It's a terrible fact that one in every five college students suffers from an eating disorder [PsychCentral]. Given this, is there any conceivable explanation for why American University Recreation and Fitness (RecFit) found it appropriate to provide their followers with extremely dangerous diet tips on their Instagram story?
On March 31st, 2020, the account @aurecfit posted a series of stories promoting intermittent fasting (IF). IF, is a fad diet where one abstains from eating for a prolonged period of time in order to lose weight. These fasts can last anywhere from, at the mildest, hours to—in a way extremely damaging to one's health—an entire day with no caloric intake. Full stop, this is dangerous to promote and should only be recommended by—and done under the supervision of—a registered dietitian.
In their Instagram story below, RecFit describes the benefits of the diet:
In this image, they fail, however, to mention the risks of starvation diets like IF. When one does not take in enough energy (i.e. calories), they are constantly tired, their hair falls, out, their skin begins to crack. They lose their menstrual cycles and risk becoming infertile, they have sleep problems, are perpetually cold and have heightened anxiety. Yes intermittent fasting can cause you to lose weight, but it also wreaks major havoc on your body causing some damage which is irreparable.
Additionally, RecFit included four other stories which laid out different versions of the diet, each with different rules and different calorie intakes.* According two parents.com, a toddler should be eating somewhere between 1000 and 1400 calories a day. The plans that AU RecFit provided were aimed towards fully grown adults and recommended far less than that. No college student should not be eating fewer calories than a two year old, and that shouldn't need to be explicitly stated.
This is where I intervened: fuming, I called them out on my own Instagram story.
They responded a few minutes later with another post which attempted to clarify their intentions:
First of all, despite what they claimed here, their original posts clearly recommended taking part in an IF diet. Furthermore, if their posts were, in fact, just an accurate presentation of science, they should have presented the downsides of the diet, not just the benefits. If they truly believed that this diet should only be done "[I]n conjunction with a registered dietitian," they should not have provided their followers with all the information necessary to carry out the dangerous diet on their own.
Despite being a sponsor of AU's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, RecFit has shown a complete disregard for the mental wellbeing of those currently suffering, for those in recovery and for those at risk of developing eating disorders. The information that they provided could trigger people, inspire people to satisfy their disordered urges, and ultimately their extreme negligence could result in the deaths of students. Despite the potential for harm to the very students they're purportedly attempting to promote the welfare of—RecFit doesn't seem to understand this, even going to the lengths of referring to IF as, simply, a,"trendy Eating Diet."
See their justification of their actions below:
For one in five college students, intermittent fasting is not a "trendy Eating Diet," it is simply another method to commit a slow, torturous, suicide. RecFit should and must be educated on the detrimental effects of the diet culture which they have so causally promoted, and should never promote such dangerous information again.
American University Recreation and Fitness have refused further comment on the matter.
*Although I have the screenshots of these slides, I do not feel right providing people with the information that RecFit did.