Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Experts slam clean eating & celebrity diet fads

Christian Jessen (of Embarrassing Bodies and Supersize v Superskinny fame) has criticised “fitspiration” websites backed by celebrities as being as guilty as pro-anorexia web-sites for encouraging eating disorders.

He says the language on these sites focuses on guilt about weight and body shape. Speaking at a mental health conference, reported in The Times, he also said food bloggers who promote “clean eating” were having a harmful effect on boys.

He specifically accused that certified fruitcake Gwyneth Paltrow and Sainsbury family member Ella Mills (Deliciously Ella blogger) of influencing young people to become fixated with dieting.

Restrictive diets which mean giving up wheat or dairy are often featured by fitness and wellbeing websites which he said create unrealistic body stereotypes for men.

He said he sees many people in his private practice “convinced that their healthy lifestyle and their clean eating was really helping them when actually all it was doing was helping them hide their increasingly disordered eating and to cover up an underlying eating disorder”

Boys are much more likely to shrug off these issues than deal with them, he said. Doctors often fail to recognise in boys the presence of eating disorders or muscle dysmorphia – the continual desire to bulk up.

He thought the fitspiration websites had little to do with health but were all about looks and if you analyse them they are almost indistinguishable fro pro-anorexia websites.

Ella Mills has backtracked somewhat this year after a challenge during a TV programme on diets and now claims she is not aligned to clean eating just a plant-based diet which she shares online. She “advocate(s) people should choose what works for them and adapt my recipes accordingly

And now Prue Leith (taking over on some baking programme) has also condemned faddish diets. She said in the Sun newspaper “There is no magical diet – the only way to lose weight is to simply eat less.

The truth is any diet will work if you stick to it, but our only hope of staying slim is by training our bodies to be happy with fewer calories, every day, for ever”  Some truth in that as diets only work for 10% of people prepared to stick to them.

She pointed out that ALL diets restrict calories, however dressed up. Whether it’s the Blood Sugar diet, Dopamine diet, Paleo diet, Juice diet, Gut diet, Body and Soul diet, 5:2 diet, Lean in 15 diet, Raw Food diet, Cambridge diet, the New Atkins diet — all restrict one food group or another and so limit calories. (And probably cost you a lot if you fall for the snake-oil selling pitch)

She said if you want to be healthy as well as thin, you need a balanced diet — which means a lot of fresh veg and fruit, some carbs (preferably unrefined), not much protein and very little fat.

And you have to stay off sweet and salty junk and cheap processed food. This is all common sense of course. If you spend your 2,000 calories on chips and ice cream, they’ll be gone by lunchtime and you’ll be hungry again. Just a single maxi milkshake can be 1,000 calories.

Let’s hope that people get sick of these social media celebrity bloggers who are not qualified to advise on diets.

And if you do want to try a fancy diet how about the Breatharian Diet  which is based on the inedia principle, which claims that food and water are not necessary to sustain life and that the human body can very well subsist on air, sunlight and Prana (life force) alone.

Try it if you want. It’s obviously cheap. And you’ll lose weight.Terminally I would have thought.


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A quick visit to Keswick, Derwentwater & Bassenthwaite

A couple of hours drive up the M6 and along country roads brought us to Keswick in Cumbria, part of the Lake District next to Derwentwater. (Someone tried to explain to me the difference between, lakes, meres and waters but they’re all big puddles, Derwentwater fed by the river Derwent).

It’s an attractive town with lots of character. Pubs, cafes, gift shops, food shops, and of course outdoor clothing shops – including a Norwegian shop (I was wearing my Icelandic hoodie thinking I’d blend in but everyone else was wearing hi-tech weatherproof clothing, big boots and rucksacks).

The theatre by the lake is an attractive building and seemed busy with a writers’ festival and a full programme of music and drama including an upcoming concert by the Manfreds! (Manfred Mann without Manfred).

And the views across the lake are stunning.

Parking is a bit of a problem with a 2-hour disc system (if you can find a space) and wardens working 7 days a week. And it’s at least a fiver on the car parks for a few hours.

And everywhere dogs – loads of them from ‘rats on string’ size handbag dogs to some as big as sheep.

And Keswick encourages them! Signs everywhere saying “dogs welcome” or “dog friendly”, even in restaurants. How unhygienic is that?

You can tell I’m not a dog person so thank goodness that there are two places at least that doesn’t allow them. Costa Coffee and Wetherspoons. Well done for holding out! Wetherspoons is in the old police/court house (The Chief Justice of Common Pleas) and still has the dock (pictured) and some cells.

A trip across the lake doesn’t come cheaply at £10.25 a pop for a ten minute ride, although kids, and dogs, go free.

Fighting your way through the melee of geese and occasional swans trying to mug you by the water’s edge just adds to the fun.

There are plenty of walks by the lake and around the fells and lots of pubs and cafes to refresh you when you are flagging.

And that was our plan for the Sunday, a forced march round the lake!

The weather wasn’t brilliant but the rain held off and we saw some blue sky when we visited a 9th century church St Bega’s at Mirehouse at the edge of Bassenthwaite.

It’s named after a saint from the early middle ages, an Irish princess fleeing from her husband-to-be, a Viking allegedly the son of the King of Norway. Of course there’s lots of evidence of the Vikings in the place names for example ‘thwaite’ means a woodland clearing..

Lord Alfred Tennyson stayed at Mirehouse in 1835 where he wrote Morte D’Arthur and the opening lines about the chapel were inspired by this church.

After dashing around the lakes we sadly had to leave the fresh air of the Lake District and get back on the motorway heading South.

Keswick is well worth visiting and you’ll get a friendly reception – even if you don’t have a dog!