Government’s obesity strategy branded as ‘dangerous’

A cross-party group of MPs has branded the government’s obesity strategy as ‘dangerous’ for people with a negative body image.

A report out today (9 March) by the women and equalities select committee warns the strategy could potentially trigger eating disorders in the people it is designed to help.

It also calls for an independent review of the obesity strategy and for the government to look again at how it collects data on childhood obesity.

The committee concluded that doctored photos promoting unobtainable or unrepresentative body images was having a ‘detrimental’ impact on mental health and contributing to poor body image.

And it urges the government to restrict and even ban the use of altered images in ads and encourage more diversity and representation in advertising.

The report also found that lockdown had a ‘devastating’ impact on those with or at high risk of developing eating disorders and intensified body image anxieties, arguing for improved protection from appearance-based discrimination and more diversity in advertising.

And it calls for the use of the Body Mass Index (BMI) in determining if an individual’s weight is healthy to be scrapped immediately.

‘Over the past 10 years, there has been a wealth of research and recommendations on how to tackle negative body image but government action in this area is limited – we need to see urgent action,’ said committee chair, Caroline Nokes.

‘The use of BMI as a measure of healthy weight has become a kind of proxy or justification for weight shaming. This has to stop.

‘We are particularly alarmed by the rise in eating disorders and concerned that the obesity strategy and data collection of obesity levels in kids make things worse by failing to promote healthy behaviours,’ she added.

‘The government must ensure its policies are not contributing to body image pressures.

‘Advertising and social media can cause negative body image if users are bombarded by ads which lack diverse representation.

‘The pressure will intensify as gyms and beauty salons reopen on Monday. This may be exciting for some but it will be difficult for people who experience body image anxieties.

‘It’s critical that government action works towards improving body image.’

 

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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