Last week, the Guardian newspaper invited the public to write 300 words on the diet industry/body image, in response to the AnyBody March to Parliament. Here is what I wrote:
The People’s Panel: Body Image
All adverts for diet industry products and services (and there are thousands of them, glaring down upon us loftily from billboards, on the pages of glossy magazines, on television - you cannot swing low fat fromage frais without hitting an advert for something weight-loss related in today’s world) have the same format. A small, grainy photograph of a miserable looking overweight person dressed in what could generously be described as a misshapen potato sack accompanies a large, professionally taken glossy picture of the same person, newly styled and half their former size. “I lost 10 stone in 5 minutes!” the headline screeches, as they pose in an approximation of unadulterated joy, apparently delighted with their skinny selves.
Because fat people cannot possibly be happy, you see. Fat people cannot be stylish. Fat people cannot be successful or popular. Fat people aren’t loved, or respected. Heck, fat people can’t even afford a half decent camera, it seems.
And this is the message the people of Britain, and in particular a generation of already tragically body-conscious young people, receive every single day. While ‘research’ based on an antiquated and misleading notion of ‘BMI’ tells us 66% of the country are clinically ‘obese’. And we wonder why depression, self-harm, eating disorders and body dysmorphia are rising meteorically.
There’s never been a better time to take a stark look at what our obsession with body image is doing to our society and to take a stand. And that’s why today I took to the streets of London with an equally impassioned group of men and women who were angered, disillusioned and downright disgusted by a billion-pound industry which relies, crucially, on our insecurity. I hope they listened.