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eating disorders

WW, formerly known as WeightWatchers, launched a diet and nutrition app marketed at children and adolescents this week and have faced immense backlash since.

Kurbo by WW is a free programme that claims to help eight-year-olds to 17-year-olds "build healthy habits", and lose weight through personalised coaching and food tracking.

The app's "traffic light" diet approach categorises foods as red, yellow and green (red being the most process, sugar-filled, yellow being lean protein and pasta and green being fruit and veg).

Kurbo by WW was developed at Stanford University, and WW have defended their programme by stating the app is backed by safe scientific studies. 

CEO of WW, Mindy Grossman, said; "To change the health trajectory of the world, we have a tremendous opportunity, but also a responsibility, to help kids, teens and families adopt healthy habits."

Many critics of the app insist that encouraging kids and teenagers to diet can perpetuate an unhealthy and dangerous mindset.

Fatphobic cultural messaging around dieting has led to a massive issue surrounding eating disorders and mental health among youth.

In an article published in Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics in 2015, researchers found that because adolescence is such an important time for body image development, 12-to-18-year-olds with a negative perception of their body or weight are more likely to develop eating disorders or dysfunctional exercise habits.

Of course, obesity can be linked to numerous health concerns but disordered eating and mental health conditions among adolescent is reportedly more likely to pose a dangerous risk than paediatric obesity.

35-to-37 percent of adolescent girls in the US alone report using unhealthy weight loss measures, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. These methods include fasting, smoking, taking laxatives and 'skinny teas', skipping meals and even vomiting.

One-in-three adolescents in the UK alone reported experiencing mental health issues, according to a troubling survey by the charity Action for Children. 

More than 12 percent of adolescents in the US are affected by depression every year. 

Many people on social media were furious about the Kurbo by WW app. Jameela Jamil, an activist and actress who runs the iWeigh campaign for body positivity, tweeted her disgust at the news.

“Are we kidding? Breeding obsession with weight and calories and food at the age of…8?" she wrote. "I was 11 when my obsession started, due to being put on a diet for being the heaviest girl in the class. I became afraid of food. It ruined my teens and twenties.”

Petitions have already been created against the app, with the hashtag #LoveNotDiets trending to urge parents to use love rather than diets to help their nutritional habits.

Childhood obesity is still an incredibly serious public health challenge of the 21st century, and the app attempts to reduce a child's sugar intake. There is nothing wrong with promoting healthy foods and exercising for physical and mental health benefits. 

However, many parents feel that instilling a diet-centered mindset among young people who are already vulnerable could be a dangerous mistake. Targeting the mental health crisis could be a more productive way forward.

Feature image: Instagram/@coachdavidflowers

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One of the UK's most senior doctors, Professor Stephen Powis, has written in The Telegraph that weight loss advertisements which are celebrity-endorsed should be banned.

Professor Powis is currently the NHS' medical director, and has criticised well-known celebrities such as the Kardashians for promoting weight-loss products and aids such as teas, shakes and pills on social media, and has even called for Instagram to oppose them.

The doctor referenced the troubling statistic that more than one in 10 young people are affected by mental health issues in the UK, and are heavily influenced by body insecurity and famous faces encouraging them to lose weight.

He emphasised that mental health issues are one of the "most pressing issues facing out country".

SHEmazing recently wrote about the level of profit which people like the Kardashians can gain from the insecurity of their fans. 

Poor messaging can lead to dangerous consequences, and numerous organisations such as the National Eating Disorder Association have branded the Kardashian family’s representation of weight loss products as ‘triggering’ for those who struggle with eating disorders.

Professor Powis made sure to emphasise that impressionable young people look to these people for lifestyle guidance; "At what is already a sensitive and important time in their development, this group is especially vulnerable to pressures which trigger or exacerbate mental ill health," he writes.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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A post shared by  (@kimkardashian) on

A shocking HALF of young girls say that they feel under pressure to lose weight, the doctor says that social media's ascension has escalated this pressure and both celebrities and the platforms themselves must take responsibility for their posts.

