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.

Write to the Prime Minister today and call on the Government 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 with eating disorders.

What can I do?

All you have to do is go to this website, add your details, and write your message to the Prime Minister. 

If it is helpful, we have included a suggested message that you can use below.  You will then receive an automated email, which you will need to open and click ‘YES’ to confirm that you are happy for your message to be sent

If you feel comfortable then we would really recommend that you add a quote about your own personal experience to the message that we have provided, as stories of people’s lived experience can really help to demonstrate how important this issue is. You can only send a maximum of 1,000 characters, so please bear this in mind if you do want to add additional information. When you have sent the message please email to let us know that you have taken part.

Template letter

I have seen the Government’s plans to address obesity levels in light of the COVID pandemic.

I am concerned that the campaign will encourage people affected by eating disorders or vulnerable to developing an eating disorder to use the promoted weight loss app, which fails to prevent under 18s or people living with low-weight from using it, despite it not being suitable for them. It is also worrying to see a renewed emphasis on measures such as calorie labelling, as evidence clearly shows that these risk exacerbating eating disorders of all kinds. 

I am therefore writing to ask you to carry out an immediate review of these dangerous proposals to ensure that your measures:

  • Are evidence-based and view obesity as a complex interaction between multiple factors, rather than an individual’s choice.
  • Do not promote crash diets.
  • Have involved eating disorder experts so that people with experience of eating disorders are not placed at further risk.

Send message To Boris Johnson

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?