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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Mum’s a girl’s best friend – unless she’s dieting!

We live in a world pre-occupied with body size, according to teen magazine Sugar which conducted a poll of 2,500 13 – 19 year-olds (in 2010).

Teenage girls are twice as likely to diet if their mother is constantly watching her weight. Comments from parents, attitudes of friends, and pictures of size zero models are said to influence 15% of teenage girls to diet regularly.

Mothers who comment on slim celebrity shapes definitely influence their daughters. And for those teenage girls with mothers constantly on diets 35% begin to see calorie counting as a way of life.

93% of the 2,500 girls surveyed said they worried about their weight and 3 out of 4 said their friends go on diets. Half said their family comment on what they eat and a quarter said they had a friend with an eating disorder.

Children develop their values and attitudes to life from those closest to them and parents are the obvious role models in the early stages of development (unless you have a nanny like certain members of the Royal family who then grow up and marry a nanny look-alike – but that’s a different post!)

A spokesman for the Child Growth Foundation said it was inappropriate for children to be put on diets as long as they eat healthily. Girls put on weight because of puberty but 99% lose it eventually.

The editor of the magazine which commissioned the survey said that mums want the best for their daughters who pick up on and assimilate their mum’s anxieties.

Some mums, perhaps hoping to stay yummy as long as possible, probably  pay too much attention to popular diets and food fads.

PS If you think you know about fad diets try this quiz on the BBC web-site