The idea of diet culture has been around for decades. In the past, diet culture gained traction and claimed its influence through magazines, TV ads and word of mouth, all boasting unrealistic celebrity diets and outlandish techniques to lose weight.
Now, diet culture continues to celebrate its legacy by diversifying its means of communication through social media platforms. When the average person opens Instagram, they're greeted by influencers, wellness gurus and celebrities offering dieting "techniques" and diet-focused products — all of which can reach audiences at a much larger scale than before.
More often than not, diet culture jumpstarts issues for individuals that then become a lifelong struggle to overcome. The dieting industry makes its profit by creating insecurities with body image and then pushing the idea that you can and should fix them through weight loss.
Not only is diet culture largely responsible for causing eating disorders and negative body image for many individuals, but it also harbors unseen levels of insecurity among people, especially teenage girls.
On social media, comparison is key, and users can easily fall victim to it. Platforms like TikTok, Twitter and especially Instagram thrive on it.
While diet trends tend to be impractical but ultimately harmless, a lot of the routines pushed on Instagram can be dangerous to follow. These regimes ask people to cut out a massive amount of calories. The trends also often include and promote products like weight loss teas that are ineffective and can have permanent, damaging health effects.
Khloe Kardashian got in hot water for promoting "Flat Tummy" shakes in the name of healthy weight loss. At the time of her brand deal, the shakes were not FDA-approved and came with a long list of side effects.
People also often forget that celebrities, influencers and public figures have a team of dietitians, instructors, health advisors and an endless supply of money to look the way they do. And of course, not everything you see online is real (must we forget that Photoshop exists).
So when these social media users advertise a product, they're most likely not using it themselves — in any case, it's not the main reason that they look the way they do.
At the end of the day, influencers and celebrities on social media platforms are merely actors pushing out routines and fixes that are not sustainable and oftentimes riddled with misinformation. Those promoting these fixes are essentially profiting off of their followers' insecurities.
Despite what advertisements and sponsorships may lead you to believe, looking like a celebrity by just following the advertised product is impossible.
In the trend-driven society that we live in today, diet culture poses a dangerous threat — not only are the diets harmful, but they also create a toxic culture of comparison. From comparing bodies, diets and lifestyles to much more, people become more insecure than before thinking they're lacking something in their life that people on social media have. Diet culture may inadvertently encourage eating disorders, low self-esteem and new levels of insecurity.
Due to diet culture, there will most likely be a teenage girl who is sitting in her room wishing she could look like a certain celebrity and following their Instagram diet and quick fix-technique to achieve this goal — actions that may introduce her to years of unlearning newfound insecurities and negative self-esteem. While body positivity is more encouraging than in the past, social media diet trends cause harm that cannot be simply undone.