I just signed a petition (see below) addressed to: WA Government, Heart Foundation and Cancer Council. As Paul Rhodes notes, much better to ‘promote dignity, lifestyle, the joys of getting out there’, than make people feel guilty and worse about themselves.
The petition has been given life by Lydia Jade Turner. Lydia explains:
The anti-obesity ad campaign uses graphic images and labels fat “toxic”, essentially contributing to a climate of fear towards fat. I do not believe this is a safe way to promote health. Research has previously demonstrated that anti-obesity campaigns contribute to the development of disordered eating and can exacerbate the condition of those with eating disorders.
Already a number of health professionals are mobilizing to get this ad taken off air.
Cancel the fearmongering anti-obesity campaign immediately!
This morning the WA state government, Heart Foundation and Cancer Council released an anti-obesity campaign employing scare tactics in a bid to fearmonger viewers into adopting a thinner physique.
Using graphic images reminiscent of anti-tobacco campaigns, the advertisement labelling visceral fat “toxic” will be broadcast everyday across a range of mediums.
We, the undersigned, believe this campaign to be both irresponsible and harmful. We call for the WA State Government, Heart Foundation, and Cancer Council to cancel this advertisement immediately.
Unlike tobacco and drink-driving, food is not a substance people can abstain from. Health and weight issues are highly complex and body disatissfaction is one of the biggest predictors of eating disorders and dysfunctional eating patterns. Scaring and shaming people about their bodies is not the answer.
Existing research shows that shaming people about their body size does not lead to health-giving behaviours. These kinds of campaigns only exacerbate the existing stigma and bullying based on body size, which is harmful to everyone.
With a largely unregulated weight loss industry, many become desperate to escape fat stigma by engaging in weight loss behaviours that are harmful to health. Unlike tobacco and drink-driving campaigns, the focus of this anti-obesity campaign is on appearance instead of behaviours. This is dangerous.
Not only are eating disorders appearing at younger and younger ages, but according to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC), eating disorders have increased two-fold in Australia over the past 5 years (http://www.nedc.com.au/for-the-media ). While this ad may be aimed at adults, it is naive to think school children will not be negatively impacted by this.
In fact, a pioneering research paper published in the Oxford Journal of Medicine 2004 reports “…health education messages about overweight and weight control are likely to make young people feel worse about their bodies and themselves in general.”
Anti-obesity campaigns like this one are likely to contribute to increasing rates of eating and dieting disorders. Eating disorders sufferers should not be the necessary casualties in the crusade against obesity.
Research shows that fitness is a far better predictor of health than weight, and people of all sizes need to exercise and eat well if they want to be healthy.