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How to Help Yourself or Someone When Having An Anxiety or Panic Attack

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Close up of the dictionary definition of panic - to inspire sudden fear

Firstly, if you’re worried that someone’s life is in danger, please call 911 or any emergency medical services available where you live.

While on its own, an anxiety or panic attack is not normally life-threatening, it can affect people’s mental state and put anyone experiencing one at risk of self-harm or suicide. If you think there is a possibility of danger, contact a professional who can help you.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the national suicide hotline, 800-273-8255.

Anyone with social anxiety, an inability to communicate verbally, or any other issue making speech difficult, can text 741741 for the crisis text line.

If you’re worried that you or someone you care about is having an anxiety or panic attack, but it is NOT an active emergency, keep reading, and we’ll discuss how to recognize an anxiety or panic attack, and how to help someone who’s experiencing one.

How to Recognize an Anxiety or Panic Attack

If you’re in need of advice immediately, please scroll down to the section marked “How To Help” to get tips on what to do if you or someone you care about is experiencing a panic or anxiety attack right now. If you want to know how to tell them apart, keep reading.

While many people talk about them as if they’re the same thing, panic attacks and anxiety attacks are actually different. The following describes symptoms for both so you can understand the difference. 

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are defined as intense periods of fear or feelings of doom developing over a very short time frame, and include physical symptoms like heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, trembling, shortness of breath, dizziness, chills and hot flashes, numbness or tingling, chest pain, and a sensation of choking.

Additionally, there’s often sudden overwhelming fear or anxiety, and a fear of dying or a sense of impending death or doom. Panic attacks can feel like a heart attack, and many people in this position think they’re having a heart issue and go to the hospital, when in reality it is a panic attack.

Panic attacks are usually sudden and more intense than anxiety attacks, and come with a sense of detachment from reality.

Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks are very similar to panic attacks and can include many of the same symptoms.

However, anxiety attacks usually happen in response to a stressor––such as class or overwhelming responsibilities––where panic attacks can happen without cause and manifest much more suddenly, and the sense of unreality that often accompanies panic attacks is not usually present during anxiety attacks.

Additionally, the physical symptoms are usually more prominent in a panic attack, whereas an anxiety attack has more of an increase in mental distress and fear.

How to Help

Here’s the truly important part: how to help someone who’s experiencing a panic or anxiety attack. Considering the two are exceedingly similar, you can follow this advice regardless of which one the person is experiencing.

However, knowing whether what they experienced was a panic or anxiety attack can be helpful in determining any patterns in behavior, as well as if they might be signs of a panic disorder or anxiety disorder.

  1. Ask Them What You Can Do

If you’re helping someone experiencing a panic or anxiety attack and you’re fine, ask them what you can do. Many people with a panic or anxiety disorder will have experience getting through attacks like this and will know what will help them.

If this is a new experience for them, then you should still ask before you try anything that might be invasive or potentially uncomfortable, like touching them.

3 separate images in a collage of a woman working at a computer with movement in the dark light of her computer screen depicting the anxiety of trying to finish her work on time
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Alternatively, if you’re the person experiencing the attack:

  1. Ask Other People For Help

It’s really hard to do, but it can make a world of difference. Ask someone you trust to help you through your panic or anxiety attack. If there’s no one physically near you, call or use an app like Discord, Zoom, or Facetime to get in contact with someone you trust.

Having someone there to help keep you grounded can be a big help in getting through a panic or anxiety attack, so don’t hesitate to ask if you need help. 

  1. Breathe

It’s simple, but it works. Take deep breaths, or guide whoever is experiencing the attack to breathe in for a count of 4, hold their breath for a count of 7, and breathe out for a count of 8. If they can’t at first that’s fine, but have them keep trying.

The 4-7-8 breathing pattern has been proven to reduce stress, and giving them a focus will help them through the panic or anxiety attack. If another pattern works better you can use that too, but make sure they’re taking deep, measured breaths.

  1. Use a Grounding Technique

Grounding is an exercise to help keep you focused on the here and now and stop you from panicking. Have the person experiencing the panic or anxiety attack name 5 things they can see, 4 things they can hear, 3 things they can touch, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste.

Forcing your mind to focus on your five senses will help keep you grounded as the attack subsides. For some people, physical touch is an excellent grounding method, like running their hands along walls, furniture, or being hugged by another person.

However, for others, this might be extremely uncomfortable. Every person is different, and you should always ask before trying to do anything that might make them uneasy.

