Categories
Opinions

The 75 hard challenge: transformative or troublesome?

Dive into the debate behind this fitness frenzy. If Alix Earle is doing it, we should too… right?

The online wellness community is buzzing as the 75 Hard Challenge continues to garner attention from influencers and fitness enthusiasts worldwide. Created by author and motivational speaker Andy Frisella, this mental toughness program promises life-altering changes over a grueling 75-day period. 

However, as the challenge’s hashtag on TikTok gains popularity, boasting more than a billion views since its debut in 2019, a crucial question arises: is it a path to a healthier lifestyle, or does it border on glorified eating disorder behavior?  

The challenge lays out six stringent rules that participants must adhere to for 75 consecutive days: maintain a strict diet with no cheat meals, abstain from alcohol, consume a gallon of water daily, complete two 45-minute workouts and read 10 pages of a book each day, and take a daily progress photo. Failure to comply requires restarting the challenge from day one, adding an extra layer of pressure. 

I know, right? Exhausting. But influencers across social media are doing this challenge so it must be good for us… right? 

Social media “It Girl” Alix Earle’s account has blown up this year, racking in over six million followers on TikTok. On Jan. 2, Alix embarked on her truncated version of the 75 Hard Challenge, which she calls the “30 hard,” sharing to social media that the standard 75 days was too long for her. 

After completing the challenge, Earle made it clear that exercising twice a day was draining, and not something she planned to continue in the future. 

Skepticism about the practicality and impact of the challenge persists. I spoke to Alexandra Tverdokhleb, a first-year sociology student at Concordia, who first heard of the challenge last year and wanted to give it a go to kickstart a healthy new year.  

“I tried to do the 75 Hard Challenge and I think I lasted two days because I realized it was so unrealistic with my lifestyle,” Tverdokhleb said, a sentiment shared by many students with demanding schedules.  

I also got to chat with Michelle Itzcovitch, a spin instructor at Le Spin for the past six years. With a decade of experience in the fitness industry, Michelle had plenty to share regarding the 75 Hard Challenge.  

Itzcovitch emphasized the importance of fostering a positive mindset in fitness, advocating for exercise as a choice to feel good rather than a restrictive endeavor.  

“I don’t want [working out] to be something that we dread or don’t look forward to,” she explained. “I find when you have something that gives you that restrictive mindset like the 75 Hard Challenge, if you don’t meet these standards, it’s like you failed.” She believes the 75 Hard Challenge is “glorified eating disorder behavior.”  

Michelle’s opinion is a common one amongst people who criticize the challenge online. Yet the challenge’s reach continues to grow as popular influencers on TikTok and YouTube post about it left, right and center. 

Still, the lingering question is: can anyone really tackle the 75 Hard Challenge successfully, or is it all just harmful habits disguised as a health kick?

Categories
Podcasts

Chatcordia : The Student Diet

Welcome to The Podcast. Cedric Gallant will produce and host this podcast alongside our Section Editors every week. The shows will rotate weekly to cover topics from each section of our newspaper!

This week’s show, Chatcordia, was produced by Cedric Gallant and Dalia Nardolillo, The Concordian’s Community Editor. Tune in for future episodes of Chatcordia, where we interview students about all things from serious to silly!

In this episode:

Cedric Gallant covers this week’s headlines and interviews Concordians at the Climate march last weekend.

For our Chatcordia segment this week, Community Editor Dalia Nardolillo asked Concordia students what they’re eating as we head into the busy (and often without lunch) days of the Fall semester.

Thanks for listening and make sure to tune in next week!

The dirty truth behind “clean eating”

“Wellness” has become a ubiquitous term, but is it as beneficial as it’s marketed to be?

CW: This article contains discussions of disordered eating.

Turmeric capsules, alkaline water, detox teas — more and more the market is filling with new-agey products claiming to rid consumers of a multitude of ailments. One the one hand, many see this trend of “wellness” as a good thing. The more healthy food on the market, the more empowered consumers will be to make positive purchasing decisions. However, it may not be as simple as it seems.

