Health seemed to be the afterthought of the early 2000s in order to obtain the comeback look of the ultra-thin figure of the 1920s that was deemed as the pinnacle of beauty for the new millennium. Models and actresses secretly starved themselves to be deemed worthy of being seen as beautiful. Cellulite, hormonal changes, and the simple, beautiful, natural changes of the human body were revolting in the eyes of the famed and fortunate.
According to the 2019 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), Prevalence of Eating Disorders over the 2000–2018 Period: A Systematic Literature Review reported a rise in eating disorders worldwide . Eating disorders, like anorexia, rose 3.5% from 2000-2006 mostly in women and young girls as many desperately strived to copy the ultra-thin figures of Paris Hilton, Keira Knightly, the ladies of Friends, and the Victoria’s Secret Angels . These were worshipped as the epitome of beauty in the Western cultures, while the same eating disorder was also prevalent in Asian and Middle-Eastern countries as well .
However, years later, some of the former Victoria Secret Angels would admit they starved themselves or were encouraged to do drugs to keep the desired figure in order to win the approval of the casting directors and be casted in the company’s glamorous fashion show the following year. It was reported that if they gained even an inch in their bra or anywhere else and couldn’t lose it, they would be cut and not even considered . Other models went as far as eliminating all solid foods and drinking water days before the opening of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show to keep their trim, yet dehydrated, figures . One model admitted she even passed out from not eating for days and grew temporary hatred toward herself if she didn’t reach her goal of starving for longer periods of time .
Starving was a normalized way of life in the entertainment world. The film, The Devil Wears Prada, shows the unhealthy risks Emily Blunt’s character takes to look thin in her high-fashion clothes to fit in with the rest of the modeling world by starving herself to the point of almost passing out. Likewise, Anne Hathaway’s character is called “fat” for being a size 6 and later drops the weight to the approved size 4 after subconsciously finding herself wanting to fit in with the rest of those in the office due to the ostracizing comments of her colleagues and boss .
During this time, solid meals were replaced with liquid alternatives. Juice cleanses prevented people from eating during the detoxing processes and well-balanced meals and healthy snack options were swapped with smoothies to curb cravings. In 2006, the famous singer and actress, Beyoncé was one of the main promotors for liquid diets including the Master Cleanse/ Lemonade Diet that consisted of lemonade, salt water, and an herbal laxative tea to shed 20 pounds for her role in Dreamgirls .
Energy drinks, like Monster, were another method to suppress hunger by replacing eggs, bananas, and water for a colorful caffeinated sugary alternative to boost energy throughout the day and keep a flat figure regardless of the fact that the consumption of energy drinks could lead to heart arrhythmias, headaches, high blood pressure, and anxiety . No matter the means or the danger, maintaining the flat figure and not eating solid meals seemed to be the main goal.
While constant liquid diets became unfulfilling, the Raw Diet of the ancient times with consuming only uncooked and unprocessed meals like meats, eggs, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables, seeds like flax and chia added to yogurts or oatmeal gained a high-profile following with famous Hollywood personalities like Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson causing many raw food restaurants and café sprouted around the trendy cities of the US . However, as natural as the raw diet may be, it could cause serious vitamin and mineral imbalances and the most common deficiencies are of Vitamin B12 and protein . Not to mention some foods could lead to illnesses and some were poisonous if left uncooked .
The famous Subway Diet was popularized in 2004 by Jared Fogle - who lost weight by only eating Subway sandwiches. This was another means of thinning out without starvation or liquifying meals. Medical Editor, Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD stated, “While the "Subway Diet" may result in weight loss due to an overall reduction in calories consumed, it severely restricts food choices. Most experts believe that a balanced diet containing a variety of different foods is the healthiest way to lose weight” . The Subway Diet was never endorsed by the sandwich franchise and cautioned anyone who tried it as a weight loss program and to seek the advice of a medical professional .
Restaurants and grocery stores promoted the smaller portions alternative with the popularity of cake pops, and regular burgers becoming mini versions called sliders . Small was the way to go to enjoy a favorite guilty pleasure with less guilt. Bowl options for desserts, burritos, and breakfast items were great to help curb the cravings of breaded foods but also was an alternative for the gluten-free dieters and those with celiac disease but could also potentially benefit those suffering from other chronic inflammatory conditions, like diabetes or multiple sclerosis .
Instead of producing innovative ways to maintain a nutritional lifestyle with a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, the new millennium decided to revert back to unhealthy ideologies of ultra-thin figures of the 19th and 20th century standards of beauty and health while shaming others who didn’t make the cut . Body positivity was non-existent, and celebrities nearly killed themselves to reach that outdated standard of perfection and encouraged others to mimic their actions. Liquified meals, raw diets, Subway all-day, mini versions of favorite foods, and starvation were glorified alternatives to a perfect healthy life without the slow process of a well-balance diet and simple forms of regular exercise.
Author: Emily Pau
Editor: Sophia Galvez
Health Scientist: Hira Mughal
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