Graphic by Chloe Girod

Many tend to shy away from food that is considered “unhealthy” in order to conform to a modern diet. In turn, there is an increased pressure on the youth to structure their diets around societal health standards.

Here’s a diet plan that will have you looking like you’re starring in a Planet Fitness commercial: Channel your hunger into four baby carrots and half of a sunflower seed each day, followed by two unsalted cashews for dessert.

The world has been infested by diet plans that resemble this, infiltrated by the idea that putting your meals under a microscope is the only way to be deemed “healthy.” As a result, many people expect themselves to conform to the diet of a snail just to look like they go to the gym.

However, these miniscule meal plans fail to mention the fact that they are physically and mentally unfulfilling. Livestrong, an organization that aims to promote physical wellness, considers extreme diets to be the source of slowed metabolism, digestive issues, bloating, and a lack of energy. These side effects, in turn, can impair your body and disrupt your development.

Caging yourself in a restrictive diet is a surefire way to ensure that the chocolate bar sitting in your kitchen cabinet is even more desirable to you. In other words, depriving your taste buds of something only makes it seem like even more of a luxury. Society tends to villainize unhealthy food, attributing it with physical and mental discomfort. However, there comes a point where you have to realize that the goldfish crackers sitting in your lunchbox are not your worst enemy: you are.

Sometimes, the pressure that surrounds eating like a Victoria’s Secret model can shatter the entire purpose of dieting, which is to improve your mental and physical condition. This is due to the fact that dieting is counterintuitive; while we think we are simply shedding weight, we are actually working against our natural needs. In reality, diets are a temporary fix that will ultimately provoke stress and harm your body. A study published by the US National Library of Medicine found that “chronic stress, in addition to promoting weight gain, has been linked with coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer.” Forcing yourself to avert your eyes from the candy aisles as you pass Sweets From Heaven in the mall is an overall disservice to your well-being.

Additionally, narrowing your intake to a risky extent stresses the importance of your physical image. If you deprive yourself of processed foods strictly because you want abs, you are internally enforcing the idea that your physical appearance takes priority over your personal satisfaction. This can contribute to heightened body image dissatisfaction. Another study published by the US National Library of Medicine found that 36 percent of a surveyed sample of young women had tried extreme-dieting, including tactics such as fasting, slimming tablets, and cigarettes. Of the sample, 77 percent were attempting to shed weight. It is evident that “diet” is a polished way of saying “deprivation,” as many are stripping themselves of their basic needs in order to be perceived as thin.

This may seem to counter everything you’ve ever heard about a healthy lifestyle; perhaps your entire life has been based on a healthful diet, starting from the moment your mom told not to go near the cookie jar. However, this vicious cycle of dieting is countering every lesson that is taught about self-acceptance and healthy thinking. The only way to overcome this is to refuse every 10-day meal plan you see on social media. Instead of putting down those who can shamelessly eat an entire pizza in half an hour, we must work to diminish the pressure that many feel to diet. This “non-diet diet” is not a form of unhealthy living; it’s a form of self-indulgence.

So do it: raid every layer of your kitchen cabinet with reckless spontaneity until you feel full. Satisfy your tastebuds and swallow society’s standards. Eat a spoonful of ice cream for every time you’ve told yourself to “cut down on the carbs.” Because you are not what you eat; you are what you think, what you do, and what you feel.