al. 2007). Women are being depersonalised, and their body parts exploited like decorative objects. As a consequence, American women are becoming obsessed with a fear of fat and have focused on enhancing their body. Such discrimination against heavy women is planting deep wounds thus leaving lifetime scars. Professional women are more afraid of becoming fat than they are afraid of nuclear war, cancer or losing a loved one. Emerging studies demonstrate that 12% of professional women would abort a fetus given that they believe it had a tendency towards obesity (Gardner et al. 2007). In the modern day and era, women look at their bodies in a negative manner than at any other time in American history. For this reason, they are much expected to believe that they are fat even when they are under weight. Women who see their bodies negatively have higher chances of engaging in fad diets. In fact, 95% (Dalton, 2007) of fad dieters tend to regain the weight along with shame, guilt and self-blame hence starting the vicious cycle of fad dieting.
Fad dieting has become intensely popular among American men, particularly following the re-birth of the low-carbs, diet enabled men to enjoy a steak while still following diet rules. However, today, the desire to control one’s body weight applies disproportionately to women in the US. A recent body image survey on nearly 3000 women and 500 men reveal that while men fall under the medical description of overweight, many women are modifying their food consumption to shed weight because of dissatisfaction with their physical appearance. Moreover, 70% of women aged 30 and above report being unhappy with their weight as opposed to 50% of men. And while 5% of these dissatisfied women desired to lose weight, at least, 20% of men feel that they weighed too little. Also, women were consistently more expected than their male peers to exercise for weight loss, including resorting to extreme practices to lose weight, like laxatives, diet pills, and purging. While the $40 billion sector certainly is not based on half the US population, these statistics strongly depict that US women are loyal consumers than men. Partly, this disproportion derives from the society’s idealization of feminine thinness.
Common fad diets
"The Zone" is a popular fad diet created by Barry Sears in 1995 (Roberts, 2011). The principal argument of Sears is that humans are genetically programmed to function best on specifically two food categories: natural carbohydrates and lean proteins. According to Sears, the human genetic composition has not completely evolved to need such foods and grain cultivation is a modern development. In essence, carbohydrates trigger excess weight gain and are accountable for obesity epidemic among US women. Carbohydrates intake triggers the release of insulin; this procedure converts extra carbs into fats. This theory contends that the increasing women’s phobia of fat continues to inspire a counterproductive diet. Sears believes that the remedy is to substitute complex carbs for fat. However, critics of "The Zone" claim that this theory concerning insulin production is an "unproven gimmick". The diet can possibly become dangerous as scientific studies observe a strong correlation between animal fat and cancer. Also, Sears has ignored both the issue of cholesterol and the fact that vegans have a minimal chance of developing cancer and heart disease (American Heart Association, 2011).
Sugar Busters is another well-known fad diet. Introduced by Leighton Steward and associates, this plan has labelled sugar as the enemy because it generates insulin, which is later stored as body fat. Under Sugar Busters diet, a person must abolish both processed nad refined sugars from the diet. This includes beets, carrots, corns, white rice, and potatoes. The revised diet consequently becomes a low carb, high protein plan that posses the same threats as does "The Zone." In fact, sugar is not naturally toxic and thus it is dangerous to do away with complex carbs which are a rich source of fiber. Moreover, this diet demands a complete elimination of a particular food, neglecting the fact that our bodies naturally need multiple foods to remain healthy. Other fad diets are Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution and Protein Power Lifeplan, which still malign carbohydrates. All these diets promote high-fat meals that increase a person’s risk for cancer, heart disease, kidney damage and high cholesterol.
