Diet industry has no place in school environment

Diet industry has no place in school environment

What is your image of a girl? What image comes to mind first? Who do you ‘see’ in your mind? Do you ‘see’ her body size, or do you ‘see’ her essence, her bubbly personality? And what images do girls have of themselves? What images will give them, the mothers of tomorrow, the most freedom to grow into adulthood in a supportive, nurturing environment? I believe such an environment needs to be free of several words and all that goes with them – including ‘diet’, ‘calorie’ and ‘weight’. These words conjure anything but  a happy, healthy image. They have no rightful place in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Following yesterday’s blog …

Jennifer Beveridge, CEO, Eating Disorders Victoria stated today that it is highly inappropriate for a diet industry representative to speak in a school environment.

Ms Beveridge speaks on behalf of parents everywhere in a letter to organisers of the upcoming Alliance for Girls’ Schools Conference in Melbourne:

‘I express concern about the appropriateness of having Jenny Craig CEO, Amy Smith, as a keynote speaker at this conference ,’ Ms Beveridge said, ‘and the message this sends to your members, your students and the wider community. Although the conference is not aimed directly at the student body, the educators in attendance are hugely influential in the development of the girls they are teaching.  I consider it highly inappropriate to include a representative of the diet industry as a key note speaker, given all of the research that points to dieting as a major risk factor for body image problems and eating disorders.

… The inclusion of a keynote speaker from Jenny Craig addressing the topic of ‘Images of a Girl’ reinforces the socially pervasive view that it is the physical image of a girl that dominates before an image that includes psychological, intellectual and social aspects.

‘Jenny Craig may be working towards more of a health, fitness and lifestyle brand, however they are still essentially a weight loss company, in an industry that profits from the insecurities and poor self esteem of its clients.  The inclusion of Amy Smith could be interpreted that you have a weight loss spokesperson discussing product philosophies ….’

Eating Disorders Victoria has offered to work with the conference organisers and recommend another speaker who can present on the body image pressures facing young girls today, or indeed discuss a holistic approach to the topic of ‘Images of a Girl’. The EDV is to be applauded for advocating a whole schools approach to its education and awareness programs. It welcomes opportunities to work closer with schools in educating staff on the identification, early intervention and prevention of eating disorders and with students to help them learn about body satisfaction, self-esteem and self acceptance, and to promote an awareness of the dangers of dieting and of more flexible, relaxed ways to think about food. Seems to me, we need a lot more of this good, common sense approach, from the ground up.

How to help: Email Mrs Catherine Misson, principal of Melbourne Girls’ Grammar School – – and Ms Jan Butler, executive officer of the conference organiser, AGSA – – to voice your concerns.

You are likely to receive a standard email, if anything, in reply, but hopefully the drip effect of our concern will become a flood that cannot be ignored. As Charlotte Bevan, UK, eloquently notes to Ms Butler, AGSA CEO: I know you have had concerned emails from parents of pupils at your school as well as many other parents and activists from all over the globe, who are concerned about your endorsement of a “diet guru”.  Perhaps you would like to address these concerns, rather than sending a standard email to all of us.


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