Toxic Marketing! Changing The Nutrition Industry Narrative

Toxic Marketing! Changing The Nutrition Industry Narrative

Amal Wakim (pictured below) is the co-founder and CEO of the transformative health-tech app, Equalution. In this guest post, Wakim says a lot of Australians have a very unhealthy attitude to diets and nutrition which could be helped by better advertising and marketing…

In an ideal world, the normalisation of body acceptance would prioritise both physical and mental health, with food being regarded simply as nourishment for the body, free from judgment. Food is something that should be celebrated and enjoyed with your loved ones.

However, in 2023, the harmful stigma of diet culture has transformed into the language and processes of the nutrition and fitness industry. Disguised as “healthy” alternatives, this industry perpetuates the same damaging myths that undermine our relationship with food.

Amal Wakim

Having personally struggled with an eating disorder and tried various fad approaches, including keto, Atkins, paleo low-carb diets, and shake diets, I have come to realise that the underlying premise of deprivation prevented me from understanding my body’s true needs. Demonising entire food groups led only to temporary results and trapped me in a cycle of battling my body in pursuit of weight loss.

Nowadays, I embrace an approach that consists of 80 per cent whole foods and 20 per cent soul food and have founded a movement called Equalution, which challenges the toxic diet culture and promotes the belief that you should never completely eliminate the foods you love. Healthy eating can be both flavorful and sustainable, and our app teaches a new way of relating to food without resorting to dieting based on solid scientific nutrition principles.

Despite the well-known fact that 95 per cent of diets ultimately fail in the long term, they persist in our society. This persistent presence, coupled with the proliferation of unrealistic body ideals on social media, further underscores the urgency to protect vulnerable individuals from falling into the trap of harmful practices that can result in disordered eating behaviours.

Statistics indicate that approximately one-third (31.6 per cent) of Australian adolescents engage in disordered eating behaviours each year. Moreover, one million Australians currently live with an eating disorder, encompassing conditions such as bulimia, binge eating disorder, and others. Many individuals with eating disorders also suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

Sadly, our culture categorises foods as either “good” or “bad,” “clean” or otherwise, resulting in many of us struggling with disordered eating. Nutrition companies that promote rapid weight loss and quick fixes fail to consider the effort required to establish sustainable lifestyle habits necessary for maintaining a healthy weight. This dangerous and ineffective mindset perpetuates the false notion that self-punishment is necessary to achieve an ideal body. Young people often bear the brunt of this toxic message, as alarming research reveals that most girls begin dieting as early as eight years old.

Instead of promoting unrealistic weight loss solutions, we should allocate resources to public health campaigns that focus on educating the public and fostering a positive relationship with food. These initiatives should prioritise strategies that specifically target the most vulnerable individuals, including children and adolescents, as establishing healthy habits early in life sets the foundation for lifelong well-being. Moreover, it is crucial to educate parents on the importance of reflecting on balanced eating habits in the household, as their behaviours and attitudes towards food directly influence their children’s perceptions.

When surrounded by a pervasive diet culture, reshaping our mindset about food may feel like an uphill battle. However, we owe it to ourselves and the more impressionable members of society to strive for improvement. By equipping parents and individuals with the right knowledge and support, we can actively work together to counteract the influence of diet culture and ultimately eliminate its detrimental effects.

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Amal Wakim

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