What we now know is the wellness industry owes a lot of its tactics to ol’ faithful: the diet industry, which cares less about consumers’ health and long-term goals and more about keeping people hooked on their products and systems.

The wellness industry is chock-full of pseudoscientific answers to issues they themselves made up. Cleanses and detox regimens are a perfect example of this false promise. As Christy Harrison, a registered dietician and intuitive eating expert, explains, detox companies freely choose which foods they consider toxins, and this is not in line with actual scientific data. These companies label anything from gluten to coffee to peppers as toxins and then sell consumers a nutrient deficient liquid regimen to flush their bodies “clean.”

This can lead to a multitude of health problems. As Harrison explains, fasting cleanses can lead to massive drops in blood sugar, hypoglycemia and possible further pain from caffeine withdrawals. Further, research shows that “yo-yo dieting” may increase risk of heart disease in women.

The madness of the whole situation is that there is no point in detox dieting to begin with. If you have a functioning liver and kidneys, and have not ingested poison, there is simply no need for a detox — there’s nothing in there to “cleanse.”

We’ll come back to that word — cleanse — because it’s all over wellness marketing.

The diet industry is smart, and over the years marketers have realized that modern women are skeptical of the claims of diet pills, low-fat diets, and exercise programs of the 90s. So, the message had to change. Since the term “diet” tends to conjure up images of gloomy “before and after” shots, flavourless, pre-portioned freezer meals, and constant weighing, the industry has pivoted to a more positive and contemporary image — wellness.

Yet, a lot of the tactics of dieting have stayed the same with this turn to wellness, just dressed in new clothing. Cleanses, for example, rely on the same moral idea of food as either good or bad that the diet industry loves to pedal. No longer is food labeled “low fat” or “high fat,” now it’s “clean” or “toxic.” No matter the verbiage, this superimposes a binary between foods, erasing the importance of all types of food in a person’s diet. Despite aesthetic changes, the message stays the same: there is good food and bad food and it’s your job as a consumer to pick which side you want to fall on.

When we ascribe morality to food, that carries on to how we view people and their bodies. If it is seen as virtuous to diet and eat salads everyday and sinful to consume fast food, it becomes a personal responsibility to be thin. Thus, this contributes to inaccurate notions that fatness is a choice, and a scornworthy one at that.

Further, wellness culture does little to address the staggering food disparity across North America. Canada, for instance, holds many “food deserts” where healthy and fresh foods are either extremely difficult to find or exorbitantly priced. In these areas, diet concerns are less about healthfulness as much as simply surviving.

The shift from dieting to wellness has wider implications than just wasted money on overpriced tuscan kale and chia seeds. The shift towards “clean eating” can be connected to a new type of disordered eating: orthorexia. Orthorexia centers around an obsession with eating “cleanly” and healthily, rather than simply losing weight.

Sondra Kronberg, founder and executive director of the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative, explained to NPR, “Orthorexia is a reflection on a larger scale of the cultural perspective on ‘eating cleanly,’ eating … healthfully, avoiding toxins — including foods that might have some ‘super power.’”

Yet, this doesn’t make the disorder any less harmful. Though the focus may be less on weight than on perceived healthfulness, when taken to obsessive length, clean eating can still cause a lot of harm to your body, mental health and self esteem.

Furthermore, the celebrities and influencers leading the crusade for wellness and clean eating just so happen to be overwhelmingly thin. So, regardless of intention, the perception still stands: healthy = thin.

Whether it’s the Atkins Diet or detox teas, it’s important to be wary of the shifting goalposts of the diet — I mean, wellness — industry. These companies are promising an unrealistic aesthetic of health that may leave you worse off than when you started.

 

Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam

Categories
Opinions

We need a detox from these God-awful tea ads

 

TW: dieting, weight, body image

How staying connected on social media can lead us to adopt unhealthy lifestyles

Kylie Jenner is not my best friend. She isn’t even an acquaintance. I have a closer relationship with the Pharmaprix cashier down the street than with Ms. Jenner. So why would I consider regularly chugging liters of magic weight loss tea that she poses with on Instagram?

