The dos and donts of dieting

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Does intimidation invigorate or just, well, intimidate?

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With magazines, social media and friends touting the benefits of trying certain diets, diet culture is almost impossible to escape.

While diets such as the keto diet and paleo diet are currently gaining popularity, another idea is slowly beginning to take speed: that diets do not work.

In truth, diets do work; however, they only manage to work for a short period of time. According to Mariam Basma, a registered dietician at the university, the issue with diets is their sustainability.

“There’s always something about those diets that works,” Basma says. “But how long can you actually sustain it? That’s why we see these diets popping up. So yes, they work to a certain extent, but the issue is how realistic they are for people to stick with.”

Basma categorizes many of these diets that are “popping up” as “fad diets.” She notes that while keto diets and paleo diets — both focused on eliminating daily carbohydrate intake, with the former concentrating on a high fat diet and the latter encouraging a high protein diet — are popular now, a few years ago, she had students wishing to discuss a vegan lifestyle with her.

Additionally, Basma says that these fad diets can have potentially harmful mental effects.

“Dieting isn’t the only thing that causes it, but it definitely exacerbates mental issues,” Basma says. “If somebody, for example, has anxiety, dieting can become an outlet where they become obsessive over what they’re eating. That actually causes a lot of mental stress because that’s all you have to think about.”

Kimberly Panik, a senior who is studying nutrition and dietetics and also serves as president of the Nutrition and Dietetics Club, believes that such diets can severely injure one’s internal processes.

“We need carbs in our body,” Panik says of the keto diet. “We need them for basic processes that are keeping you healthy. By cutting it out, you’re altering the normal metabolic state in your body and forcing it to go into a starvation mode.”

Even though diets may not be healthy or sustainable, there are still steps that students can take toward becoming more conscious of their health. Emily Mathios, a senior studying nutrition and dietetics, recommends increasing fruits and vegetables for their vitamin, mineral and fiber content.

She also encourages those looking to eat better to opt for whole grains — Mathios says that it is recommended that 50 percent of an average person’s daily grain intake is whole grains — and to consume leaner meat and milk with lower fat content.

“All these foods are doing different things in your body,” Mathios says. “My philosophy is, ‘everything in moderation.’”

Although dieting has mixed results for many students, Basma believes that becoming more conscious of what one is eating as well as participating in healthy behavior such as exercising can help them achieve their goals.

“For the most part, people have an idea of what healthy foods are, it’s just the media that gets them confused,” Basma says. “If we approach food in a [healthy] way and eat it the way it’s supposed to be eaten, we’re off to a good start.”

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