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Tuesday
Dec132011

Is This the Death of the Diet Industry? 

In January I'll be giving evidence at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image inquiry into body image anxiety in UK society. At the two-month inquiry, MPs will be quizzing the diet, cosmetic surgery, fitness and fashion industries as well as representatives from the media and advertising industries. The inquiry is an attempt "to debate the causes and consequences of body image anxiety."

The two words I'm most interested in are 'causes' and 'consequences'. Because if it's true that these will be seriously debated, we're going to be digging into areas that will make the government and the media severely uncomfortable (not to mention Weight Watchers, who will also be giving evidence). It's well known among scientists and researchers, for instance, that dieting is a direct cause of weight gain and the vast majority of people starting a diet on Monday will be certain to end up heavier than they are now.

And it's thanks to high-profile campaigners, such as Susie Orbach and her #DitchingDieting campaign and the untamed nature of the internet (which has allowed a few irrepressible independent studies to break out), that the weight-loss industry's iron grip on the media gateway has been prized open a little (hopefully breaking some fingers along the way). But the truth gets watered down when it reaches the public: the overall messages are still: "Here's what you should look like," and "Here's what you should do to achieve it." And the pressure to be thin is still universally served up to the public with a side-dish of dieting.

So while I can now openly state my favourite quote: "The diet industry is the most successful failed business in the world," in certain circles and people will readily agree, half a decade ago this was thought of as weird, especially when said to my yo-yo dieting friends who would smile blankly and tell me how many calories were in the Jaffa Cake I was eating. But it's still only an 'underground' truth, perhaps because of the seeming lack of alternatives to dieting. I think everyone's afraid if the public are told to stop dieting, everyone will go into one long binge and get so fat that we'll have to spend tax payers' money on widening the doors. The fact that dieting is causing everyone to go on one long binge anyway is being ignored.

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