Every new year, the most telling reason why buying weight loss tea (hot water with leaves in it for an added wet wood flavour) is so popular rears its ugly head. When observing trends through Google, we can see that in every January, the searches for “detox tea” or “detoxing” spike like the bout of nausea coming from getting up too fast after a feast. The new year rolls in and we collectively lose our mind imagining how much Christmas food has ruined us––and an easy fix is needed.

Dozens of health clinics, medical institutions and even government health agencies have addressed the detox craze with the kind of skepticism even flat-earthers haven’t mastered yet. The Cleveland Health Clinic, a hospital located in Northeast Ohio, published an article on the myths related to detox teas in which the chief branding statement that they are healthier, better and more effective for weight loss than other types of tea is debunked immediately. They do not offer more health benefits than your generic green or black tea would. And the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health agrees that diets relying heavily on “detoxing” include very low-caloric intakes. This can lead to rapid weight loss, but it isn’t sustainable long-term. It could also cause dangerous levels of dehydration. So why am I still strangely attracted to this Ponzi Scheme?

It isn’t surprising why young women, like myself, who spend a huge chunk of their free time on social media, get hypnotized by the online aroma of the detox tea industry. The current digital space we interact with has broken down personalization and the idea of closeness to tiny specks of crushed dust, turning them into cute packaged satchels of drainable financial exploitation ready to destroy our colons. But it’s also making it impossible not to feel close to those we follow––especially celebrities.

Kylie Jenner is not our best friend, but following her on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat sure makes us feel like part of her life––part of her daily routine. Any marketing executive worth their gross, exploitative, slimy salt has now recognized the value of using social media stars’s influence to sell their products, free of all the artifice that well-produced and mass-marketed advertisements represent. And I’m not here to offer a solution to these methods of advertising to extremely impressionable audiences. I have exited this wild road through the online detox industry with more questions than answers.

I am increasingly worried about the effect of being so connected to people on social media who have such a large influence on our lives. It isn’t just the detox tea; it’s make-up, appliances, electronics, skin care and much more. Our social media feeds us a steady diet of friendly “non-advertising,” a predatory scheme meant to disguise its true nature behind capitalizing on a celebrity’s connectivity to their followers. Although influencers must indicate when their posts are sponsored or containing content that explicitly advertises something, the fact that Instagram is, by its inception, an image-only platform, with captions serving as footnotes to one’s picture, the little #ad at the bottom of a celebrity’s caption isn’t as transparent and effective as Instagram thinks it is.

Influencer ads should scare us more than ever. This detox tea craze can, for all that its marketing tries, lie about its intentions to help women become healthier through a natural process, but it is absolutely impossible to hide the truth from being said out loud: our generation is starving itself and these prettily-packaged products are just fueling unrealistic standards of beauty. I’ll tell you right now, those testimonials will not be found on the main page of FitTea or any of its influencer posts.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

Categories
Student Life

Making veganism palatable

Chef Jean-Philippe Cyr talks about the food industry and his diet transition

Are you curious about vegan food? Always wondered if it’s affordable for you as a student? Here’s your chance to learn more about it! The Montreal Vegan Festival will be hosting its fifth edition this weekend, on Oct. 20 and 21.

Given the festival’s success in previous years, organizers had to relocate from Marché Bonsecours to the Palais des Congrès for this year’s event. The Montreal Vegan Festival is one of the biggest in Canada and is free for all, since the organisers want to keep it accessible and affordable. Many activities and workshops will be held in both French and English by well-known vegan chefs—such as Gaz Oakley and Sébastien Kardinal, a French chef and founder of VG-Zone.net, a platform for an array of restaurant reviews, food tastings and new recipes.

Jean-Philippe Cyr—known for “La cuisine de Jean-Philippe,” a Facebook page, website, and now a book of recipes translated into English—is this year’s festival spokesperson.

