It started earlier this year, when a leaflet for a local diet club landed on my doormat. I uploaded a bit of a ranty Instagram Story, talking about why it wasn’t OK to put leaflets for diet clubs through people’s doors. And my DMs lit up.
I heard from people in recovery for eating disorders, who’d relapsed after receiving such leaflets, from parents who’d been given leaflets at their kids’ school gates and from grown adults who were still suffering the disordered eating effects of being taken along to diet clubs as teenagers.
Diet promo around schools and kids’ clubs is real…
The more I heard from parents talking about the ways their kids had been exposed to harmful messaging around body image in the very places they should be most safe, the more I realised it was an issue. Image after image flooded my inbox, showing banners hanging on school gates, posters in school reception areas, leaflets at mother and toddler groups, posters in changing rooms for kids’ dance and gym clubs. This stuff was everywhere, hiding under our noses in plain sight.
And as I talked about it I realised I couldn’t just keep quiet and hope it would go away. It wasn’t a case of writing to one diet company or slimming service because they’re all at it. If one stops then another will step in. With the mum diet market being such a profitable one it stands to reason they’ll target the very places these mums hang out. And while the current rules state radio and TV ads for weight loss products and slimming services can’t be targetted at under 18s, when it comes to marketing around children on the ground, it’s a grey area.
Where #FreeFromDiets began…
But with the UK facing a body image crisis, with one in eight adults experiencing suicidal thoughts over the way they feel in their body, one in five girls not raising their hand in class for fear of being judged over their appearance, 34% of five year old girls restricting their food and kids as young as four being treated for eating disorders…. surely we need to really look at the impact these messages hanging on our kids’ school railings are having? These ads are telling kids that to “live happy”, “be well” and “be inspired” you need to look one way, change your body, lose weight – fit a narrow body ideal and image of health and beauty.
It is not OK.
So that’s where the #FreeFromDiets campaign was born. And this is where it grows.
#FreeFromDiets part 2…
Last week I announced that #FreeFromDiets is going on the road. I’ve recruited a campaign manager and a team of ambassadors, built a brand new website and created a whole campaign strategy around a series of inspiring, informative, empowering and FUN panel events.
Each panel event will be followed up by a round table discussion with people in positions of power to make a change. This is a community-led campaign. We’re creating a movement right here.
You can find out more about the movement and how you can get involved here.
We have doctors, health professionals, therapists, influencers, activists, educators and writers supporting the campaign. And it all hinges around a series of panel events we want YOU to come along to, to show policy makers there’s appetite for change and to help inform the round table discussions we have with those people the following day.
An amazing line-up of speakers…
Our first panel event, Body Happy Parents, takes place on November 21st, at 6.30pm, in a school in central London. Tickets cost just £15 and money from all ticket sales goes straight back into the campaign.
We’re going to get into it on the subject of body image, diet culture and how as parents we can reach body acceptance and help role-model positive body image in front of our kids. We’ll be talking about why diet promo around schools and children’s clubs is not the one. And we’ll be hosting a Q&A so you can get involved too.
The brilliant social media star, content creator and writer Tova Leigh is joining the campaign as our newest ambassador, as well as a speaker on our Body Happy Parents panel. Tova will be alongside Dr Tosin Sotubo, a GP and diversity advocate, social media influencer and mum Kerri Northcott, and ED specialist, Harley Street therapist, body image coach and international speaker Laura Phelan. The panel will be hosted by me (Molly Forbes).
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. It’s a huge investment of time, energy and yet again I’m putting myself on the line. But if 2019’s taught me one thing it’s that you can’t let the fear of failure hold you back. The only thing worse than failure is not trying at all.
Are you in? Join us here.