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 260.

    "celebrate the beauty of diversity in body shape, skin colour, size and age"?

    So we should celebrate the variety of BMIs, waist sizes, variations in risk of a variation of diseases generally associated with the variations of the above?

    Well, how else are we going to feed the food industries and their many variations and oversights that lead to the above variations for the sake of a quick profit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    SuzannaYebeni , your comments have even impressed me as an atheist.Obvioulsy fasting could not be in the summer months for people who live in very Northerly latitudes. However discouraging any culture of excess for 'festive' reasons seems so right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    240. "glorifying the overweight is encouraged''
    Examples please. In recent years positive fat characters have all but vanished from the media. Now schools teach kids that fat is the utter worst thing you can be. My wife is a big girl and a lovely person; doesn't stop her getting abused, spat at, told to die by entitled cretins every time she leaves the house. And HYS threads like this don't help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    At least twice a year, normally around this time and then summer as well, fad diets make the headlines as they somebody or else points out that they are not sensible and don't work and that a regaular healthy lifestyle is required. However in some of the press which will dutifully this story in their news sections, will then have in another part of the paper or web site celeb weight loss "news".

  • Comment number 256.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    It's a little unfair to blanket criticise the entire diet industry. An approach that combines physical activity with balanced food-groups, featuring enough variety to maintain long-term should have every right to promote itself. Other less practical diets still have the right to promote, as they are legitimate businesses. Not a time to be discouraging enterprise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    If you want to lose weight - eat less fat and sugar, eat more fruit and veg and exercise more. Also the best way to lose weight is to lose it gradually. The quicker you lose the weight, the easier it will be to put it on.

    I have lost 4.5-5 stone in 2.5 years.

    Also there is NO NEED to have tins of biscuits, chocolates and sweets around the home at Christmas. I survived Christmases without them

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    @244 this is a health issue not a religious one. I'm a Muslim and I think you should open your eyes, look at the Muslim countries and you will see a lot of overweight people. People need to look at their own eating habits to see why they are overweight and deal with that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    Funny how ministers are all for small government, until it affects something they care about; then they're all for using the jackboot of the state to get their way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Maybe this is a move to make an 'official list' of diet/food companies credible so that they make even more money without the competition of the small guys - a bit like big banks swallowing up small ones...globalisation yippee
    No one should profit from obesity

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

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

    Is she talking about us, or herself???

    The increased health risks most are worried about is her governments policys & cuts to NHS & damage to pensions.

    Future = even lower average UK living standards = millions of angry/upset people.


    Sugar is a preservative, which is why its used so much, even in bread

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    What is supposed to be negative about saying that, if you've eaten too much over three or four days, then you can easily lose what you have gained by eating correspondingly less over the following three of four days?

    This woman is promoting herself and trying to justify her gimmicky job as Equalities Minister.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Working with people that suffer with eating disorders has helped me understand a little bit about some of the pressures that many feel under to look a certain way. Ms Swinson is unfortunately unable to tackle all of the root causes of such a mentality, but her actions are a positive step and I for one admire her for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Why not let gov't provide a scientific based diet for everyone to follow?
    They will not do it for the simple reason that people on the bread line or on benefits can not afford to eat to a proper healthy standard.
    Its safer for kids to sit at home on the games console than it is to go out and exercise in a gang ridden society. how would you like to see your kids, Fit or Safe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    I wish her luck but these celebrity trash magazines wont listen, the diet industry makes big bucks. She would be better making noises in the right ears to bring back compulsory Home Economics in schools (not trendy 'Food Science') which teaches kids how to cook healthy, quick meals from scratch - cheaper, tastier and healthier.

  • 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.

  • Comment number 244.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Fat people just need to stop eating. Why are you fat? You eat too much!

  • 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'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Talk about shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted! These magazines will have been ready for publication months ago! Sillly woman!


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