A woman, disheveled laying sideways in bed, depicting anxiety and panic as her pillows and blankets are strewn across the bed
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  1. Shock Your System

When your body begins to panic, sometimes a quick shock to your system can snap you out of it. Here are a few ways you can shock your system:

  • Squeeze an ice cube in your hand or put an ice cube in your mouth
  • Eat a pinch of salt
  • Bite into a lemon
  • Dunk your head in ice-cold water

For many people, a quick shock like this can help snap them out of a panic or anxiety attack, as it forces your brain to reassess the new stimuli and snap out of panic mode.

  1. Use Muscle Relaxation Techniques

In the same way breathing exercises help focus and relax you, so do muscle relaxation exercises. Consciously focus on relaxing one muscle at a time, from your feet through your legs, up through your arms and chest, to your head.

Panic attacks make your body clench because it’s anticipating trauma. Consciously relaxing yourself will help with the attack.

  1. Remind Them It Will Pass

Panic attacks rarely last longer than 30 minutes in extreme cases. Keep breathing, and you’ll get through it. Having that light at the end of the tunnel can make it easier to get through.

Part of what makes a panic attack so terrible is it can literally feel like you’re dying. Remind yourself or the person experiencing the attack that it’s just temporary.

Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are so incredibly common that up to 40% of the population will experience one in their lives. However, repeated attacks, fear of attacks, or negative impacts by attacks at multiple times in your life can all be signs of a more serious mental condition.

If you are worried about how your life is affected by your anxiety or by repeated panic attacks, contact a healthcare professional to find out what kind of help you might need.

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Wellness

30 College Meal Prep Ideas Every Student Should Try

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Two glass containers with rice and veggies and two forks at the top left corner
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College is the best time to take full advantage of all the opportunities to grow into the person you want to be.

Whether taking on extra classes, joining a club, or interning in your potential career, it is the time to fully work on yourself.

These healthy college meal prep ideas will help you focus on becoming yourself without the worry of eating unhealthy or spending a lot of money on food you might forget about. 

There are a variety of meals listed here that can be eaten throughout the year, and all of them made with simple ingredients.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t make some of the recipes completely. These are made to be altered to the best of your ability!

1. Smoothie Bags

MeowMeix is a health-conscious influencer who demonstrates various healthy food swaps and meal ideas.

She has helped many college students realize that healthy eating is possible with just a few changes.

These smoothies are great and meal-prep friendly. Leave them in your freezer for rushed mornings and you’re set for the day!

Berry blast smoothie bag on the top left, tropical dream smoothie bag on the top right, green machine smoothie bag on the bottom left, chocolate cherry smoothie bag on the bottom right

2. Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are a popular breakfast meal prep food, and they can be very delicious.

CotterCrunch has an impressive one that is not limited to the mason jar, so small additions can make it even better if you are worried about not having a fulfilling breakfast.

I prefer it this way so I can start my day with a fruit or veggie.

2 glass containers, the left container with an egg, oats, a piece of orange and nut. The right container with oats and pieces of grapefruit

3. Egg Cups

Egg cups are a simple meal idea and last for a surprisingly long time. I’ve tried various ones myself and they haven’t disappointed me at all.

It all depends on what you put into it and what toppings, if any, you add to it as well.

You can even have this with an English muffin or as a side to your overnight oats. Let Show Me The Yummy help you prep!

a muffin pan with egg cups in it

4. Yogurt Parfaits

Yogurt parfaits are the best breakfast, dessert, or snack. If you need something sweet but want to stay on the healthy side, this is a great option.

Gathering Dreams has a great guide to choosing your fruits and granola, and which ones pair best with each other.

Or you can get your favorite fruits and layer as you wish!

3 cups of yogurt with berries and coconut shavings on top

5. Vegan Hummus Sandwich

An easy way to eat healthy college meals is to prep vegan dishes.

This vegan hummus sandwich might not be an attainable college meal for everyone, but the best part about preparing your own vegan dishes is that you can put your more preferred veggies instead.

The Simple Veganista has a lot of great vegan recipes that are simple and easy to prep, even for college students.

2 sandwich halves stalked on top of each other with avocado, tomatoes, and greens

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6. Chicken Tacos

Lunch and dinner are easier to plan for, so you don’t have to be so picky about what you would want to eat. For instance, chicken tacos are so versatile and easy to meal prep.

Tasty has a whole website on easy recipes, and many dedicated to college meal preps.

Like a couple of recipes on this list, you can make a big batch of chicken and save it to add to whatever veggies or leftovers you already have. Convenient and budget-friendly!

