MP attacks `tyranny of thinness'

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The Independent Online
Women are being subjected to a "tyranny of thinness," a Labour MP claimed in the Commons yesterday, as she pressed for regulation of the multi-million-pound diet industry.

Alice Mahon, MP for Halifax, accused image-makers of bombarding women with subliminal messages telling them that they could not look nice "unless we imitate the overly thin models that we see".

Calling for stricter controls on the diet industry, which she accused of "trading on people's vulnerabilities and misery," she said: "It's a cult that encourages the oppression of fat people."

Introducing a second-reading debate on her Regulation of Diet Industry Bill, Mrs Mahon said the measure would:-

oEnsure all medicines claimed to aid dieters would be registered under the Medicines Act

o Require that all dieting products and treatments contain health warnings that "rapid weight loss may cause serious health problems".

o Give customers information about the potential health risks of any programme, and its nutritional content.

She said: "At the moment the diet industry can claim almost anything they like about their products and when they fail, as they invariably do, the woman - it's usually a woman - blames herself and moves on to the next useless and usually expensive product.

"The multi-million pound industry is completely unregulated. It fails totally to warn potential clients about health risks and adverse side effects associated with rapid weight-loss programmes."

Mrs Mahon introduced a similar Bill last year but it failed to reach the statute book. She complained yesterday that the fashion industry and image-makers was putting "enormous pressure" on young girls and women.

Dieting was reaching "epidemic levels" in the West. It was undermining physical and emotional well-being and was "often the first step to far more serious eating disorders".

Mrs Mahon said: "We, in the West, are being bombarded and subjected to a tyranny of thinness."

The answer to obesity, she said, was a visit to the doctor and a properly controlled diet, not "one of the miracle cures" or "useless products" on offer, which in the overwhelming majority of cases, did not work.

She attacked the "scurrilous misuse" of amphetamine tablets, dished out "like Smarties", in some slimming clinics, claiming this had sometimes led to serious illness and death.

She said the time had come to stop considering curbs and to start doing something.

"I believe that there is a deliberate con trick being foisted on women, who are led to believe they are ugly if they aren't incredibly thin."

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