Magazine 'miracle' diets should be 'dropped'


Jo Swinson MP: "We need a more positive body image message"

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A government minister has written to magazine editors asking them not to promote post-Christmas "miracle" diets because they pose a "health risk".

Equalities minister Jo Swinson wrote an open letter asking magazines to "shed the fad diets and fitness myths" in their January editions.

She suggested they "celebrate the beauty of diversity in body shape, skin colour, size and age" instead.

Ms Swinson is one of the co-founders of the Campaign for Body Confidence.

The letter was sent to magazines aimed at women and men, as well as health, celebrity and gossip publications.

'Negative consequences'

Ms 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.

"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."

She later told the BBC she was opposed to "any diet that is encouraging you to lose weight at a miracle speed, which is an unhealthy speed, or cutting out food groups, or skipping meals.

"Any of these kind of fad diets actually can have negative health consequences, and most diets don't even work anyway."

Trusted advice

Jane Johnson, former editor of Closer and The Sun's Fabulous magazine, told the BBC that magazines do care about their readers and are very careful about the advice they give.

"Most magazines now are very much about holistic wellbeing.

"I don't think many magazines nowadays do the whole miracle fad diet thing. It's seen as very irresponsible and they want to make sure their readers stay with them, trust them and are loyal to them.

"Readers do go to them for advice, rather than the government," Ms Johnson said.

Biscuit ban

Rick Miller, a clinical dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, said fad diets could cause major issues.

"A lot of them promote cutting out whole food groups but the problem is that you end up with massive nutritional imbalances.

"If people are losing weight rapidly the consequences are that they rebound - and that's just a waste of time."

Instead, he said those who want to lose weight should set realistic targets and write down everything they eat and drink.

"Don't have a biscuit with every cup of tea and don't have that extra portion you would normally have.

"Small changes are best."

Ms Swinson did concede that magazine editors would have decided their January content some time ago, making any late change to their content difficult, but added: "I hope that the editors will recognise that this is something their readers really do worry about.

"It's something which affects people of all ages and in particular, many parents are worried about the message that this sends to their children."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    I congratulate her opinion. People can make their own decisions but also some are not aware of the psychological implications that constant media coverage of fad diets can do to otherwise sensible people. A lot of people who jump on the fad diet wagon are people who know it doesn't work but try them hoping it will. Even if they do work the results are unhealthy and not permanent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    Perhaps Jo Swinson should trust that people are capable of making their own decisions. Rather than blaming issues on Magazines, TV, Films, Music and Video Games perhaps we should focus on educating people on good diets or on being media savvy.

    Unfortunately the actions of a stupid minority get blamed on media all too often.

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    I think much of this issue is down to personal responsibility - it's up to you what food you choose to eat and how much exercise you take.

    If you want to lose weight, restrict the number of calories you consume and start doing steady aerobic exercise. Running is very good, but if you're not fit enough start with walking and build up to that. You don't need to join a gym to get fit!

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    I truly detest this time of year. Not just because the weather's awful, not because of the post-Xmas anticlimax, but because January is now 'obesity season' which means weeks of being bombarded day in day out by diet commercials, weight-loss stories and exploitative reality TV about fat people. And there's nowhere to hide. Ms Swinson speaks a lot of sense, which is why the media will ridicule her.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    I agree this is the right thing to do, even though it is not likely to have much effect. What confuses me more is why she needs to announce to the country that she wrote this letter.

    Surely it is her job to do things like this, why does she need to tell everyone she has done it. This feels almost like a case of showing off a 'Look what I have done for you, now praise me'.


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