The anti-diet culture campaigns you need to know about

Becky Banham
By Becky Banham,
updated on Jun 25, 2020

The anti-diet culture campaigns you need to know about

We share two campaigns that are tackling diet culture during lockdown, because you do not need to lose weight during a global pandemic

Even during the Coronavirus outbreak, diet culture is rife. And if you’re really tuned into its toxicity, you’ll notice that it’s not remotely subtle. You’ll hear it in the jokes about gaining “the quarantine 15” or the exasperation of, “I’m not going to be able to fit into my clothes after lockdown!”

These might seem like lighthearted, throwaway comments, but, they’re all in the same vein - they all point towards fatphobia and disordered eating.

Then there’s the influencer marketing. Unqualified nutrition advice and celebrity endorsements of weight-loss products is nothing new, but it feels to be of particularly poor taste right now. How, even during times of crisis, are we still being fed messages that our bodies aren’t good enough?

And, where diet culture is concerned, there’s always a consequence. Beat, a charity for people with eating disorders in the UK, has seen a 73% surge in people accessing its services during lockdown. The facts speak for themselves.

If you’re sick of diet culture and are looking for a positive source of inspiration, here are two campaigns you need to know about (and then share far and wide).

The social media stars that are on a body confidence mission

Earlier this week, Evening Standard journalist Helena Wadia released a video in which she speaks to body positivity campaigners Megan Crabbe, Grace Victory, and Michelle Elman on the subject of body image during lockdown.

If you haven’t watched the video, you need to:

“Every single time I log on to social media or even turn on the news, someone is making a joke about not being able to fit in their clothes after we leave this. And I’ve made posts about how those jokes aren’t actually funny, they’re fatphobic,” says Megan.

“The biggest response has been ‘What’s the harm?’ I think people don’t realise that it’s a joke on top of a statement on top of an article, and it all just builds into this fatphobic belief system.”

Happiful columnist Grace agrees. She says, “People genuinely believe that they are not enough and they are lazy if they don’t lose the weight or use this time to be productive. We’re in a f*cking pandemic and people’s bodies and minds react differently.

“Some people will naturally lose weight because of stress, some people will gain it. Why does it matter? We are so obsessed with the way other people look because we have ingrained that your self-worth is pinned on what you do, what you achieve and what you look like.”

So, what can you do if you’re feeling overwhelmed and focusing negatively on your body during lockdown? Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. It takes a lot of time to undo all of the body-shaming messages you’ve learnt over the years. But you can start by being kinder to yourself, says Grace.

“What I don’t agree with is living with unkind thoughts about yourself all of the time. You haven’t got to live like that. There’s a life waiting for you if you would just stop trying to be small.”

Further reading on overcoming diet culture:

The dietitians calling for the regulation of health information on social media

Leading dietitians Sophie Medlin and Hala El-Shafie have created a petition to protect the public from false and potentially harmful medical claims made by social media influencers. With the support of the British Dietitian Association (BDA), they are calling for the regulation of health information on social media.

They warn that the rise in the number of celebrities and social media influencers freely endorsing dangerous ‘diet products’ poses serious physical and mental health risks to the general public.

From appetite suppressant lollipops to diet pills, skinny teas, injectable weight-loss medication and IV drips, many social media influencers are promoting desirable diet quick-fixes, to get the perfect body image. However, these ‘too good to be true’ options can cause severe abnormalities and adverse side effects, such as cardiac irregularities electrolyte imbalance, diarrhoea and an increase preoccupation and body dissatisfaction.

View this post on Instagram

As if 2020 hasn’t been hard enough already, @gemmacollins1 has now started promoting @skinnyjab again 🙄 ⁣ The drug used in these injections is called liraglutide and it has been licensed to be used for weight loss either when someone can’t lose weight despite their best efforts or if they have co-morbidities (other medical problems) that are dangerous for their health. ⁣ ⁣ There are many common and very common side effects from taking liraglutide including, gut disturbance and disorders, gall bladder disorders, insomnia, skin problems, vomiting and increased risk of infection - just what you need during a pandemic and it’s excellent to note that they’re offering 20% off the NHS workers who really could do with increasing their infection risk right now. NICE ONE. Thyroid cancers have been seen during animal testing but we don’t have human data on this at the moment. ⁣ ⁣ The research shows that people who take liraglutide 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗮 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿 alongside exercise and dieting loose 4-6kg (9-13lb) more, on average, than those who just do the diet and exercise. So on one of their 𝟰 𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗸 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗺𝗺𝗲, you might lose a couple of pounds more than if you just did the diet and exercise programme. ⁣ ⁣ If you have been prescribed liraglutide by your consultant or GP for a specific purpose and you’re being monitored and looked after, it is appropriate. If you’re buying it online because Gemma Collins told you to…you’re putting yourself at unnecessary risk and are paying for the privilege. At best, you can hope to lose a couple of pounds more than if you just adopted a lifestyle change.⁣ ⁣ If you’re really struggling to lose weight and you feel you’ve tried everything, please consider working with a dietitian who has experience in helping people to improve their relationship with food. I would never recommend this to any of my patients. ⁣ ⁣ I’d also like to note how generally abhorrent I think the brand and the marketing is. Using the word “skinny” in anything is some 1999 bullsh*t that I thought we’d left behind a long time ago. ⁣ ⁣ If you need any further proof that these injections don’t work, please note that Gemma Collins started promoting them over a year ago.

