Cut down helpings of crash diets advice - Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson has urged magazine editors to take a responsible attitude towards dieting. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Jo Swinson has urged magazine editors to take a responsible attitude towards dieting. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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CONSUMER minister Jo Swinson has written to magazine editors urging them not to promote “miracle diets” in their first editions of the new year.

The Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire has written an open letter to women’s health, celebrity and gossip magazines asking them not to perpetuate the myth that “irresponsible” diets can melt away unwanted weight.

She says headlines like “Lose Seven Pounds in Seven Days” are unrealistic and can be dangerous.

Ms Swinson, who co-founded the Campaign for Body Confidence, wrote: “As editors you owe more to your readers than the reckless promotion of unhealthy solutions to losing weight.”

She said she was addressing magazine editors to encourage a more realistic approach.

“Every January readers are treated to articles reminding them that they have overindulged during the end-of-year festivities and must resolve to lose their holiday weight.

“I am sure that you want to promote a healthy lifestyle for your readers but at this time of year in particular far too much magazine coverage tends to focus on irresponsible, short term solutions and encourages readers to jump on fad diet bandwagons.”

The minister said she believed a more realistic approach would be healthier and better for women’s self esteem.

“So may I suggest a New Year’s resolution for 2013? Shed the fad diets and fitness myths on your pages and instead celebrate the beauty of diversity in body shape, skin colour, size and age.”

Speaking on a BBC interview Ms Swinson said: “Most diets don’t even work anyway so this is a sort of myth that’s being perpetrated trying to tempt people to buy these magazines and I think it’s time they change their record frankly,” she said.

However her comments were criticised by some in the magazine industry who pointed out that most New Year editions of popular magazines will already have gone to press.

Former NME editor Conor McNicholas tweeted: “Dear Jo Swinson, Want to start telling mag eds what to do? You might want learn bit more about their monthly lead times”.

Jane Johnson, former editor of Closer and The Sun’s Fabulous magazine, said she thought Ms Swinson’s comments were out of date and that magazines were more in tune with their readers than she thought.

“I don’t think many magazines nowadays do the whole miracle fad diet thing. It’s seen as very irresponsible and they want to make sure their readers stay with them, trust them and are loyal to them.”

However Weight Watchers, which was recently named the NHS’ most effective weight loss provider, welcomed the letter.

A spokeswoman said: “We’re delighted that the government is taking measures to prevent the promotion of irresponsible and unhealthy fad diets. Weight Watchers is not a diet, it’s a healthy lifestyle.”

Rick Miller, a clinical dietician and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, said making small changes was better than adopting extreme diets – particularly those which involved cutting out certain types of food.

“A lot of them promote cutting out whole food groups but the problem is that you end up with massive nutritional imbalances. If people are losing weight rapidly the consequences are that they rebound – and that’s just a waste of time.”

He said it was important to set realistic targets and recommended starting a food diary to record all you eat and drink.

“Small changes are best,” he added.