2 chicken tacos with tomatoes and guacamole sitting on a white plate

7. Taco Bowl

Another use for big-batch protein is making your extra protein into a taco bowl, also convenient if you don’t have tortillas or lettuce for wraps.

Since this is a recipe for a taco bowl, the ingredients are set to reflect it, but if you are using a big batch protein, you can change it to your liking or budget.

Honestly, Sweet Peas and Saffron have become my go-to because they give a lot of alternatives!

4 glass containers with rice, corn, tomatoes, onions, a lime, and meat

8. Sun-dried Tomato Pasta

Hopefully, cheap ramen and unseasoned spaghetti are not all you end up eating in college. You can always upgrade this dish with uncomplicated swaps like choosing a pesto sauce instead of tomato.

This sun-dried tomato pasta with spinach by Little Broken is so simple and flavorful that you will never want to eat plain pasta again!

a plate of sun-dried tomato pasta

9. Sesame Noodle Bowl

My favorite meals in college are the ones that are filling but don’t take a lot of time. This sesame noodle bowl has become a great takeout replacement.

Edamame may be hard to find, so switch it out for peas if necessary. No guilty eating with Pinch of Yum’s recipe!

4 glass containers with noodles, edamame, avocado and meat

10. Black Bean and Corn Salad

Every once in a while, I see a vegan recipe that I wouldn’t mind incorporating into my weekly meal plan. This straightforward, no cook meal even works as a healthy lunch in between classes.

With this black bean and roasted corn salad, there’s no ingredient that is impossible to find! Simple Veganista has blessed us again.

a bowl of taco salad and a metal fork on a green napkin

11. Caprese Chicken Bowl

This Caprese chicken salad bowl by Sweet Pea and Saffron is honestly the best meal I have ever prepped in college. It is so tasty that I cannot live without it.

It is also a very healthy college meal so I highly recommend it. The mozzarella is sometimes pricey if bought individually, so opt for some big packs.

I recommend prepping the night before instead of days in advance so that it is fresh. I usually swap the quinoa with lettuce or green beans, but it is amazing in every way!

2 glass containers with small tomatoes, rice, meat, and cheese

12. Cilantro Lime Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Now I know seafood can be expensive for some college students, so don’t hesitate if you need to swap these cilantro lime shrimp lettuce wraps for ground beef or chicken.

You can use the same seasoning for any protein and make it your own. Lettuce wraps are the easiest meal prep you can achieve and will be one of the freshest every time.

The Recipe Critic shows us a very simple recipe that I am ready to make every day!

cooked shrimps on lettuce on a serving platter

13. Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

I Wash, You Dry has a great instant pot recipe for crispy pork carnitas. This is a great college meal plan recipe if you can make big batches for days to a week at a time.

Think Chipotle but without the added calories. Add this in a taco, burrito bowl or in a lettuce wrap, between buns or in a salad, and enjoy!

a pan with instant pot pork with limes on the top

14. Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Whether you grew up eating casseroles or not, Thriving Home will make you appreciate their versatility and time-saving recipes.

I love it because it is easy to add extra veggies or your favorite protein and it won’t ruin the dish.

Try to have a fresh addition to it, whether a side salad or some toppings like avocado or cheese to upgrade it after reheating. Casseroles are the ultimate college meal prep staple!

Chicken Parmesan Casserole in a clear dish with green leaves and bread crumbs on the top

15. Spinach and Beef Cannelloni

This method of stuffing pasta before cooking can take a bit of time, but it is so worth it at the end.

RecipeTin Eats has an easy recipe for spinach and beef cannelloni that can be made for days of prep! Think lasagna, but much tastier when reheated. There are also one-pot lasagna alternatives if you are really short on time.

Spinach and beef cannelloni on a plate with a metal fork

16. Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells

If you want something simpler, spinach and cheese stuffed shells can be frozen for days before cooking.

I recommend making as many as you can and freezing them in portioned-out containers. If you feel inspired to cook new things, try these stuffed shells with a different pasta sauce.

Use Kristine’s Kitchen recipe for a fulfilling meal!

Cheesy spinach stuffed shells with marinara sauce

17. Shrimp Fried Rice

Shrimp fried rice is a popular takeout food for college students and Damn Delicious has such a delectable recipe, it would be rude not to include this in your preparations.

This fried rice will still taste great when reheated, and adding more veggies can make it the ultimate meal. After having your personalized version, you won’t want to order out. Takeout who?

