Dieting in Fashion Industry

Today, dieting  is a multibillion dollar business and counting calories is an American pastime. Dieting is usually a practice that involves ingesting food in a regulated fashion to achieve  or to maintain a goal weight,  but  it can also involve pills, procedures, and other lifestyle choices. Some  people  also diet in order  to gain weight. For example,  athletes often  attempt to gain weight  to bulk  up  or to move  into  a different weight  class. In addition, individuals who  suffer  from  anorexia nervosa or starvation are usually  given diets  in order  to regain  optimal levels of body  fat, muscle, and  essential nutrients. Weight-loss diets  restrict the  intake  of certain foods  in order  to reduce body  weight. This  is the most  common form  of dieting, and its popularity can be seen in the number of weight-loss books, programs, and structured diet  clubs  that  are  available.  Dieting to  lose  weight  did  not  become popular until  the late 1800s. For the average American, neither excess of food nor a sedentary lifestyle was often perceived as a problem. It is generally assumed that, until  recently, emphasis was placed  on  a person’s spiritual value  rather than on aesthetics, so the need to be thin was not a dominant concern; however, there have been  a number of contributing factors  to this  shift, including the  ever-changing social and cultural perception of beauty  and style.

Fashion Change And Body Type

The  ideal  woman of the  19th  century invoked a maternal rather than sensual sense  of self, and clothing tended to accentuate the fullness of her figure. Fashion trends, however, profoundly shaped what  society  viewed  as the  ideal  womanly figure. For instance, the  use of the  corset  to make  one’s waist appear  small while enhancing the bust and the hips was the norm throughout the Victorian era. With the  rise  of the  fashion industry, women increasingly began  to  purchase readymade  clothes. Instead of having clothes tailored to their  body, they began  to tailor their  body to fit the clothes. In the 1920s,  a more  athletic and  boyish  ideal image of feminine style made  popular the  svelte  figure  of the  flapper,  as well as some first dieting  books published in the teens. By the 1950s, quasi-Victorian hourglass figures  were the ideal standards for Hollywood glamour girls, Barbie, and  the girl next door. Since the 1960s, fashions that revealed more  skin or body contour gave rise to waifs like Twiggy, a British  model  blamed (incorrectly) for originating the female obsession with thinness.

Counting Calories and Other Trends And Icons

When calories  were discovered in the  early 20th  century, the  war against  fat became  scientific.  This  helped to shape  trends in fashion and  the  image  of beauty, and  produced a litany  of weight-loss plans.  Some  diet  programs have  a greater effect on culture and  eating  habits than others. These diets  usually  focus  on the scientific  reasons for why losing  weight  is difficult.  One  of the  most  well-known diet groups is Weight Watchers, which  provides participants with structured diet plans,  as well as support from  other dieters. Weight Watchers was created in the 1960s,  and  remains so popular today  that  many  restaurants have specific Weight Watchers sections on  their  menus. In the  program, calorie-counting is replaced with a system  of points designed to make  dieting  easier. At each  level of the plan, the participant is allowed a certain number of points per day to spend on whatever they  choose. The  philosophy behind Weight Watchers is giving  people  a support  system  in which  they can cut calories  by cutting down  portion sizes. Weight Watchers removes the  scientific  element of weight  loss  by eliminating calorie counting, at least in name.

In the 1970s  and  ’80s, new icons  became to shape  the direction of the dieting industry. Richard Simmons, for example,  emerged as a motivational and  somewhat  flamboyant fitness  instructor. Simmons was dissatisfied with  fad diets  and dedicated himself  to spreading a message of healthy eating and exercise to change people’s  lives. His career  spawned a successful fitness  studio, a series  of aerobics videos,  countless television appearances and  advertisements, and  made  him  into a fitness  icon. The  Jenny Craig program was created in 1983  by Jenny Craig, and is a system  that  focuses  on  weight  loss, weight  management, and  nutrition. The program combines nutrition, through meal plans and prepackaged foods, with fitness and counseling to help clients  lose weight. The  company has had numerous celebrity  endorsements over  the  years,  including Kirstie Alley, Valerie  Bertinelli, and Queen Latifah.

During the early years of the 21st century, the oh-so-popular Atkins diet essentially began  the  low-carbohydrate craze that  swept  the  United States.  Dr.  Robert Atkins’s first book  was published in 1972, but it did not become popular until  the early 2000s.  After he  died  in 2003,  it lost  popularity, but  the  brand name  is still used to sell low-carb products. The Atkins Nutritional Approach, the diet’s official title, centers on the science  behind weight  loss. It insists  that  one  can lose weight not  by eating  less, but  by eating  the  right  foods  to scientifically  trick  one’s body into burning fat. The Atkins diet claims that the main problem leading to obesity is the overconsumption of refined  carbohydrates like sugar, flour, and high-fructose corn  syrup. The  diet also emphasizes the danger of transaturated fats. The  Atkins diet therefore involves  the restriction of carbohydrates in order  to force the body to burn stored fat. The Atkins diet has become so popular that  low-carb products are sold in grocery  stores  and some  restaurant menus include low-carb sections.

Extreme Measures And Criticism

Counting calories  and  regulating food  intake  has  not  been  the  only  means of dieting. In the  late 19th  and  early 20th  century, early diet  pills were rumored to contain tapeworms that,  once  ingested, would  assist  the  dieter  in losing  weight. By the  1950s,  doctors were  prescribing diet  pills that  contained amphetamines. Amphetamines were used  during World  War II to keep soldiers alert, but  had the added  benefit  of appetite suppression. However, many  patients developed substance  abuse  problems and  doctors stopped prescribing the  pills. Today, weight loss  pills  claim  to  increase metabolism or  aid  in  appetite suppression through herbal  supplementation like green  tea and  additives  like ephedra. Some  pills, like the  drug  Alli, are  used  to  block  the  absorption of fat from  foods,  but  must be taken  in combination with  a healthy diet.  However, the  greatest concerns come from the popularity of extreme diets and fasting.

Since the 1960s, feminist criticism   of    seemingly unhealthy, super-thin fashion models  has  urged   women to ignore   trends  that   called   for an  ideal  body  shape   and  size most  women find unattainable. This  argument continues into the present day with media attention  focused  on   models like Kate  Moss  and  celebrities like Lindsay  Lohan who are deemed anorexic due  to  their small  size and  are criticized  as poor   role  models for  impressionable young  women. A particular  concern is that  when dieting  is taken  to the extreme, eating   disorders  can   develop.

Anorexia  nervosa affects mostly girls and young  women who feel pressure to conform  to a certain body image presented by society. People  with the disorder have an intense fear of gaining  weight. Though the focus is on stress surrounding food intake, anorexia is also a way for people  to feel more  in control of life. There is no single cause  of anorexia, but culture, family history, and stressful life changes can all play a role. Although less attention has been  paid to men,  similar  trends have also shaped cultural ideas of male beauty. By the late 1970s, the athletic, muscular male  body  became the  ideal and  encouraged men  to embrace a range  of fitness programs and diet crazes that  include dangerously unhealthy products and practices that  have long been  associated primarily  with women and girls.

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