A Millennial’s Exploration Of Why Diets Have Trends
- April 24th, 2012
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Today’s post comes to us from Camilla, a Youth Advisory Board member who has noticed that Millennials are very into self-improvement, sometimes taking it too far. That’s the case with dieting as they try one fad after another, aiming to become a better version of themselves. There’s always a new workout, a new supplement, a new way to improve. As summer approaches and people start thinking about their beach bodies, Camilla hopes they’ll skip the extreme diets in favor of a healthy, active lifestyle.
A Millennial’s Exploration Of Why Diets Have Trends
Have you heard of the Dukan Diet? If you haven’t, it’s our generation’s iteration of the Atkins Diet. It’s not exclusive to people my age: it was famously termed a “health hazard” after Kate Middleton’s mother used it to lose pre-Royal Wedding weight. It’s all the rage, and it’s also representative of an increased fervor for “easy” weight loss techniques, whether by buying certain shoes or wearing caffeine-laced tights.
In the age of Internet diet articles, there’s rapid-fire information spread about the best (and worst) bodies, diets, and exercise programs. This really makes you wonder: has the Internet’s extreme dissemination of information only amplified physical trends, turning our bodies into fashion, where we must conform to the latest styles, cut, and color palette?
There are a few different trends on the runway for this generation. A Millennials’ view of dieting seems to naturally segment into a few different groups, as found in a study by the Forbes Consulting Group among a large group of Millennials. It identified three distinct types of dieters, which they termed “health connectors” (usually female; married; more likely to have had plastic or gastric bypass surgery), “health actives” (usually male; single; buy energy bars), and “health individualists” (often have piercings or tattoos; buy local produce and socially responsible brands but are more likely to smoke). These three groups also differed in terms of the product most marketable to each of them: health connectors bought products marketed as fat-free or low-calorie, while health actives bought quinoa and protein bars. Health individualists, by contrast, were more political (read: “socially responsible”) in their consumerism, though naturally balanced it out by consuming more sweets or cigarettes than the other groups.
Still, if you think about it, there’s one trend driving all three of these marketable groups: an obsession with following the “right” diet. They’re growing up in a society where no one, no matter how healthily they eat or how frequently they exercise, can escape the idea of a better body, a better diet, a better self.
A new study in the academic journal Adolescent Health found that teens whose weight chronically fluctuates due to intermittent dieting end up with a higher BMI overall than those who don’t. The same teens reported using diet pills or “food substitutes” (what even are those?). It’s difficult to separate these unhealthy habits with the dieting and weight ideals promulgated in our culture. The same mentality that drives teens to try one dieting trend after another emerges from a wider attitude of self-improvement among Millennials.
Dieting has been around for generations, but perhaps there is something different this time around. Whether we’re purchasing anti-aging skincare or buying mental puzzles claiming to ward off dementia (both of which I’ve seen 20-year-olds do), we’re thinking about how to be better. Yes, weight is a particularly unfortunate manifestation of this generational drive, but on the whole, this is the same drive that inspires educational and political activism led by young people the world over.
We grew up already knowing that world might go downhill — from global warming, overpopulation, extinction of the animals we loved growing up — so even on a small scale, I’d like to think, Millennials are trying to change before it’s too late, but some are going to extreme measures to do so.
This season, I hope to see a few more radical trends off the runway. When it comes to self-improvement, keep fighting for change in the world, but give your bodies a break from intense diets and concentrate on being healthy and active. Ok, it’s not fashionable quite yet, but when it is, you can say you did it before it was even cool. And that’s the healthiest trend of all.
Camilla is a returning YAB member who has finished her undergraduate degree at Oxford in 2011, where she studied physiology, psychology, and philosophy. Now, she’s 21 and studying for a Master’s degree at the University College London Institute of Neurology, where she hopes to do research in clinical neuroscience and neuropsychiatry. She grew up primarily in Washington, D.C., where she attended National Cathedral School, and has also lived in Budapest, Hungary for four years. When she’s not studying the brain, she is probably painting, practicing Bikram yoga, cooking vegetarian food, or thinking about manatees. When she IS studying, her favorite part of the brain is the basal ganglia, and her favorite neurotransmitter (those chemicals that shoot around the brain sending signals) is dopamine. The recent involvement of neuroscience techniques in product development and marketing has driven her interest in Ypulse, coupled with a lifelong love of writing — and, of course, a healthy obsession with pop culture.