4 plastic containers with shrimp, fried rice, green beans, and peas

18. Vegetarian Chili Mac

If you are more interested in one-pot recipes, this vegetarian chili mac by Kristine’s Kitchen is a good one for any college student who preps their meals at the beginning of the day.

It is a slow cooker recipe, but there are plenty of others that are done in a much shorter time if that’s your preference.

a bowl of vegetarian chili mac in a white bowl

19. Make-Ahead Baked Taquitos

Every college student has stumbled into a 7/11 and ordered those taquitos without knowing what was in it. In order to avoid that mistake again, make your own! You will appreciate the flavor and versatility of these taquitos.

I love this very effortless meal by The Oven Light and its freezer compatibility. Have these as a meal prep or a party snack with fresh guacamole and tomatoes.

a plate of baked taquitos topped with guacamole and sour cream

20. Pesto Chicken Veggies

I love uncomplicated recipes and Tasty does an awesome job at helping college students recreate them. This recipe and cooking process is not even that difficult, so if you forget to meal prep, this can be a quick meal.

This pesto chicken and veggie recipe is one I find myself constantly going back to, and even changing up the veggies when I want to prep different meals!

4 plastic containers with chicken, green beans, and tomatoes

21. Honey Sriracha Crock Pot Chicken

Another excellent batch recipe, this time by Fit Foodie Finds, and it only needs five ingredients! Pair this honey sriracha chicken with rice, veggies, quinoa, or potatoes for dinner.

This chicken is also a great lunch in a salad or a quick sandwich. The possibilities are endless!

a hotpot of hot honey sriracha chicken

22. Honey Garlic Chicken

This is another big batch recipe, but not as big as previous ones, for college students with fewer storage options, or who simply may not have as much time to prep meals.

This one is by Diethood and you won’t be disappointed.

honey garlic chicken in a white bowl

23. Ground Turkey Stir Fry

Another takeout replacement, because we shouldn’t buy takeout every day, is this great ground turkey stir fry.

This is a great one-pan alternative as well and there’s nothing wrong with adding any extra veggies from other meal preps.

With The Girl on Bloor’s recipe, we will be eating low carb, fresh veggies, and guilt-free all through college!

4 containers with colorful ground turkey stir fry

24. Broccoli Stuffed Chicken

Cheesy broccoli stuffed chicken. Simple as that. Healthy Fitness Meals have made it easy to enjoy and endlessly appetizing.

This comfort food has been enhanced to be a healthier version, so you can eat this multiple times guilt-free.

Have some extra veggies to keep it low-carb. Keep this recipe around for those days you forget to meal prep. It’s that easy!

2 broccoli stuffed chicken in a pan

25. Jerk Chicken and Gingered Broccoli

Half Baked Harvest has presented us with this very fresh and Caribbean-inspired meal. Make sure you have the spices needed for this one.

Also, keep in mind that alteratiofns are not a bad thing! If you can’t find an ingredient, in this case edamame, opt for another veggie like snap peas or green beans.

As long as your seasoning is consistent, it will be a fulfilling meal. You’ll be excited to try something new with this dish!

3 glass containers with jerk chicken and gingered broccoli next to a bowl of limes

26. Chicken Noodle Soup

Classic chicken noodle soup for those days where you work too hard and need some rest. Make sure you stock up for flu season! Eating Well has an easy recipe with very few ingredients.

You are going to love it because it is quick to prep. This effortless comfort food will become your favorite to recreate all year.

3 bowls of chicken noodle soup sitting on a wooden table

27. Black Bean Soup

Maybe you want a no-meat option of the soup. Tasty does a great job at creating recipes that use several plain and cheap ingredients to create a delightful soup.

There are many veggie options for those that want an easier soup to freeze. Top with a fresh veggie like avocado or even enjoy with some tortilla chips.

a bowl of black bean soup with avocado and cheese on top

28. Creamy Chicken Tortellini Soup

Or maybe you are like me and Chelsea’s Messy Apron and prefer creamy soups. This chicken tortellini soup is a little time-consuming, but so, so worth it in the end.

You can make this as a big batch soup and save it for the winter months.  Try it with some garlic bread if you have it!

two bowls of creamy chicken tortellini soup

29. Creamy Tomato Soup

Soups are uncomplicated and can be left in the freezer for days. Try this easy creamy tomato soup by The Recipe Rebel instead of opting for the can.

