Skin deep promises?

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As we welcome 2012, the season to be jolly is no longer upon us, and the excuses for being a little festively plump are running out faster than the purple Quality Streets.  For many, the phrase ‘New Year’ is becoming synonymous with the idea of a ‘new you’ – good news for gyms, who see a huge increase in membership each January, not-so-good news for student wallets.  However it is not just students that can be a bit short of cash, and many people are now turning to home workout DVD’s, or magazines with covers bearing headlines such as ‘lose seven pounds in seven days!’ or whispering ‘Gwen Stefani’s weight loss secrets revealed!’  But, with a new fad diet being published almost weekly, it is debatable as to whether they even work, let alone what harm they could do to your body.

For some time now, the media has come under fire for both promoting and gloating when it comes to celebrities and their bodies.  Magazines, in particular, are criticised not just for their use of increasingly thin models but also for featuring ‘advice’ from models, actresses and musicians on how they achieve their figures – though ‘achieve’ probably isn’t the right term to use.  Most of the time, you can bet these tips you’re being fed are as rubbish as a Weight Watchers curry, but that doesn’t stop countless women and men from trying them out.  Of course, many will realise after about two days that living on spinach and beetroot smoothies just isn’t right, but impressionable minds may – and often do – become obsessed with these supposedly celebrity-endorsed diets.

The question is, is it right for magazines to publish these diets amidst pages and pages of red carpet photographs of tiny celebs?  While we can just tut and dismiss them as fads, the truth is that weight and body image are never out of the press and, even if one doesn’t go as far as Jennifer Aniston and live off baby food, the messages being communicated inevitably become embedded in public minds.  Most of these diets and detoxes involve cutting out whole food groups, particularly dairy and carbohydrates.

Dietician Sian Porter spoke to the Guardian at the end of December, for an article that wagged fingers at the likes of Simon Cowell for promoting ridiculous diet advice, warning that ‘following a restrictive diet, particularly cutting out food groups like dairy without substitution, can put your bone health at risk.’  But bone health is just one area of concern, as the number of reported cases of mental health disorders like anorexia and bulimia in young girls remains worryingly high, and the age of the girls being diagnosed is getting scarily lower, with the media being flagged as partly or fully responsible for many cases.

So, while it may be tempting to try out Megan Fox’s supposed diet secret or exist on liquids to try and shift those post-Christmas pounds, it is far healthier to just exercise (no need for the gym, just go for a jog, or buy a skipping rope) and try and cut out the chocolate biscuits – well, once you’ve finished the selection boxes still left over from Christmas Day, it’d be rude not to…

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