By its definition, a fad diet is a diet trend where a person eliminates or reduces food intake in hopes of shading weight faster (Gardner et al. 2007). The most common fad diets include the grapefruit diet, the Master Cleanse, and the cabbage soup diet. Most fad diets have both advantages and disadvantages to helping in weight loss though the healthiest method would often be exercising and healthy eating. From a nutritional perspective, protein is more satiating as compared to fat or carbohydrate. This means that if a person eats 200 calories worth of protein, fat or carbohydrate, he/she would feel most satisfied after eating the protein (Henn, et al. 2005). This is the basic premise of fad diets. These diets are low in carbohydrates. Thus, they do not restrict calorie intake as it is unnecessary. A person will be eating excessive protein that he/she would not possibly overeat. Hence, essentially, fad diets boil down to low carb diets calories versus calories out. A person losses weight because he/she is in a calorie deficit.
Another great benefit of fad diets is that they cut out the massive volumes of sugars and starches that creep into people’s diets and today make up most of what individuals eat. It is unnatural and abnormal for humans to consume large amounts of refined carbohydrates that they indulge in nowadays. To our bodies, carbohydrates, precisely refined carbs are basically sugar, in that after consuming a high carb diet, sugar levels rise, which triggers the production of insulin. This hormone serves to normalise blood sugar levels. Such heightened blood sugar levels, greater insulin levels and repeated spikes in blood sugar due to high carb meals are argued to cause the body to function in a sub-optimal manner. In the end, this promotes disease like coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis (fatty blood vessels). Also, compelling research indicates that these carbs are related to obesity and weight gain.
Chronic dependence on diet pills and fad diets may have serious psychological and physical consequences for women (Mirkin & Shore, 2011). For instance, a significant fluctuation in weight resulting from chronic dieting is related to greater levels of death from all causes and greater mortality rates from coronary heart disease, especially among females. In fact a resent study in a Framingham, Massachusetts claims that because the risks associated with such weight cycling are comparable to those with obesity, the possible benefits of dieting for weight loss may not be worth the risk. Especially, this is true of the increasing volume of women dieters who are of normal weight or overweight and not obese. The associated financial costs and lost wages that these women confront are estimated to be ten times higher than those of obese people. Notably, the average overweight US female spends roughly $300 extra per year in medical expenses while the average dieter spends $500 per year on dieting products (Roberts, 2011). Medically and financially, for women who are not obese, dieting appears to be the most unwise, or so to say, a dangerous decision.
While it seems paradoxical, fad diets generate medical costs too. Low-calorie meals cause depletion of minerals and vitamins, leading to dehydration and muscle crumps (Mirkin & Shore, 2011). Reduced calcium, sodium and potassium levels also occur resulting in possible myocardial dysfunction. Extremely low-calorie meals have demonstrated to suppress the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in low blood pressure and impaired respiration. Dieting for weight loss and avoiding these negative effects is associated with its own negative effects when not properly supervised. This puts the struggling women dieters in a catch-22 situation.
Also, fad diets can bring about a common psychological problems known as bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Though the difference between the healthy diets that motivate gradual weight loss in a pragmatic manner and ineffective fad diets appear to be vital, it seems that all diets have one thing in common; they establish self-denial and rigidity surrounding eating patterns. Such deprivation and restrictive mentality may often progress to binge eating and full-blown eating disorders (Lemberg & Cohn, 1999).
Studies reveal that 30% of dieting women tend to develop full-blown eating disorders or obsessive weight control practices (Ozer, 2012). More so, since the results of their dieting efforts is a failure to lose weight, these women find some justification for the cause of the disappointment. Following a failed attempt, dieters often conclude that simply they did not try hard enough. It is argued that fad diets generally reduce weight in the initial staged when followers are most encouraged thus it is easy for them to assume that their disappointed weight loss happened because their adherence to the fad diet slacked after the beginning of the process. Though this justification might pose as a protective mechanism to enable hope for future diets, it seems to reinforce the dieter’s self-image as a failure. Perhaps, this further reduces the already low self-esteem that could have motivated fad diets in the first place.
Though the cons of fad diets are considerable, revealing concern for the persistent chronic dieting without realising the concurrent side-effects may be irresponsible. Logically, one might question whether it is appropriate to condemn fad diets when so many American women sincerely do need to shed weight for health reasons. The fad diets will help women lose weight in the short term. However, they do not offer lasting results. For these women to successfully lose weight, they ought to start exercising and modify their eating habits.