Photo courtesy of Danny Payne.

Environmental and ethical issues surrounding the food industry are some aspects of veganism the chef wanted to share. Cyr said that, since the 1960s, the world population has doubled, while the population of cows has quadrupled, meaning our beef consumption has increased significantly in that time. He also mentioned issues concerning antibiotics given to the animals we consume. Cyr said the main problem our society faces now is caused by industrialization. “Back in the day, people had a cow and a pig to feed the family; it wasn’t a major environmental problem,” he said.

Cyr is a good model for students that want to try to out a vegan diet. He said becoming a vegan can’t be done on the drop of a dime—it requires a period of transition. “I was a classically [trained] chef, already cooking vegan food in a Buddhist temple, but still I was going to McDonald’s like everyone,” said Cyr. When asked about how he began cooking vegan food, he said his breaking point came one day when he had to serve lamb at a funeral home. The atmosphere of the funeral home combined with the fact that Cyr was serving a dead baby animal was, for him, a revelation. “It was an intense connection,” he said. That day, Cyr decided to quit his job. His wife suggested that he start sharing his vegan cooking knowledge online—which Cyr thought was a good idea—so he began to do so on Facebook.

Aiming to make vegan food accessible to as many people as possible, Cyr offers alternatives for traditional recipes to help make this transition easier. “My meals are simple and easy to do and are cultural references; spaghetti sauce tastes the same whether you put beef or tofu. There are ways to eat vegan without noticing it,” Cyr said. “I am a chef, not a nutritionist,” he added.

If you are on a tight budget, switching to a vegan diet can actually help you save some money. “Last time I checked, chickpeas were still cheap and tofu is half the price of ground beef,” said Cyr.

The Montreal Vegan Festival will take place Oct. 20 and 21 at the Palais des Congrès. Jean-Philippe Cyr will give a workshop on how to prepare tofu on Saturday, Oct. 20. On Oct. 21, he will take part in a vegan poutine contest with Sébastien Kardinal.

Feature image courtesy of Danny Payne.

Categories
Opinions

The word “diet” needs a new, positive meaning

We need to change the way we approach body image and healthy lifestyles

I believe the word “diet” should only refer to the way someone eats, not what they eat in order to lose weight. In fact, the definition of the term is “food and drink regularly provided or consumed,” according to Merriam Webster. Yet, diets are no longer solely considered culinary choices in our society. Instead, they are a means to shed extra pounds. And so, whenever the word “diet” is used in a sentence, people grow pale and struggle to change the subject. Why? I believe the word diet and its contemporary meaning are the root cause of body shaming and eating disorders.

Coming from Lebanon, I tend to avoid the topic of diets, as they are the basis for existence among most Lebanese women. Unfortunately, their morning coffees would never be complete without an update on how their “regime” is going. From my experience, frequent dieters don’t tend to adopt “healthy diets” for the right reasons. They do it to look good aesthetically and conform to dominant beauty standards, rather than avoid cardiovascular diseases. Almost every adult who struggles with their body image will tell you it began with a traumatic comment heard in childhood about their excess body fat. It’s sad, it’s disgusting, but it is also the cold-hearted truth.

In my opinion, our unhealthy interpretation of diets can trigger eating disorders and self-destructive behaviours. According to the United States’ National Eating Disorders Association, 35 per cent of dieters progress to pathological dieting, and 20 to 25 per cent of those individuals develop eating disorders.

Recently, a Weight Watchers ad shamelessly called out child obesity. The company is offering free six-week gym memberships for teenagers between the ages of 13 to 17 this summer. In other words, the minute you start dealing with your teenage crisis, you can get a free gym membership to release your endorphins through exercise!

There was significant backlash on social media following the release of this ad, and many people claim 13 is too young to worry about weight. But it’s important to make a distinction between a child being curvy and a child being obese. Child obesity is a big problem that shouldn’t be glorified. It needs to be addressed in teenagers, not shunned as body shaming. Some argue that encouraging teenagers to lose weight can be misconstructed as body shaming—the seed from which an eating disorder can grow.

