03/08/2016 12:26 BST | Updated 04/08/2017 06:12 BST

'Cheat Day' PJs Are the Clothing Item No Woman Needs, Whatever Her Age

Earlier this week, New Look found itself on the firing line, accused of pushing damaging diet messages to girls.

A set of PJs - with a pizza slice pattern and the words 'cheat day' emblazoned across the chest - were photographed in the 915 section, aimed at nine to 15 year olds. They were also hanging on a 9-15 hanger.

The PJs were spotted in a north London store by Twitter user @FaeSteffi and went viral after being shared by Ilona Burton, a mental health campaigner.

To cut a long story short: there was outrage. With many arguing (quite rightly), that a nine-year-old should be protected from this sort of messaging.

New Look promptly contacted Burton to explain that the item was, in fact, from the adult section of the store.

The set was intended as a "tongue-in-cheek novelty item" and New Look take the responsibility of promoting body confidence "very seriously", added the spokesperson.

But while the PJs may not be intended for children, it still begs the question: are 'cheat day' PJs appropriate women of any age?

The simple answer is, no.

This idea of having a 'cheat day' means rewarding yourself with a binge day, after being on your best behaviour for six days of the week. And it is really damaging for people of all ages.

However you look at it - as a nation or as a gender - our attitude to food is pretty fucked up.

We shouldn't see foods as "good" or "bad", because then we see the "bad" foods as some kind of wicked treat and "good" foods as boring. We're taught from a young age that pizza is delicious and broccoli is gross. (For the record, I think the opposite.)

What often happens as a result is that people treat themselves by bingeing on "bad" foods and then feel guilty.

This binge-punishment cycle - eating "good" foods during the week and going to the gym, while gorging on "bad" foods on the weekend - isn't helping anyone.

Many women (and some men) grow up thinking that food is the enemy. Adding and subtracting the calorie content of what they put in their mouths, with little appreciation of the nutritional value of foods.

Nutritionist Amelia Freer labels these individuals 'The 80s Dieter', someone "who knows everything about calories but nothing about nutrition".

As a 28-year-old woman, I've been surrounded by women who think like this for as long as I can remember. If it wasn't my mum, who has been on a diet for most of her adult life, it's friends. And as much as I've tried to resist adopting these attitudes, they seep into your consciousness without thinking.

Luckily, due in part to my job, I feel I have a relatively healthy relationship with food. And while a set of 'Cheat Day' PJs are hardly going to send me over the edge, women and girls could do without a high street retailer reinforcing the idea that food is something to bargain with.

What we really need is to develop a healthy relationship with food. For me, having a "cheat day" is the same as following a fad diet.

How about a new approach? Just eat well as often as you can and forget "rewarding" yourself with a cheat day, because life is about balance.

For now, it is still unknown how the PJs wound up the 9-15 section of New Look.

Let's hope the woman holding them found herself in the kids dept, shopping for a daughter or niece or friend's daughter, and had an epiphany.

'What kind of message am I sending to the next generation of women if I wear these PJs?' the newly-enlightened woman would have thought. 'I'm simply perpetuating the idea that women should be slim and if they aren't slim, they should be on a diet.'