It tastes fresher, is easy to prep, and won’t cost you more than a fast-food meal. Don’t forget the grilled cheese!

plate with a small bowl of creamy tomato soup and two pieces of bread on it

30. Five Spice Beef Stew

Lastly, a hearty stew can get you through the week, especially during the colder months. They are easy to make and can last for a while, so plan accordingly.

The Cookie Rookie has a great, heavily seasoned recipe that is for sure to be the envy of your friends and roommates all through college. Add some toasted bread or sprinkle some cheese to improve the stew. Bon appetit!

3 bowls of spice beef stew, 3 spoons at bottom right corner of the image

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Wellness

Are Plant-Based Diets The Future or a Thing of The Past?

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A plate full of various plant based foods.
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Sticking to a plant-based diet is a thing that people have always done, but recently has made a comeback as a popular lifestyle choice. People on plant-based diets eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, tubers, grains, and seeds, or concoctions that consist of one or more of those ingredients. You will not see people on these diets eating that much meat, such as beef, poultry, and fish, nor eggs or dairy, however, these foods are not always given up completely. 

Plant-based diets have existed and been followed for a very long time for various reasons. While some people decide to stop eating animals for moral reasons, others live by a plant-based diet because of the many health benefits. Different forms of plant-based diets include being vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, fruitarian, and flexitarian, which allows for the consumption of some meat and dairy. 

Just because someone decides to live a plant-based lifestyle does not mean they have to give up eating meat or dairy completely. Most plant-based diets are flexible in the sense that you will not be breaking any rules if you eat a piece of meat here and there. Eating plant-based is more of a mindset in which one prioritizes eating plant-derived foods rather than eating mostly meat, fish, or dairy. A whole-food diet is a diet where people eat foods that are as close to their natural state as they can be, staying away from all processed foods, added sugars, and unnatural chemicals.

A popular plant-based diet is called the whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, which consists of elements of both a plant-based diet as well as a whole-foods diet where a person does not eat any processed foods, artificial sweeteners, added sugars, refined grains, or hydrogenated oils. The WFPB diet also recommends people stick to eating mostly whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. 

Heads of broccoli laying on a green background.
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Are Plant-Based Diets Beneficial?

There are many studies and claims saying that eating a strictly plant-based diet is in many ways incredibly beneficial for people’s health. These studies say that some benefits of this diet can include, lower total cholesterol, lower risk of developing type two diabetes, improved cardiovascular health, improved glycemic control, loss of weight if needed, protection from various forms of cancer, improved neurocognitive function, and prevention and management of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study in 2017 that looked at the effects of a fully conformant WFPB diet and compared them to the effects of someone on a plant-based diet but also ate processed foods. The results showed that people on WFPB diets were much less likely to have any sort of heart disease, while a plant-based diet that still includes processed food actually increases the overall risk of heart disease. More research that has been done over time has shown that sticking to a WFPB diet can also possibly decrease a person’s requirement for certain medications such as statins, medication for blood pressure, and various diabetes drugs. 

Even though there are many potential benefits of a plant-based diet, there have also been studies that show the opposite, claiming that plant-based diets can be more detrimental to someone’s health than beneficial.

“A plant-based diet sounds like it’d be inherently healthy, but that’s not always the case. Refined grains, added sugars, and vegan fast-food are all plant-based—but not the healthiest. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and some proteins make for more nutritionally sound choices,” Dietitian Nutritionist Kelly Plowe said.

Ensuring that you stick to the right diet that isn’t only plant-based but also naturally healthy is essential in getting the proper benefits that a plant-based diet can lead to. 

Some downsides of following a WFPB diet include the fact that like any diet, it becomes an obligation to pay more attention when preparing and planning what you are going to eat, as it is hard to constantly find affordable healthy foods that are not processed. Also, once meat has been omitted from a diet, it becomes a challenge to consume the amount of protein and other nutrients that are recommended and required to survive.

People who follow these diets need to ensure that they eat enough protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B12. It is true that eating a plant-based diet can potentially lead to a lower intake of necessary daily nutrients. However, if the proper time and effort are put into meal planning, eating the right nutrients should not be a huge problem for most people who want to stick to WFPB or any plant-based diet.

A picture of a plant based burger in packaging called 'Beyond Burger'.
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has dietary guidelines that include recommendations on what foods to eat to maintain a healthy plant-based diet that still includes a bit of meat. Some of the foods that the USDA mentions include vegetables, dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and green beans. Fruits, berries, grains, oats lean meats such as chicken breast, fish, or turkey breast. Beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy such as milk and cheese, as well as natural oils are also on the list.

