Public Health Not Public Shaming

The Government have announced their plans for a range of measures to encourage weight loss.

These measures include a weight loss app and the introduction of calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees.

Previous Government anti-obesity campaigns have been ineffective in reducing obesity. However they have increased stigma, and have put those vulnerable to developing an eating disorder or those currently experiencing an eating disorder at risk. 

As one eating disorder sufferer highlighted: “My eating disorder makes me, and many others, susceptible to taking these messages to the extreme.” 

Beat recognises the importance of reducing obesity, but it is vital that the public are not shamed into losing weight in an attempt to solve this problem. This approach oversimplifies obesity, reducing people’s weight to a matter of individual choice and ignoring the many complex factors involved, which may include eating disorders. 

We really frequently get callers to Beat’s Helpline who say they have been advised to ‘just eat less’ or ‘join WW’ when they're struggling with a serious eating disorder.

This approach is not acceptable.

An overwhelming number of our supporters contacted the Prime Minister about this asking him to include eating disorder experts, including those with lived experience, in their obesity strategy and ensure their campaigns are non-stigmatising and don’t pose a risk to people affected by eating disorders. Now it’s important to spread the message to our MPs.

What can I do?

Contacting your MP to let them know how strongly you feel about this is the next important step to get our voices heard up and down the UK.

You can contact your MP publicly by sending them a tweet or privately by sending them an email outlining how the measures will affect you, and many others. Both are a really important way of spreading the word, so if you can do both, that will have the greatest impact. We have put together some text for both, so just click the links below to send.

Tweet my MP

Email my MP

A note on Scotland and Wales

In both Scotland and Wales we have been having positive conversations with the relevant bodies, so are not proposing any direct action at this point. If you’d like to be kept updated or find out how you might be able to support this work, please contact the team on campaigning@beateatingdisorders.org.uk.

Public Health Advice

There has been a lot of information in recent days outlining the Government’s “Better Health” campaign towards obesity. This has mainly focused on physical health, and while we are not denying the importance of this, the strategy fails to recognise the nuances around the messages that are being put forward or the importance of recognising our mental and social wellbeing when considering health.

What does health look like? How do we interpret and apply public health campaigns to our own health?