Regulate the promotion of dangerous diets on ITVs daytime television shows

Regulate the promotion of dangerous diets on ITVs daytime television shows

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Megan Baker started this petition to ITV and

This petition contains information which may be triggering for people with eating disorders.

Recently, the hosts of ITV's This Morning spoke to Michael Mosley about his, quite frankly, extremely dangerous diet regime on which you can only eat 800 calories. It shouldn’t need to be said but 800-calories is nowhere near enough energy for the average person. By broadcasting content like this, ITV is simply promoting starvation. 

For anyone struggling with an eating disorder, this kind of content is extremely triggering, but information like this has the power to negatively impact anyone who simply doesn’t have a wealth of knowledge surrounding dieting and nutrition. Diet culture has made the natural act of eating unreasonably complicated and surrounded it with a rhetoric of shame; with a viewership of over a million people, it is completely irresponsible of ITV to add to this confusion and anxiety by discussing dieting with such negligence.

Of course, this isn’t the only time dieting has been discussed on This Morning in such a damaging manner. In fact, it is a regular occurrence. No matter which “new miracle diet” is being discussed, it almost always comes back to severe dietary restriction; and this has only increased since the start of the pandemic. With the isolation we’ve faced this year, combined with the heightened focus on weight in the form of diet programmes, fatphobic memes and the government’s anti-obesity campaign, lockdown has been a breeding ground for eating disorders. Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity, has seen a 73% increase in people accessing its services compared to before the pandemic. 

I am currently in recovery from anorexia nervosa and, last year ended up in hospital due to problems with my heart caused by restricting my food intake. I was 20 at the time and had been told by doctors that I was at risk of having a heart attack. These were some of the darkest and most difficult days of my life. A starved brain results in increased anxiety and low mood, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviours and feelings of guilt and shame; so not only was I at risk physically, but I was suffering mentally too. This is the harsh reality of not eating enough. 

I would think that such a prominent brand as ITV, who pride themselves on their “Britain Get Talking” mental health campaign, would be more careful when broadcasting information that could cause such mental distress, especially considering that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.  There are an estimated 1.25 million people dealing with eating disorders in the UK alone and, while this illness is so much more than a “diet gone wrong”, the promotion of dangerous eating habits in our society is only adding to this figure. Eating disorders are often lifelong battles and the media’s constant scrutiny on weight and dieting only makes life as an eating disorder sufferer so much harder to bear.

I emailed ITV at the start of this week to try to educate them on this issue and to urge them to make a change. I’ve yet to receive a response. However, since my email, they have continued to offer problematic diet suggestions on This Morning, including a juice cleanse to help people “lose the lockdown love-handles”, which could supposedly help women lose 7lbs in a week.

I am not naive enough to think that we can stop diets ever being discussed on TV when diet culture is so deeply rooted in our society. However, I believe ITV has a responsibility to ensure the information they are broadcasting does not put the public at risk. This is why I am calling on ITV to:

  • Provide a warning before talking about diets on their shows so people are aware that the information being discussed isn't absolute or appropriate for everyone, as health shouldn’t be approached with a “one size fits all” mentality. 
  • Ensure that any information regarding weight-loss or “making healthier choices” is fact-checked by multiple health professionals (including registered dieticians) to prevent biased and harmful advice from being provided, and let go of the inaccurate idea that fewer calories always equals a healthier option.
  • Work closely with people who have knowledge on eating disorders (such as a specialist eating disorder practitioner or a charity like Beat) to ensure that any content they plan to broadcast won’t endanger their viewers.

Please support me in educating ITV so they can stop putting the public's mental health, and lives, at risk.

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