After returning to a university known for its beautiful campus and people, students might feel pressured to lose weight and fit a certain image — but students thinking about trying out a fad diet might want to reconsider.
As Brescia University College food and nutrition professor Danielle Battram says fad diets are more popular among university students than the general population.
A fad diet is one that eliminates one or more of the essential food groups or recommend consumption of one type of food in excess at the expense of other foods in efforts to lose weight. Some examples include the paleo diet (eating foods that were available to cavemen, such as vegetables, fruit, nuts and meat but excluding processed foods and carbohydrates) and a gluten-free diet (excluding the protein gluten).
With the start of a new school year, many students are motivated to pursue both their academic and fitness goals. Battram believes that as students are gaining independence at university, they may go on fad diets to shape their own diet and health.
"Fad diets seem new and innovative; individuals may try them because it might be something that helps them stay healthy and meet their fitness goals," Battram says.
Students may also deny themselves certain foods because of body-image issues.
First-year speech pathology student Lori O'Keefe thinks comparing yourself to other attractive people may prompt insecurity and encourage individuals to lose weight. Women, especially, tend to be more insecure about their appearance.
Ian Rutherford, a second-year theatre studies and creative writing student, agrees with O'Keefe.
"University is a significant socialization period for individuals. You're on display to a lot of people and you're interacting with people you might form romantic connections with one day," says Rutherford.
Coupled with the stressful university environment, students might not have time to go to the gym and lose weight in a healthy manner, so they turn to fad diets.
But, many health professionals emphasize that these diets are detrimental to an individual's long-term well-being.
"[Fad diets] are not sustainable. It's important to get a steady diet with enough wholesome carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals," says Battram.
"Fad diets are called that for a reason, they come in and leave. Be active, get rest and stick with a healthy diet to improve your well-being in the long term."