Appetite suppression products have become more mainstream in the last five years as Instagram influencers—and by extension, the brands they promote—have risen in popularity. But is all the hype actually health-promoting? The short answer: definitely not.
What’s the deal with appetite suppression products?
Appetite suppression products have had a big moment in the diet culture and wellness worlds recently. We can probably attribute some of their rise in popularity to the likes of Kylie Jenner and other Instagram influencers who often promote and advertise these appetite suppression products to their audience via Instagram posts.
Instagram popularity aside, seeking out appetite suppression products in the service of weight loss is not a new phenomenon. As far back as 1995 with the emergence of fen-phen, a weight loss pill that worked by reducing appetite that was later taken off of the shelves by the FDA, appetite suppressants have been a popular route for dieters and those with eating disorders alike.
As diet culture attempts to morph and shift with the changing times, even the appetite suppressants have changed to promote a more wellness-driven agenda. Instead of medication, it’s herbal supplements that claim to boost your metabolism and reduce your cravings.
But do any of these appetite suppression products actually work? Some of them, scarily enough, do, in fact, do their job at suppressing appetite. But at what cost? Most of the products on the market right now have not been FDA approved or thoroughly researched as to their long-term adverse impacts. Would you be keen on taking a new medication that didn’t have FDA approval or medical research to back up its efficacy and safety? I definitely wouldn’t, and certainly not in the name of health.
Why do we think appetite suppressants are health-promoting?
The assumption is made that by using these appetite suppressants, you will reduce your appetite, which will result in a reduction of your body size and thereby improve your health. This hypothesis only holds water though if you ignore the vast amount of research that shows us that:
- Health and weight are correlated in some cases, but weight does not determine health status
- People of all sized bodies can seek out and engage in health-promoting behaviors
- Mainstream weight science is often biased against higher-weight individuals, and often receives funding from various industries to prop up their agenda
- Bingeing is often a response to deprivation and restriction
These various points highlight the flaws in the very idea of appetite suppression products. We as human beings do not need to fear our appetite. In fact, if we are able to get back to an intuitive relationship with food, we actually can learn to trust our appetite to guide us in terms of nourishment and satisfaction.
Moving away from disordered eating to intuitive eating
Attempting to control our appetite via appetite suppression products is one of the many ways that the pursuit of a smaller body gets in the way of our intuition around food. No matter how you slice it, trying to trick our bodies into wanting less food than they need is a disordered practice. It is something that disrupts our hunger and fullness cues, disconnects us from our satiety and satisfaction, and encourages us to distrust our bodies.
Your relationship with food and your body doesn’t have to be this way though. The Intuitive Eating approach to food, co-created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, is a framework that helps you get back in touch with your body’s cues. Intuitive eating also incorporates a Health at Every Size® approach to body size and wellbeing. This means that Intuitive Eating understands and incorporates the reality of body diversity into its principles and guidelines. It honors the fact that we are not all meant to be the same size or shape. It acknowledges that health looks different for every single person and that health is not a moral mandate for any one individual. It makes room for flexibility, nuance, and life just simply getting in the way of our best-laid plans. It is rooted in self-compassion and curiosity. It is true freedom from food obsession—freedom that comes with understanding, openness, and an ability to adjust to our surroundings without overwhelming anxiety about our food choices—that appetite suppression products can never give us.
Commit to not funding the diet industry with even one more cent of your money. Ditch the appetite suppression products, and embrace an intuitive way of being with food and your body instead.
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About the Author
Ashley M. Seruya is a social work student, virtual assistant, and content creator specializing in eating disorder recovery, Health at Every Size, and weight stigma. Learn more about her work at ashleymseruya.com or on her Instagram at @fatpositivetherapy.
Health at Every Size is a registered trademark of the Association for Size Diversity and Health.