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Minister calls for end to fad diets


“You owe more to your readers than the reckless promotion of unhealthy solutions to losing weight.”

Scottish Lib Dem Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson, wrote an open letter to popular national magazines recently urging them to avoid promoting ‘fad diets’ following the Christmas break.

Targeting the magazines’ editors in particular, Swinson wrote, “I am sure that you want to promote a healthy lifestyle for your readers but at this time of year in particular far too much of magazine coverage tends to focus on irresponsible, short-term solutions and encourages readers to jump on fad diet bandwagons.”

She also warned that all of these ‘get thin quick’ claims which promised maximum weight loss in a minimum amount of time were unhealthy and could result in dangerous long term effects.

“Every January we see these fad diets promoted. These aren’t promoting healthiness, these aren’t promoting a way of embracing exercise and eating fruit and veg and doing things which will actually help people.

“They’re actually suggesting that you can suddenly lose lots of weight very quickly and there are no negative health consequences,” she said.

Speaking in favour of Swinson’s appeal, Rick Miller, spokesperson for British Dietetic Association, said: “A lot of them [fad diets] promote cutting out whole food groups, but the problem is that you end up with massive nutritional imbalances.”

Jane Johnson, former editor of Closer magazine, however, insisted that Swinson’s appeal was no longer relevant or necessary.

She argued that reader appeal had already altered significantly over the years and that magazines no longer sought to offer ‘quick-fix’ solutions for them.

“Most magazines now are very much about holistic wellbeing,” she said.

Swinson has long been a campaigner for healthy body images for women and teenage girls.

As a co-founder of Campaign for Body Confidence, Swinson has been tackling the media, fashion and beauty industries since 2010, urging them to offer fairer images that promote real women and their bodies.

The campaign itself also lists the following aims and targets: to “ensure honesty and transparency in advertising; promote diversity of body shapes and sizes used in magazines, advertising, broadcast and catwalk; introduce media literacy and body confidence education in school; give children positive examples of using their bodies by promoting active lifestyles and less sexualised imagery.”

Swinson said that both women and magazines should endeavour to “celebrate the beauty of diversity in body shape, skin colour, size and age” rather than to pressure them into a glorified norm.

“As editors you owe more to your readers than the reckless promotion of unhealthy solutions to losing weight. If your aim is to give practical, sensible advice about losing weight – and not how to drop a stone in five days – you should encourage reasonable expectations, instead of dangerous ones, along with exercise and healthy eating.”

Swinson went on to say: “There’s a resolution here that we all could make, women up and down the country.”

“[Magazines] have got these features because they think people want to read them and part of that is because there is an obsession about being thin, so maybe one of the things we all need to do is support each other not to be so self-critical.”

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