Awareness surrounding eating disorders has grown in the past decade and thankfully it looks as though the UK government is finally beginning to address the issue as well. An inquiry shall investigate the causes of eating disorders with special attention paid to dieting companies.It seems the government is finally making inroads to questioning how the messages from the media are exploiting young people in their eating habits and encouraging the rise of compulsive eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. Jo Swinson, a Liberal Democrat MP, is leading a group of politicians from all the political parties in an inquiry into body image, obesity and self-harm in the UK.
The inquiry has been triggered by some of the alarming statistics concerning eating disorders, obesity and the way it appears diet firms continue to exploit young people. According to a study by Central YMCA research, 50% of girls and 33% of boys in their early teens have dieted to change their body shape. In the last 15 years known cases of eating disorders have doubled. In 2009-10, 30 under-10s were admitted to hospital with eating disorders, up from 21 the year before. A recent study by the Centre of Appearance found that one third of pupils will not join in a classroom debate for fear of bringing attention to their appearance.
The inquiry is highlighting the fact that all age groups are constantly swamped by the media and exploitative health companies with a message that we need to have a thin body frame not only to stay healthy but to also be acceptable in society. It appears to be a fact that as a country we are becoming more obese, but there also seems to be an obsession with putting it right by utilising quick-fix ideas that just don’t work. The outcome is individuals, and especially young people, become fixated about their own appearance. This leads to a distorted body image, unhealthy eating behaviours and ultimately the onset of compulsive eating disorders.
Jo Swinson believes that many diet companies prey on people’s vulnerability. She said: "There is very strong evidence that diets don't work. Crucial to the diet industry's ongoing success is people wanting to lose weight and wanting quick fixes. So diet firms rely on people having that lack of body confidence.”
Many large companies and health institutes will be taking part in the inquiry such as Weight Watchers, health food chain Holland & Barrett, Boots, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, the British Fashion Council and Shout magazine. The inquiry will also hear from experts from the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England, University of Westminster and King's College London.
Nick Cassells 2012