Today in England two fascinating events are going on. Firstly, the British Parliament is holding an all party inquiry into the causes and consequences of body image anxiety in the United Kingdom. Secondly, a group of women who've been burned by the diet and beauty industry's predatory marketing and traumatic programs are staging a protest outside the inquiry's doors.
What are they protesting?
"The role of the diet industry in de-stabilising women and girls’ appetites and desires. We believe that eating disorders and the so-called ‘obesity epidemic’ are merely more visible extremes of a much bigger, everyday phenomena: that we are accepting fear and hatred of our own bodies like gravity, that we are accepting ‘I am not good enough’ as a fact."I couldn't be more supportive of either endeavor.
On a daily basis in my office I see first hand the personal devastation caused by traumatic dieting and unrealistic societal body image ideals.
In my home I can't help but worry about my 3 wonderful, little, girls growing up in a world where weight is portrayed synonymously with laziness, gluttony, stupidity, and greed. I see it in kids' movies like Kung Fu Panda, in children's books like Harry Potter with his "piggy" cousin Dudley Dursley, and sadly I hear about it when I have bedtime chats with my 7 year old and ask her about who gets picked on in school.
That's not to say I'm not supportive of efforts geared to help folks lose weight, just that society's ideas of what those efforts involve, the insanely unrealistic goals, the incredibly non-sustainable diets, and the quest for artificial body image ideals - those need to go.
My office promotes no specific diets. There are no forbidden foods. There are no required products. The goals we encourage our patients to consider are non-weight based and non-numerical, and consequently we don't utilize so-called "ideal" body weights, body mass index tables or waist circumferences.
The only goal worth pursing? Living the healthiest life a person can enjoy. Period. People need to be able to be proud of themselves living those lives, regardless of their weights, and there's no doubt that the diet and beauty industries as a whole go out of their way to purposely make people feel like failures so as to create a revolving door of need.
Good luck to the protesters, and let's hope that the British Parliament actually takes them, and the inquiry, seriously.
[Hat tip to the Canadian Obesity Network's communication director, and my good friend, Brad Hussey]