Is this the twilight of the toxic diet culture in Poland?

Is this the twilight of the toxic diet culture in Poland?

The study showed that 60% of Poles have tried to lose excess weight, of which a frightening 2/3 have attempted it more than once in the last five years. Moreover, desperation drives them to extreme measures, and social pressure and conflicting messages about healthy eating and diet add fuel to the fire, often lowering their self-esteem. Is there a way out of this maze of failures and stress? The Respo Center, with the support of the Polish Society of Lifestyle Medicine, decided to face this problematic reality. The educational campaign “Twilight of Toxic Diet Culture” is a response to disinformation and harmful beliefs.

In Poland, the problem of overweight and obesity already affects over 60% of the population, constituting an urgent challenge for public and individual health. The fight against unwanted kilograms is often a long and arduous road, full of fruitless struggles lasting for years. People struggling with excessive body weight often reach a point of desperation, reaching for radical measures in the hope of losing weight. Additionally, bombarded with contradictory messages about diet, surrounded by social pressure and expectations regarding appearance, many of them feel a decline in self-esteem and fear criticism from others.

A disturbing report

The report “The Twilight of Toxic Diet Culture in Poland” prepared on the initiative of the Respo Centrum online dietary clinic showed that 2/3 of people who try to lose weight repeat this process many times. One in 10 people have tried to lose weight more than five times in the last 5 years! Moreover, as many as 30% of respondents who believe that they weigh too much perceive themselves negatively. All this translates into the widespread use of harmful, restrictive deficiency diets, which deepens the problem of overweight and obesity, often becoming a vicious circle in the fight for health and well-being.

The term “toxic diet culture” perfectly describes the phenomena that Respo Center experts encountered while working with over 37,000 patients who lost over 277,000 excess kilograms.

“Attempts to lose weight on your own using fashionable diets, often with insufficient calories, usually end in failure, which creates a feeling of failure and discouragement from further attempts. It is worth understanding that effective weight loss requires a holistic approach, taking into account both physical and mental aspects. The basis is to build a healthy relationship with food and your body to create lasting and good lifestyle changes. – comments Anna Kowalczyk-Soszyńska, psychodietitian at the Respo Center.

The Respo Center initiated the “Twilight of the toxic diet culture in Poland” campaign, in which experts from various fields participate, including dietitians, psychodietitians, doctors and psychotherapists. The substantive partner of the initiative is the Polish Society of Lifestyle Medicine. As part of the campaign, a report was prepared that sheds light on the problem of toxic diet culture and educational materials were prepared, available on the campaign website. The campaign aims to build a new social approach to diet and weight loss. It is to be based on respect for one's own body, attention to mental well-being and a solid foundation of scientific knowledge, while taking into account the realities of everyday life and the challenges related to weight loss.

Starvation diets and a string of failures

The report brings a terrifying look at the diet culture in Poland. It is surprising that as many as 59% of Poles have attempted to lose weight, often reaching for various types of popular, but often ineffective or even harmful diets, instead of rational eating plans. We start losing weight very early – every fourth person starts trying to lose weight before the age of 19, and every second person before the age of 26. These are alarming facts that shed light on the need to educate and promote healthy eating habits from an early age.

The effects come at high costs – as many as 76% of people trying to lose weight experienced negative effects while following the diet. The most frequently reported were: hunger, loss of energy, loss of motivation, and irritability. 67% of people trying to lose weight have experienced negative consequences of a poor diet. The most frequently mentioned are the yo-yo effect, loss of motivation to make further weight loss attempts, frustration, and remorse about eating.

“Faced with the growing problem of overweight and obesity, we cannot underestimate the role of unhealthy dietary patterns and easily accessible content on social media platforms, which only deepen this problem. People who try to lose weight more than five times often find themselves under enormous pressure related to this information, which can lead to a deterioration of their mental state. A disturbingly small percentage of people decide to consult a dietitian, preferring to independently search for information on the Internet. This phenomenon carries the risk of incorrect dietary practices, which may result in negative health consequences in the long term.” – adds Dr. Daniel Śliż, specialist in internal diseases and public health.

There is a man on the other side

It is difficult for people of normal weight to understand the daily obstacles faced by those who are overweight or obese. In addition to health problems, excess weight also has numerous psychosocial consequences, such as a feeling of less attractiveness and social acceptance. In everyday situations, they may experience discomfort related to the effort they put into daily activity, negative glances or comments from other people, and difficulties in buying clothes. All this can lead to a negative self-image and a decline in self-esteem.

“If we actually weigh too much, it is worth taking care of ourselves and reacting – not with excessive panic, but also not ignoring the situation. Blaming yourself won't help either. Such strategies will only worsen our mental well-being. By thinking negatively about ourselves, we close ourselves off, which may in turn sabotage our path to health. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. “It will gradually poison our self-esteem and deepen our sense of lack of control over our lives.” – comments Katarzyna Kucewicz, psychologist and psychotherapist.

Why do so many of us want to lose weight? There are many reasons. The most common reasons included the desire to improve one's appearance (61%) and the desire to please oneself (44%). Interestingly, most people (24%) focus more on achieving satisfaction with their own appearance than on pleasing others. Moreover, many people strive to improve their well-being (55%), health (58%), physical condition (55%), and quality of life (41%). These motivations demonstrate the complexity of the psychological and emotional aspects involved in achieving a healthy weight and feeling better.

“The motivation to lose weight most often comes from deep and basic needs: acceptance, love, self-care, a sense of agency and self-esteem.” – adds Anna Kowalczyk-Soszyńska, psychodietician at the Respo Center.

How to lose weight effectively and stress-free?

Regardless of your individual weight control challenges, it is crucial to realize the need to approach weight loss wisely and responsibly.

“The key is to understand that there are four main areas you need to focus on to achieve effective, healthy results, without stress and unnecessary restrictions. Diet plays a key role, but proper care is equally important. On our own, we are often unable to select a diet that suits our individual needs, so the support of a specialist is invaluable. A dietitian will not only help you adjust your diet, but will also provide motivation in difficult moments of doubt. It is also worth emphasizing that the diet should be treated as a process of building lasting habits, and not just as a short-term change. Moreover, we cannot forget about physical activity, which should be adapted to our condition, preferences and goals, preferably planned by an expert. All of these elements are crucial to achieving weight loss success and maintaining the results for the rest of your life.” – emphasizes dietitian and educator, doctor of food and nutrition technology, Małgorzata Jackowska.

More information and materials are available on the campaign website:

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