Health & Wellness

How To Spot Diet Culture Red Flags, According To Kic’s Steph Claire Smith

"If it’s not sustainable, it’s not for me."
Steph Claire Smith diet.Instagram (@stephclairesmith)

‘It’s not a dream body if it’s a nightmare to maintain’. When I first heard this quote, it spoke to my soul. I’ve never heard something that resonated with me more. 

In my early 20’s I was in a place with my restrictive eating where I’d fall for any toxic diet culture messaging. I had moved to New York, living out my dream of becoming an international model. When I arrived, I was so confident in myself, and in my body.

But that confidence was quickly struck down by the unrealistic body standards of the modelling industry and social media. I was told that in order to book jobs, I needed to become smaller. My social media feed was flooded with fad diets, transformation images and celebrity body shaming. It was such a toxic space. I tried countless fad diets, falling into a vicious cycle of restricting, binging and purging. It was a literal nightmare. Thankfully one that I’m no longer living. 

I know how consuming and tortuous disordered eating is. I’ve fallen victim to diet culture and through Kic, I’ve made it my mission to help others avoid this toxic trap. Being healthy and enjoying your food can co-exist.

There’s only one rule I now follow when it comes to food & fitness. If it’s not sustainable, it’s not for me.

Nearly a decade later, we’ve come a long way as a society, but diet culture is incredibly savvy, it’s always one step ahead.

Fad diets are now disguised as ‘wellness’, and we’re seeing a resurgence of trends like ‘what I eat in a day’, which I thought died in 2018.

Every time I see another quick-fix, fad diet flooding my feed it makes me furious. 

What is a fad diet?

Steph Claire Smith's diet.
(Credit: Instagram (@stephclairesmith))

Kic’s dietitian Liv Morrison describes it as an eating plan that promotes results or fast weight loss without scientific evidence to support those claims.

Research shows that these diets do not work long term; the majority of people that lose weight regain it within a year.

After you complete a fad diet, you’ll typically regain any weight loss – and sometimes even more. You’re falling into a negative cycle of diet, loss and then weight gain – hence the term, yo yo diet.

The technical term for this is ‘metabolic adaptation’, meaning the more times you lose and regain weight, the poorer your body composition will get (lower muscle mass vs. fat mass).

This body composition change impacts how much energy your body burns at rest.

It’s why the next time you try to lose weight, you have to create a more drastic energy deficit by either eating even less calories or ramping up your exercise to lose the same amount of weight. It’s such a vicious cycle to embark on. 

How to spot diet culture red flags 

Steph Claire Smith's diet.
(Credit: Instagram)

Social media is a breeding ground for fad diets, it honestly scares the sh*t out of me when I think about young, impressionable people falling for these toxic trends.

Next time you’re thinking ‘diet starts Monday’ I beg you to watch out for these red flags. 

  • Is the person promoting it a qualified health professional? 
  • Is there a start and stop time? 
  • Are there any red flags around ‘challenges’ and the words they are using?
  • Are you actually enjoying what you’re consuming? 
  • Can you see yourself implementing this long term? 
  • Are you cutting out multiple food groups?
  • Is it impacting your relationship with yourself or your food?

Diet culture is savvy, so if you’ve fallen victim to it, know that you’re not alone.

According to the Butterfly Foundation, over 1.1  million Australians are living with an eating disorder. But less than one third have received treatment or support. It’s so important to speak up and ask for help. You can call the butterfly foundation on 1800 33 4673. 

Remember my one rule. If it’s not sustainable, it’s a ‘no’ from me.

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