September 17, 2021

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What Is Your Relationship With the Weight-Loss Industry?

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Have you heard about the “quarantine 15”? Are ads for diets and fitness apps filling your feeds right now? How do you react to them?

In general, how much do you think societal pressure to lose weight, or get that perfect “beach body,” affects you? Have you ever downloaded apps, joined programs or bought books or products designed to help you lose weight? Have any of them been effective?

One recent guest essayist in The Times feels strongly about this issue. In “The Weight-Loss Industry Is Coming for Our Post-Lockdown Bodies,” Jennifer Weiner writes:

Perhaps you’ve heard someone bemoan the “quarantine 15” that they’ve gained during lockdown, or their struggles to “flatten the curve” of a body that looks different after a year inside.

It was inevitable. The pandemic has made us more sedentary, and many of us have sought comfort in eating. We are languishing, as Adam Grant wrote recently, living in “the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being.” And where there’s insecurity and unhappiness, there are companies looking to make money. So here come the weight-loss profiteers, the misery merchants dressed up as purveyors of “wellness.”

They’re looking to make back whatever money they missed out on during 2020 and then some. In a normal year, the weight-loss business ramps up in January and goes strong through spring and into summer. Last year was not normal. There was stress snacking and procrasti-baking. There was no shedding for the wedding in a year when most weddings were postponed or drastically downsized; no pre-high-school-reunion crash diet or worrying if Grandma would body-shame you at Thanksgiving. The closest we got to beach season was tut-tutting at the Kardashians’ private-island getaway last fall.

She continues:

You can consume a lot of this marketing without ever hearing the words “weight” or “diet” or “calories.” The diet industry has gotten impressively subtle, even as it’s incessantly in your face. Everyone knows that diets don’t work in the long term; buzzwords like “wellness” and “strength” have replaced “diet” and “calories.” It’s all about being the best you that you can be — a you that is significantly thinner than the you right now.

I have one word for you: resist.

As we should all know by now, diets don’t work. Studies show that 41 percent of dieters gain back more weight over the next five years than they lost, and that dieters are more likely than nondieters to become obese over the next one to 15 years. For some, the language of diet culture can be downright dangerous, contributing to life-threatening eating disorders.

There’s nothing wrong with taking action to improve your health. Want to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, or get back to regular workouts? Go for it. Get outside, now that we can do that again. But you don’t need to enroll in a program, download an app or buy frozen meals to do any of this.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • To what extent do you agree with this writer? What points, if any, does she make that resonate with your own experience? Do you agree with her overall message? Or have you found weight-loss programs, apps or packaged meals useful in the past?

  • How has “the language of diet culture” affected you or those you know? Do you agree that it can be dangerous — leading, for instance, to eating disorders? Why or why not?

  • What is your own history with the weight-loss industry? Have any of these products and programs helped you? If so, how? If not, why not? Has it been your experience that “diets don’t work in the long term”?

  • How do you, or can you, take action to improve your health? If you “languished” during the pandemic, do you feel a need to exercise more or eat better? What plans do you have to help yourself feel healthier, if so?

About Student Opinion

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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

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