"Our young people are bombarded with ideas, images and advertising which set such a high bar for what they should feel and look like," he writes. "And yet there is little accountability for the impact this has.

"Where celebrities and the platforms which promote them exploit this vulnerability by pushing products like laxative teas, diet pills and other get-thin-quick solutions, they are taking the health of our young people in their hands and should act with far greater responsibility."

Activist and actress Jameela Jamil tweeted her support for Professor Powis:

Prof. Powis also suggested that practical measures should be taken to stamp out the 'exploitation' of youth, such as online platforms "banning adverts for products with a known health risk". YAS KING.

He argued that the NHS is working on understanding and treating mental health conditions in young people;

"Everyone, especially those engaging with young people like social media firms, and celebrities who profit from them, have a duty of care to do more for our health and wellbeing".

"The NHS can't keep putting out fires if some parts of society keep lighting matches," he concluded, using a pretty effective allegory. 

Kim Kardashian West has an especially long history of promoting weight loss products on social media, as well as her sisters, Kylie and Kourtney. Kim faced backlash in May for promoting appetite suppressant lollipops on her Instagram.

One of the world's most powerful women was literally telling other women and young girls NOT TO EAT.  The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil founded the i Weigh body positivity social media movement and Kardashian West "a terrible and toxic influence on young girls".

Jamil has consistently called out celebrities including Cardi B and Iggy Azalea for promoting 'detox' teas, claiming they're just selling digestion problems instead.

She also called Kardashian 'an agent of the patriarchy', for her incessant need to 'recycle self-hatred.'

Jamil herself experienced an eating disorder as a teenager, and skipped meals for years at a time. She spent money on "miracle cures and laxatives and tips from celebrities" which later left her with "digestion and metabolism problems for life".

The Competition and Markets Authority has announced a clampdown on celebrities who don't label their posts as promotional advertisements, but solid rules aren't in place.

NHS England's national mental health director Claire Murdoch expressed concern over the influence which these celebrities have young people at an "impressionable" stage in their lives.

"Both the celebrities themselves and these social media companies themselves should be more responsible," she told BBC Breakfast.

We're so glad the NSH are finally using their influential platform to steer people in the right direction. Time will tell what type of future diet fads will hold, but they're looking highly unpopular right now.

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Irish eating disorders service Bodywhys has demonstrated in their annual report that 2016 saw a 10 per cent increase in people with disordered eating issues using their support services.

According to the report, the service has seen a a 33 per cent increase in support emails received. 

It has also seen a 30 per cent jump in people attending support groups, and a 6 per cent increase in people using their online support groups.

The group also presented their findings from their call service, with 13 per cent of those calling being in a time of crisis. 

People aged 15 to 18 made up almost one quarter of those who contacted the service.

Anorexia was the most common illness, as 60 per cent of those who contacted Bodywhys were struggling with this particular disorder.

Bulimia sufferers made up 17 per cent, while Binge Eating Disorder sufferers made up 19 per cent. 

Those suffering with EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) made up 4 per cent. 

These figures come after Bodywhys commented on new Netflix film To The Bone, which gives a depiction of eating disorders.

'Bodywhys acknowledges that the filmmakers have understood the seriousness and complexity of eating disorders.'

'Visual and other elements of the film may be challenging for those with a personal connection to the issue of eating disorders.'

'The central character, Ellen, is in crisis and unwell. Some scenes involving specific eating disorder behaviours are shown, along with personal and emotional conversations.'

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After receiving rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, movie buffs the world over are eagerly anticipating the release of Netflix's latest feature film, To The Bone

The film, which stars Lily Collins, follows the journey of 20-year-old, Ellen and her battle with anorexia.

While many are praising the film for tackling such a sensitive issue, others fear the film may act as a trigger for people who suffer from eating disorders.

However, it's worth noting that both lead actress, Lily Collins, and the writer/ director, Marti Noxon, have both suffered from disordered eating in the past and are not afraid to address their demons head on.