This research paper on fad diets among women in the US represents three variables that drive women to diet: the pressure from the thin ideal, the psychology of false hope and marketing ploys deployed by the diet sector. It is argued that fad diets lead to malnutrition; sadly most women do not seem to care. A good number are willing to do anything to shed weight faster thus producers of these fads take advantage of this. Approximately 30 million professional women in the US are so busy and do not have time to exercise thus they rely on fad diets. This has become a serious problem in a country where professional women are becoming depressed twice as often as their male counterparts and exhibit higher chances of developing eating disorders. Roughly 50% of professional women in a recent survey admitted to using diet pills while 15% used diuretics or laxatives for weight loss (Riley, 1999).
Today, the desire to control one’s body weight applies disproportionately to women in the US. In fact 70% of women aged 30 and above report being unhappy with their weight as opposed to 50% of men (Henn, et al. 2005). And while 5% of these dissatisfied women desired to lose weight, at least, 20% of men feel that they weighed too little (Ozer, 2012). Moreover, emerging trends reveal that women are influenced by modern pop cultures that reflect thin to equal happiness and beauty. Today, in the US, the value of the diet industry is estimated at $40 million dollars. The majority of magazines targeting women greatly emphasize weight loss. Peer pressure, magazines, and television have promoted an obsession with dieting and fear of fat. The current day American woman culture had become easy prey to the diet sector that targets these females, leaving them with low-self esteem, depression, and false hopes. This pressure has forced US women, especially professional women who do not have time for exercise, to resort to extreme fad dieting plans to lose weight.
This research was motivated by the hope that accounts from the very subjects would help piece together the views of women about their dieting habits. The study discovered that most women had a history of dieting without successful weight loss. In fact, they report that they desire to lose anything from ten to hundred pounds. the findings reveal that dieting women express some internalization of the cultural ideal of thinness, which validates its pervasiveness in the US society (Riley, 1999). Their heavy weight is associated with various levels of stress and their bodies recorded a changing trend from childhood to adulthood. As women age and mostly those who are married, they become less concerned about their weight from the perspective of appearance and they become focused on losing weight for health reasons. For the married women, marriage has dampened their motivation to diet because the reward is neither pronounced. Such experiences represent the prejudice and discrimination that overweight women face in the US. However, they also reveal how overweight women internalise their appearance as a component of their self-image and project it into how the people see them.
Regardless of the fad diet, a person chooses, all have one thing in common; they attack the issue of weight loss at different dimensions though they produce temporary results. This tricks the minds of women into believing “Wow this diet really works, and it was so easy” though in a real sense it is producing more harm than good. The dieting women are making an unhealthy lifestyle choice by taking advantage of fad dieting. People who have shed weight successfully and maintained it understand that lasting, sustainable weight loss is neither easy nor quick. The strategy to lasting weight loss is evaluating and changing old eating habits; those habits that led to overweight. Practical, smalle and progressive changes in these habits that a person can follow one day at a time for the entire living is the recommended trick to lasting weight loss results. However, fad diets can be effective for some people. This is because each perosn’s body differs, reacting and operating to certain diets in different ways. In general, although fad diets are ineffective and dangerous, they may not work for a person whose body is structured to respond positively to such extreme constraints. In a similar manner, some of these diets demonstrate a sign of rational philosophy. For instance, Sugar Busters advocate against sugar products. While this plan is valid, it is only when taking to the extreme that it become dangerous. Perhaps this idea divulges the most significant gap in the theory of fad dieting; that involving the great diversity in human genetic composition. It is argued that fad diets pressure that the human body responds and functions to some foods in a fixed and standard way. However, diversity is the principle in human biology. What is effective for an individual might not work for another person. Given that fad diets have blatantly disregarded this basic reality renders them ineffective and unreliable.