College Life: Are Fad Diets Feeding Eating Disorders?

The diet industry is one that makes billions of dollars yearly on promoting “perfection” and “ideal physiques.” This leads to the question are fad diets leading to eating disorders?

They will promote these messages to anyone who is willing to listen to their propaganda and spend money on endless books, dvd’s, diet pills, green drinks, low fat, low carb, high protein diets and a plethora of other products that claim will help shed the extra few pounds that will in turn make you flawless.

The Global Weight Management Industry

According to Transparency Market Research, “the global weight management industry is forecasted to generate sales of $650 billion by 2015”. (1) The diet industry does not discriminate who they target, as we are seeing all age and gender groups participating in copious methods of weight loss.

We are also seeing increasing numbers of college-aged people turning to fad diets as a way to keep up with the “image” they are supposed to portray, the image of perfection. Unfortunately, it appears that fad diets leading to eating disorders may be valid.

It’s Impossible to Avoid Media Pressure

It is easy to see why young people are relying on all the new diet trends and fads–this is all that they see in the media. It is challenging to figure out what information is authentic and valid vs. information that is being put out to the public in order for the diet industry to capitalize on the next big diet craze.

The diet industry, a multibillion-dollar industry, is always looking for ways to grow larger, so why not target our young, newly freed college kids as their newest population to violate?

These are kids who have just left the comforts of their parents’ homes; looking to find themselves and something to make them fit in, possibly following the next best detox cleanse that promises rapid weight loss and happiness. This is what the diet industry is telling our young people they must do in order to have friends and get further in life.

College Dieting Is Common

College campus where fad diets leading to eating disordersAccording to the National Association of Eating Disorders (NEDA), “91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting”. (2) This means 9 out of every 10 women have thought about or have tried some type of diet to obtain societies view of perfection.

A scary thought as to how many college-aged people are dissatisfied with what they look like and how many are willing to try the latest fad diets without having valid science to back it up.

Attempts to Diet Can Spiral Out of Control

An innocent attempt to start living a healthier lifestyle, eating less unhealthy food, exercising more and losing a few pounds can turn into a cycle of hazardous behaviors, which can lead into debilitating disordered eating and eventually full blown eating disorders.

Many of the fad diets that are all over various media outlets and sponsored by popular celebrities have little to no validity to them. This can adversely be harmful to the college aged population who are just looking to fit in.

Diet pills, gluten free, dairy free, juicing diets, detoxing, low fat, low carb, high protein diets can indeed cause quick weight loss, but what the media and diet industry is not disclosing is that as fast as the weight is coming off it will also come back just as quickly if not more.

Find Help on Campus

Colleges and universities have taken steps to address eating disorders among students by offering access to mental health professionals, specialized treatment programs, educational programs, and peer support groups.
online therapy session

Fad Diets Leading to Yo-Yo Dieting

female-hands-431110_640Most fad diets can cause a person to be dehydrated and undernourished triggering an initial weight loss. After the person starts to consume a normalized diet again their body starts to rebuild protein and store more water, which will eventually lead to weight gain and the cycle of yo-yo dieting.

This is why people, especially those who are targeted by media turn to fad diets, jumping from one to the next until they find themselves in a situation where all they can think about is, “how can I make myself skinnier?”

If you, or someone you know, repeatedly turn to fad diets for weight loss that never results, please consult a professional. A registered dietitian or nutritionist can get you on the right path to healthy eating and weight management.

Rita Ekelman photo

Contributor: Rita Ekelman, RDN, LDN, MBA, Director of Nutrition Services at Timberline Knolls

About Timberline Knolls:

Located in suburban Chicago, Timberline Knolls is a leading private residential treatment center for females (ages 12 – 65+) with eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, mood and co-occurring disorders. For more information, call 877.257.9611 today.


  1. “Weight Management Market by Services, Supplements, Diet, Equipment and Devices: Global Analysis And Forecast (2007 – 2015).” – Market Research Report. Transparency Market Research, Jan. 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.
  2. “Eating Disorder Statistics & Research.” Eating Disorder Hope RSS. N.p., Apr. 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 21st, 2015
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