No, Minister. It's stick-thin celebs you should target

Jo Swinson is wrong about magazine 'fad' diets

Share
Related Topics

Jo Swinson has made tackling negative messages about body image her top priority since she became Equalities minister. But her letter to magazine editors last week, asking them "to shed the fad diets and fitness myths" in their January issues, is an unfortunate own goal. According to Swinson, "as editors you owe more to your readers than the reckless promotion of unhealthy solutions to losing weight".

It all sounds reasonable enough – until you go to the news-stand and look at what's actually there. I trawled through the magazines on offer at my local branch of WH Smith and, in fact, fad diets and fitness myths make for lean pickings. "Smart health tips for the holiday season," promises Marie Claire. Inside, readers are urged to turn down the thermostat (the lower the temperature, the higher your metabolic rate) and keep a food diary (just writing it all down will encourage you to lose pounds). Nothing too faddy there.

Beside it, Psychologies magazine suggests its readers "face up to your food issues", while Good Housekeeping recommends a walk before eating and a sprinkle of herbs rather than a wedge of butter on your sprouts.

It all sounds good advice. So is it maybe the down-market weeklies that Swinson has in her sights? Must be, I thought, spying this on the cover of Bella: "Festive Fab Fighter: Lose 7lbs in 7 days". Yet the diet inside turned out to be a very sensible (and no doubt effective) eating plan featuring a mixed if moderate diet, and up to 1,200 calories a day.

All of which makes me think it's not the magazine editors, it's Swinson herself, who is jumping on a bandwagon. And not even a very well-informed bandwagon, given that the January titles Swinson is aiming her changes at were out on the shelves in early December.

On a wider point, who's to say that diets – even short-term ones – are all bad? The reality is that 99 per cent of us (I made that statistic up, but I bet I'm right) let ourselves go, just a bit, over Christmas. We nibble on a few too many sausage rolls (when even one is too many); we ladle on the gravy, we spoon an extra couple of fat-laden roasties on to our plate, we dollop a generous blob of extra-thick cream on our Christmas pudding. And then a few days later, when we tread gingerly onto the scales – well, who'd have thought it? – we're nudging a couple of extra pounds.

So, given that they piled on rather neatly across four days, where's the harm in sloughing them off across a similar time frame? The reality is, we enjoyed the feast. Now we must endure the fast.

The bigger factor for body image, especially for the young people who Swinson is rightly most concerned about, is that too many magazines are chock-full of stick-thin celebrities. She's spoken in the past about the subliminal messages these images send out to teenagers, and she's right – that's a major problem.

It would be far better to engage with editors on the subject of celebrities and how they're portrayed in the media than to attack them for something they, in all honesty, aren't really doing: faddy diets might have been a feature of magazines in the 1990s, but on the whole the industry has moved on, and Swinson should have done her homework and realised that.

The overarching issue here is that, if Swinson is going to continue her war on negative body image, magazine editors are people she needs to keep firmly on-side.

So failing to acknowledge the largely responsible and useful messages they put out about diet and eating is not only doing them a disservice – it also, in the long term, undermines her own laudable campaign.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Etch, a Sketch

Jane Merrick
 

Something wrong with the Conservative Party’s game plan

John Rentoul
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing