Last Call: Don’t let diet culture win this summer

Tiny toast on big plate with fork and knife
Photo: Bill Boch (Getty Images)

As someone whose email address is associated with a food website, I receive a staggering amount of press releases in my inbox, and 99% of them are upsetting trash. I wouldn’t wish for my worst enemy to read some of the dubious dreck masquerading as health studies, wellness secrets, and weight loss advice. The latter has really ramped up lately, as people begin exiting quarantine and living their best lives once more. “Lose the Quarantine 15!” these emails exclaim. “Guilt-free snacking that’s kind to your waistline!” I delete them like I’m nuking aliens in Space Invaders.

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So it was particularly cathartic to see the New York Times taking the wellness industry to task this week in a video by opinion visuals journalist Tala Schlossberg. The title: “Your Body Survived a Pandemic. Don’t Punish It With Diet Fads.”

The video, released at the precipice of what the weight loss industry deems “beach body season,” has a lot to say about how everything our bodies are going through is normal and expected. Almost as expected as, say, the diet industry’s desperation to capitalize on our sense of insecurity about it.

“Putting on some weight during the pandemic, or any other time, doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy, and it doesn’t mean you’re lazy, undisciplined, or out of control,” says the video narrator. “Weight fluctuations can be a natural response to lifestyle changes. Had any of those in the last year?”

A video collage of different wellness ads capitalizing on our low post-pandemic self-esteem is enough to make any viewer cringe: appetite-suppressing lollipops, miracle gummies, Pelotons, Fitbits, flat tummy teas, a revamped Atkins bible—the list goes on.

Our bodies, the NYT points out, have responded admirably to the seismic changes around them. And that’s something to be proud of, no matter how many companies are hoping you’ll agree to hate yourself for their gain. Pride in ourselves is the best way I can think of to kick these hucksters to the curb. So, care to join in? Looking back over the past 15 months, what makes you feel most proud of yourself?

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

DISCUSSION

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“Putting on some weight during the pandemic, or any other time, doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy, and it doesn’t mean you’re lazy, undisciplined, or out of control,” says the video narrator. “Weight fluctuations can be a natural response to lifestyle changes. Had any of those in the last year?”

I wish medical professionals would be more vocal about this. Unfortunately, they are educated to link obesity to a multitude of health problems. This in turn gives the diet industry the ammo to shame people by linking obesity to a moral failing.