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Eating Disorders

Fad diet books encouraging "dangerous thinking" about body image

Bodywhys said the books can also act as a trigger for those who already have an eating disorder.

BODYWHYS, THE EATING disorder association of Ireland has warned that the surge of fad diet books entering the market in recent years is having a dangerous impact on the way people think about body image.

Speaking to, Fiona Flynn, Youth Development Officer at the association, said the books place a huge emphasis on body image “making it seem as if it’s the most important thing, ahead of other aspects of a person’s attributes.”

“There’s a risk that if a person doesn’t achieve this body image, it will have an affect on the overall health of their self esteem,” she said.

Flynn said the books encouraging unhealthy eating habits or extreme dieting can often act as a trigger for those already suffering through an eating disorder.

What can happen is that once someone starts to deprive themselves of food, it’s all that they can think of and they have all these obsessional thougths about it. Having the books, magazines, television programmes like can encourage a person to binge. It’s very triggering because it perpetuates their own thinking about themselves, that body image is most important.

The prevalence of these kinds of books, encouraging people to fast for a number of days or confine their diets to certain types of foods in order to rapidly loose weight has increased over the last few years. Flynn said:

So many people try these diets, these fad diets have been around for a long time. It’s everywhere, you really can’t get away from it, especially in January. You have ‘New Year, new you’, then in spring it’s ‘shape up for summer’, in the summer it’s all the bikini diets and after that it’s ‘get in shape for Christmas’. It does promote a dangerous way of thinking and there’s a direct link established between this kind of reading material and the likelihood of engaging in dangerous eating behaviour.

As Eating Disorder Awareness Week draws to a close, the association is encouraging people to to focus on positive thoughts about themselves.

People should turn their attention away from body image and focus on the things they like about themselves, hobbies they might have or other things they enjoy,” Flynn said. “They should also try to find their own style and try not to be influenced by the celebrity culture – if it’s something that’s giving you negative thoughts, don’t read it or change the channel.

Bodywhys can be contacted on 1890 200 444 or through its website.

Read: Online programme to support teens with self-esteem issues>
Read: Vogue editors sign pact to promote healthy body image in the magazine>

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