I'm sitting here with my mouth hanging open in shock. Good shock. All because I've read the report from the Body Image Inquiry. I knew it was released this week but I wasn't expecting much as truth is more often than not bypassed when profits are involved. But Reflections on Body Image, co-authored by MPs and the Central YMCA, is incredibly enlightened and if the recommendations made in the document are taken seriously this will be the biggest step forward in public health since the smoking ban.
The report, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image after a three-month public inquiry, makes some powerful recommendations and the biggest stride forward lies in the report's acknowledgement that overeating is as much an eating disorder as anorexia and that eating too much and its effects , including obesity, are not a lifestyle choice and overeating can be the result of dieting.
The Body Image report concludes:
- According to experts there is no evidence available that diets work in the long term.
- Girls who diet are 12 times more likely to binge eat (a direct acknowledgement that dieting is a contributor to obesity not a solution to it).
- More than 95% of dieters regain the weight they lost (a result of the binge eating I'd expect).
- Getting rid of dieting could wipe out 70% of eating disorders (including the binge eating mentioned above, a side effect of which is often obesity.)
So here they're saying getting rid of dieting could largely reduce obesity. If this is the case, then wouldn't it be rational to conclude also that dieting has been a big contributor towards obesity?
Isn't this amazing? To have this even nodded to in an official report is great news. The damage done by dieting can no longer be totally ignored.
Yes, there will now be an enormous effort from the weight-loss industry to counteract this report (keep your eye out for the coming crowd of news stories on the dangers of obesity and the glamorous after shots of women who have lost half their body weight by sticking to 'not a diet but a lifestyle plan'), but there's no stopping the slow dawning on the public that dieting is likely to give them the opposite to what it promises.
During the inquiry the diet industry (a Weight Watchers representative to be precise) acknowledged the public had "unrealistic expectations" about weight loss. She added that consumers who buy their diet shouldn't expect to lose any more than 5 to 10% of their weight. We all know this is not what consumers go to Weight Watchers for - they set an ideal 'goal' weight and are encouraged to strive for it, leading of course to binge eating and weight gain (see above). But even this promise of a small weight loss is not true because dieting leads to binge eating (see above).
I know the media will put up a fight and attempt to discredit this Inquiry report and they will probably succeed to a great extent because a nation of people with poor body image makes a lot of money. Profit over public health is vividly illustrated by the media's recent treatment of Georgia Davis, dubbed Britain's Fattest Teen, who went into multiple organ failure two weeks ago. Georgia had to be winched from her house by the emergency services because of her inability to stop 'eating herself to death'. According to the Mirror Georgia's eating disorder was caused by bad parenting or cash from Press attention that has been used to 'feed her up'. The Mirror added the suggestion that Georgia is stupid and lazy and unable to keep her face out of the fridge. Blatant victimisation because of her weight in anyone's eyes. (The treatment supposed to 'help' Georgia was a very strict diet and she ended up binge eating (see above) and her organs failed.)
As well as pointing out that dieting leads to binge eating the Inquiry report says that, like Georgia, one in five people have been victimised because of their size and that weight stigma doesn't motivate people to lose weight (using what? Dieting? See above) but does the opposite and causes further overeating. A review of the efficacy and safety of dieting is recommended and so is a comparison between weight neutral programmes (such as HAES) and weight loss/management programmes, measuring their effect on health.
This new report kicks a dent in the weight-loss industry control. Until now we have been trying to scratch a slippery surface to bring the the truth to the public, but this has made a scab that we body image campaigners and few companies with a social conscience will keep on picking at. We've got a long way to go and a lot of picking but this is so obviously just the beginning of the end of the diet industry, eating disorders, airbrushing, the manufactured media ideal, weight stigma, body dissatisfaction and the resulting low self esteem.
Thank you Jo Swinson and the other MPs of the APPG on Body Image, Duncan Stephenson from the Central YMCA, Phillippa Diedrichs and Susie Orbach who advised and gave evidence and all the others who brought this enlightened report to the public with recommendations that have the potential to start a shift that will benefit us all. This will go down in history. In 10 years time we'll look back and laugh with disbelief about how we all went on diets to try to lose weight.