In a recent interview on Lorraine, Lily opened up about how it felt to play a character who struggled with the same illness she had suffered from, stressing how proud she was to be a part of the project.

"It’s actually the first feature film that’s been done about eating disorders and I feel so proud to be a part of it, to keep it entertaining in a way but also informational," she said. 

"I was kept under strict supervision by producers, director, my own mother and also a nutritionist so we worked very closely together, very healthfully."

"I was actually excited to be able to tell the story to open up further conversation for young women and men around the world."

Check out the full interview below. 


To The Bone is out July 14, 2017. 

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The fashion industry has come under a lot of scrutiny lately, especially with store mannequins being deemed as an "extremely underweight woman."

However, a law that was passed in France in 2015, which saw a ban on extremely thin models, is finally being put into effect this week.

From now on, any and all models will be asked to provide a health certificate from a doctor before they can take part in any photoshoots, runway shows or appearances.

Image result for thin models

The certificate must include details of their BMI and wellbeing.

The certs have to be presented to any employer, and if the employer is found to not be following the new rules, they could be hit with a fine of up to €75,000 and up to six months in jail.

The health ministry in France has put the new legislation in place to help tackle eating disorders in the country, and as well as a ban on thin models, they are also labelling all images that have been photoshopped.

France's Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Marisol Touraine, said: "Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behaviour".

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Dieting, restrictive eating and intense workout sessions seem to be part and parcel of life for many young Irish people, but when does 'looking after your body' cross the line to a dangerous obsession?

Many eating disorder sufferers point to a lack of control in their lives or a time of intense upheaval as the moment their issues with food began. But it's not always quite so clear cut, as Irish woman Fiona Morris can attest to.

"For so many years, people, family, friends, doctors, counsellors tried to uncover the reason for why my eating disorder began," she says of her 12-year experience with anorexia.

"What was the root cause? When did it all start? I thought that if I knew the reason it all started, then I would be able to find the way out of it."

Today marks the second day of Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Ireland and around the world, and Fiona has graciously shared her story with us.

"I put the debut of anorexia down to a culmination of feeling inadequate, seeing myself as 'ugly', unfortunate circumstances and bad timing," she says.

"Over the years I have realised that finding out how or why I got sick wasn't nearly as important as realising how I could get better."

While she does not yet fully consider herself as "recovered," Fiona says she is "proud AF" with how far she has come.

"I am not going to say I am one of the 'lucky' ones, luck has not played any part. What I will say is that I am one of the brave ones, who was strong enough to stand up for my right to be alive and to have a place in this world.

"I would give a lot to be able to get back the years I lost to anorexia…but the reality is, I can never get those years back.

"I can never erase the years of crying, lying, wishing, wanting, jealousy, hatred, frustration, fear and guilt."

Despite all of this, Fiona still tries her best to take even some small positive lessons from her experience.

"Having anorexia, has no doubt taught me a lot about myself and about life. Yes, I regret the years I spent with it, but I don't regret all the lessons it taught me.

"I understand the beauty and fragility of life. I understand the blessing that we have been given with life. I have compassion and understanding.

"I have a clear and balanced perspective on what is important and most of all, I have a deep appreciation for good relationships, with both friends and family.

"I have had to try and take some positive out of my 'lost' years and it is these life lessons that have stood out."

After a long-term battle with her eating disorder, Fiona said she now accepts her experience as a part of herself – and wants to use what she has learnt to help others.

"I would be lying if I said that I don't still struggle. I do. I really really do. I have had it for 12 years so I wouldn't expect to not have tough times.

"I am not sharing this for praise or attention, I know myself how much I have accomplished. I am sharing this to reach out to people struggling with an eating disorder.

"I want you guys to know that no matter how long you have had an eating disorder for, how many times you have got  a bit better only to fall down again, how bad it may seem right now, no matter how hopeless you feel or how scared you are about taking a step forward… that recovery is possible for everyone.

"Recovery is a full time job and I am OK with that, because the pay is more than any job will give you."

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