While not eating meat and dairy technically does not meet the USDA guidelines of a healthy, well-balanced diet, it has been shown and proven that with the right planning, it is absolutely possible to take in everything necessary in order to continue to thrive by following a plant-based diet.

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Wellness

Pounds over Promise: The Cycle of Diet Culture and New Years Resolutions

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Food sitting on a white plate on a table with a fork and knife beside it.

At the start of a new year, everyone wants to start fresh. A few new styles, some changes to the daily routine, and sometimes, a big resolution. A very popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. How to do it? There are answers everywhere! Scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, there’s bound to be someone talking about a new diet they’re trying. Influencers have been infamous for peddling dangerous diets to fanbases of young women and girls. Even mothers are not free from their reach. Bloggers like lonijane on Instagram showed how her body looked before and after cheating on her vegan diet. The combination of New Year’s resolutions and these various diets is a recipe for disaster. Diet culture around the first month of the New Year is intense and even dangerous. 

What is “diet culture”? 

Diet culture is described as a desire to lose weight at all costs, and puts losing weight over wellbeing. It is a combination of advertisements and what the advertisements make us feel. The feelings of inferiority or discomfort with your body are precisely what the industry feeds off of. Whether it’s a new diet every week, or even directly associating worth with weight, it is hard to escape.

Especially around the start of the New Year, diet culture is pervasive. Even on January 1, it’s been shown that topics surrounding dieting and exercise spike in search volume. Some particularly cruel advertisements from gyms feed into a sense of inferiority and reap the profits. In 2017, about 10.8% of subscriptions to over 6,400 gyms happened in January. The nature of what a diet should be is also constantly changing: keto, juice cleanses, the baby food diet, paleo… reading through the advertisements is enough to give someone whiplash.

Impact of influencers on diet culture

The advertisements don’t only come from the corporations— or not directly. Influencers are a major way for corporations to boost their product. Ads are nothing new, but the personal nature of Instagram, where people will also post parts of their life, is something different. What’s especially worrisome is that these influencers often have a huge following of minors, intentionally or not. More than one-third of teenagers in Germany aged 14 to 17 deliberately seek out influencers. Over 84% of the content from female influencers is related to health, diet, and fitness. Attractive and uniform, they promote a singular way of living and looking. It’s easy and profitable for them to do it that way. The issue is that there are a wide variety of bodies that exist. There is no “one size fits all” for health. Allergies, chronic conditions, and genes are all important factors. 

An old newspaper clipping for the blitz diet.
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How might influencers impact young people later in life, girls especially, as they can closely control their diet? 

Guilty over existence

There are worries about “quarantine pounds”, as people have been stuck inside due to COVID-19. Nutritionists are worried that individuals will be more susceptible to weight loss advertisements. The guilt over quarantine pounds stack up, on top of the pre-existing guilt instilled by advertisements.

A poignant way that advertisers promote body shame is “before and after” shots. To show the efficacy of their product or program, diet companies will show the amount of weight lost after using their product. These pictures directly associate the “before” picture with bad or undesirable. People with these bodies are being shamed, and repeatedly seeing those images will have a lasting impression. Especially at the start of the year, when seeing one’s stomach after holiday meals, insecurity digs in. 

These insecurities start young, but it’s not only by influencers. A study of mother-daughter pairs showed that daughters of dieting moms would start dieting before they were eleven. Given how close-quartered people are during quarantine, it’s likely that children will pick up on their family’s habits. Recently, there have been movements to stop mentioning weight around children. Whether the discussion is about the child’s weight or the parent’s, the children pick up on the criticism. Even people who aren’t parents can have a lasting impression. “She said, as if talking to herself, ‘Pretty face… have you ever thought about trying to lose weight?’” wrote a NYT contributor on her teenage experience with a friend’s mother. These comments linger and dig in, and around the holidays, they are especially amplified. 

Hope for body positivity

Very recently, with stars like Lizzo proudly showing their nontraditional bodies, there has been an emphasis on accepting various looks. Plus-size models have made their ways onto catwalks and into major magazines, without necessarily acknowledging that they are plus size. YouTubers have made videos specifically showing how influencers may take their photos, so young girls may feel better about themselves. While the holidays are still bombarded with advertisements and commercials, there are still people reminding you of your worth.

An old newspaper clipping on how to lose weight in 30 days.
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Don’t feel ashamed for enjoying holiday food or eating more during winter! There’s a reason bears hibernate, and given the exhaustion of 2020, I think we all deserve it.

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