Scottish Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and MP for East Dunbartonshire Jo Swinson, has again urged advertisers and retailers to use models covering a diverse of sizes, ages and shapes in their advertising and media campaigns to reflect the reality of different body shapes and to promote healthy body image.
Co-founder of the Campaign for Body Confidence, Jo is currently chairing a Parliamentary Inquiry into the causes and consequences of body image anxiety.
Her calls come as the retail market floods with health fads and “miracle weight-loss products screaming out at people to diet as part of New Year resolutions. Jo is concerned that this will have a damaging effect on public health.
“After Christmas, the market is awash with dieting advice as people try and lose extra pounds put on over the festive period.
“These drastic diet plans often promote weight loss in an unhealthy way, and the vast majority of people who follow them will end up weighing more than they did before they started the diet.
“It is really important to adopt a healthy lifestyle but I am concerned that this constant bombardment of unrealistic diet advice is having a really negative effect on society, especially young people. Evidence to the Parliamentary Inquiry in December from psychiatrists specialising in eating disorders clearly stated that extreme dieting is most often the trigger for eating disorders developing.
“I have campaigned tirelessly to urge advertisers and retailers to recognise the consequences and damage done by constantly flooding the market with a narrow range of unrealistic images of what the industry deems to be beautiful.
“We need to go further though. We need to empower our young people with the confidence to have a positive body image, happy in their own skin. This needs to be part of our young people’s classroom education. Children are growing up with the idea that body dissatisfaction is a rite of passage, and this needs to stop.
“Liberal Democrats believe in the freedom of companies to advertise but we also believe in the freedom of young people to develop their self-esteem and to be as comfortable as possible with their bodies.
“I want more focus on encouraging young women and men to adopt a healthy lifestyle, and to recognise that their value comes from who they are and what they do, not just what they look like.”
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings