The pandemic plunged the majority of the population into a sedentary lifestyle, with many now carrying extra weight.
New marketing regimes have become commonplace on social media and are now targeting this vulnerable cohort desperate to shift the pounds.
Khloe Kardashian, Katie Price and Vikki Patterson have all promoted meal replacers and diet pills to their millions of fans on Instagram.
However, medics are slating these quick-fix weight loss techniques as having a serious impact on the dieter’s health, particularly young teens.
“For the teenage population, they are setting down their bone density and muscle mass for the rest of their lives,” said Laurann O’Reilly, who holds a Masters Public Health Nutrition from UCD.
Laurann is a tireless campaigner against restrictive fad dieting, stating their short-term benefits can have long-term consequences.
“Bone density is set in teenage years. It’s so important to get it right as it can catch up with you down the line.”
Most diet pills block fat enzymes, however, these fats are essential in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
The subsequent deficiencies can cause long-term damage to the dieter’s bone density, muscle mass, and nervous system.
“If you are having a diet shake you may not get your B vitamins which are important for your nervous system and controlling anxiety, particularly important for students sitting exams,” warned Laurann.
It’s not just young teens that are turning to these promoted pills that are often unregulated in the market.
The one-size-fits-all approach to dieting is ill-advised for anyone suffering from thyroid issues, participating in cancer treatments or taking HRT.
The unregulated nature of the diet pill and meal replacer market means some takers endure severe, life-threatening side effects.
Tremors, heart palpitations, and digestive problems are just some of the reported reactions as many supplements are filled with caffeine and harmful enzymes.
Meal replacers are listed as a food product which means they are not held to the same high standard as pharmaceutical drugs.
“Anyone can go out and make a nutritional supplement. While there are certain standards you will need to meet, it isn’t as high,” said Laurann, who worked in food quality control for years before establishing her practice.
For anyone looking to shift the unwanted lockdown pounds, the best route is through exercise and a healthy diet.
By reducing portion sizes, sugar intake and opting against processed foods, weight can be lost in a much more sustainable way.
Laurann warns that young people should not to be tempted to fall into the trap of taking any weight loss product, such as the diet pills frequently promoted on Instagram.
“Weight can be lost, it’s not the end of the world,” assured Laurann. “ You do not have to go down that avenue and there is no such thing as a quick fix.”