I resent that statement. I don’t believe Weight Watchers’ aim was to encourage body shaming, nor do I believe diets are meant to be evil. The connotations of the word “diet” certainly is though. The ad and people’s reactions to it just remind me of how people approach diets—wanting to make themselves look good instead of feel good.

Throughout their lives, people are encouraged to adopt a healthy, balanced lifestyle by eating well and exercising regularly. In my opinion, as long as adults support such habits, without resorting to hurtful comments or approaches, we can avoid the issue of people developing eating disorders after being shamed into “dieting.” For instance, a mother can teach her children healthier habits rather than reproach them for their sedentary lifestyles.

As parenting expert and author Alyson Schafer told Global News: “Modelling good habits and attitudes while discussing health from an educational perspective is key.” The only thing I am against is the distorted meaning of the word “diet” or “regime,” because they were originally used to describe the way a person eats, not dictate how they should lose weight. Just as the French phrase “regime alimentaire” emphasizes what you eat, “diet” should mean the same—not be synonymous with “zero calories!”

I believe in a balanced way of life, and encouraging someone to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle isn’t a bad thing. We must change the way we view diets. So, in this new era of political correctness, let’s correct the “diet” policy, shall we?

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Categories
Opinions

‘Dollarama Diet’ is clever, but not the best option

Are you living on a tight budget this year? Constantly searching for the cheapest options and best deals? Roaming the aisles of the grocery store doing choppy math in your head? Concordia graduate Jonathan Lemieux may have the solution for you.

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Living off a food budget of $75 a month and too ashamed to ask for money from his parents to supplement what the loans and bursaries wouldn’t, Lemieux began living off of food from the Dollarama, and did so for nearly three years. About 90 per cent of his groceries came from Dollarama.

Lemieux found it too expensive to shop at grocery stores. By the time he had finished his second degree at Concordia, he had collected around 90 Dollarama based recipes, which he recently published in a cookbook, Survivre avec une poignee de change.

As innovative as this may seem, is the solution really to limit yourself to dollar store canned food?

There is no shame in purchasing staples at bargain prices. Beans tend to be beans no matter where you buy them. However, there have been some concerns raised about a primarily canned food diet. There are plenty of alternatives when it comes to saving money on food, ones that may be a lot healthier in the long run.

It’s understood that frozen fruits and veggies are much cheaper, but if you’re looking for something a little more fresh, there’s always the growing fad of dumpster diving. Yes, it’s a little gooey, and you’ll have to get past that smell, but it can wield several meals worth of fresh fruit and veggies. A recent dive taken by one student provided him with “potatoes, red and white onions, red and white radish, eggplant, carrots, and corn.”

If you’re not quite comfortable with digging through trash, there is always the market right around the corner. Jean Talon market is open every day except for major holidays, and the fruits and veggies are relatively cheap. A basket, which often has around seven pieces in it, often goes for two to five dollars.

In terms of price alone, it is only slightly cheaper to buy off brand dollar food. Items like pasta sauce and rice can be cheaper at the dollar-store, but can often be bought in bulk and prove better deal-wise at the grocer.

Provigo and Loblaws provide daily deals at individual locations, and are very easy to come upon online. And above all, Supermarche PA tends to be the cheapest, often beating out Dollarama prices. Bread comes to the same price, though you’ll find name brand bread at PA for the same $2 as the non-brand Dollarama bread. And chickpeas, a staple in Lemieux’s recipes, go for 99 cents for a 30-ounce can at PA. Dollarama offers a can half the size for the same price.

There is always, of course, People’s Potato, on campus every day for free food.

Considering all of these things, and with a little work, you’ll likely be able to avoid spiking your salt, fat, and cholesterol. Though Lemieux claimed to never fall ill because of his diet, it doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt him in the long run, as some dietitians have been noting upon the release of the cookbook.

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