Supporting healthy eating habits for chronic dieters
Feb 2021 - ongoing
Because of their over-concern with body shape and weight, chronic dieters may eventually damage their physical and mental health. Typical problems include hair loss, extreme hunger, depression, and food obsession in mind. For the sake of their health, they have to get rid of chronic dieting and change their restrained eating behavior.
This project focuses on chronic dieters who have been aware of the harm of a long-term restrained diet and are willing to change their current eating habits. Chronic dieters are defined as individuals who consistently restrict energy intake to maintain an average or below-average body weight for more than 2 years. The research scope is Chinese college female students who are in their 20s. I have conducted individual interviews with people who have different experiences in dieting and weight loss. I also did an informal study in a social media group for people who are giving up dieting. Here are the main insights:
• People usually interpret it as wrong to eat unhealthy food. However, it is impossible and unnecessary for most people to eat only healthy foods. Even dietitians believe a moderate amount of unhealthy food is good for long-term health.
• The biggest challenge in getting rid of restrained eating is weight gain. Most participants mentioned the worry about body shaming from others. Their courage to sacrifice body shape for long-term health should be appreciated.
• They cannot help judging their new body image as the mindset that thinness equals beauty has been there for many years. The preference for thinness happens unconsciously. However, the awareness of avoiding body shape stereotypes is still valid. To change the subconsciousness, they need to be more patient.
This project aims to develop a product that guides chronic dieters to formulate a personalized food ritual. Getting rid of restrained eating does not mean they will end up eating a lot of junk food and have a poor body shape. But they will need to find the balance in eating healthy food and joy food, which will lead to a balance in body shape and eating. I also aim to change people’s attitudes towards getting rid of restrained eating from negative to positive. They are not giving up a diet because of incompetence. But they are critical to what a good body shape is and are pursuing a healthier lifestyle.
Project coaches: Rick Schifferstein and Natalia Romero Herrera