A post shared by Sophie Medlin (@sophiedietitian) on

Sophie Medlin, dietitian and founder of City Dietitians says: “Research has revealed that young people, and often those who are the most vulnerable sections of society, cite that social media is their main source of health information.

“The problem is most of the sources of this information are social media influencers who have no nutrition or medical qualifications and, therefore, no accountability for the dangers they put their followers in. This has to stop and there needs to be some kind of process to ensure information shared on social media, particularly by people in positions of power, is supported by verified health claims.”

There is no current regulation conducted on social media to monitor claims and statements made by individuals and influencers, who are often receiving financial rewards for promoting such products.

Professionals are calling for the introduction of a new regulatory system to prevent influencers and celebrities from giving medical advice without the right qualifications, as well as allowing qualified medical professionals a verification mark online.

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If you’re as sick as we are of social media influencers misleading the public with dubious and dangerous “health” messages, please sign the petition. ⁣ 🗣⁣ With celebrities freely endorsing dangerous “diet products” such as appetite suppressant lollipops, diet pills, skinny tea, injectable weight loss medication and IV drips that cause severe abnormalities and risks, such as cardiac irregularities electrolyte imbalance, diarrhoea and an increase preoccupation and body dissatisfaction, social media poses a serious threat to physical and mental health which has resulted in fatalities.⁣ 🗣⁣ The lack of regulation in the public domain and the fact that we know that influencers are receiving financial reward for “promoting” these products poses a serious threat to both mental and physical well being. ⁣ 🗣⁣ Young people cite social media as their main source of health information and the biggest influencers on social media have no nutrition or medical qualifications and therefore no accountability for the danger they put their followers in.⁣ 🗣⁣ The power of social media is having a severely detrimental effect on the physical and mental health of our nation and in some cases, is causing irreversible harm and even death.⁣ 🗣⁣ Dietitians have seen a marked increase in cases of eating disorders, self harm, nutritional deficiencies and life threatening medical complications as a direct result of the advertising and promotion of products and diets via social media.⁣ 🗣⁣ Leading dietitians Sophie Medlin (@sophiedietitian) and Hala El Shafie (@halael_shafie) with the support from The British Dietetic Association want to protect the public from false and potentially harmful nutrition and medical claims on social media.⁣ 🗣⁣ By introducing regulations to prevent influencers from giving medical advice and a system to give qualified professionals a verification mark online, the public will be protected from harmful messaging and the young and vulnerable will know who to trust when using social media for medical information.⁣ ⁣ Please sign today! Link in bio 💫 #Skinnyjab #dietpills #eatingdisorders #disorderedeating #bodyimage #selfesteem #dietitian #detox #faddiets

A post shared by Sophie Medlin (@sophiedietitian) on

Hala El-Shafie, dietitian and founder of Nutrition Rocks, adds: “The impact of these types of posts is having a severely detrimental effect on the health of our nation, which is causing irreversible harm and even death.

“However, a new regulatory system would aim to remove the risk of such posts and protect the general public from harmful messaging, whilst also educating the young and vulnerable on what and who to trust when using social media for medical information.”

The petition has gained over 3,000 signatures from nutrition professionals and the general public.

You can sign the petition calling for the medical regulation of social media here.

Where to get help

If you’re experiencing body image issues or struggling with an eating disorder, here are some places you can find help:

Counselling Directory has a wealth of self-help information on a variety of eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder. Or, you can use the free search tool to find a professional counsellor online or in your local area today.

Beat, one of the UK’s leading eating disorder charities, can provide information and support.

Resources on tackling eating disorders:

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