words By: Catarina Vicente, Heading Image: Delish.com
Trigger Warning: This article discusses eating disorders and calories counting
During “National Eating Disorder Awareness Week”, ITV aired an episode of their show “This Morning” where they promoted a diet of 800 calories per day.
The show, which already had a history of promoting unhealthy dieting, invited Dr Michael Mosley, to speak about ways to lose weight gained during the lockdown period, dubbed the “lockdown pounds”. Mosley, a TV presenter, and former doctor, recommended a diet of 800 calories a day, endorsing it as “safe and effective”. (For reference, the recommended daily intake is 2,000 calories for women, 2,500 for men).
It is no surprise to hear a dietician profiting off of people’s insecurities, and I was not surprised to see he’d caused controversy before with his endorsement of the 5:2 diet. The lockdown has given way to a wave of body-negativity: whether it is trends on Tiktok making you conscious of your figure, pictures of Instagram models swamping your feed, or just feeling stuck with the negative thoughts in your own mind, it has definitely been a difficult time to stay loving of your own appearance.
The unwavering backlash was to be expected, and many viewers questioned the doctor’s legitimacy and the broadcaster’s decision to air this during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Ofcom, the UK’s broadcasting authority, reported to have received around 1,932 complaints surrounding the interview, and is looking into further action. The eating disorder charity, Beat, has also urged viewers to stop watching the show.
The interview was highly irresponsible. Not only are they inviting a dietician widely known for his endorsement of unhealthy dieting practices, but they are also promoting inappropriate advice to a national audience, and thus possibly many people who could be suffering with or recovering from an eating disorder. Such comments can trigger relapses and are generally dangerous, and it’s genuinely sad that comments encouraging disordered eating are allowed on national television, especially during a week meant to be spread awareness about these disorders.
Since then, Dr Mosley has come forward to defend himself: “I do understand that eating disorders are complex, distressing and very dangerous…but [the 800-calorie approach has amazing results] for those who are overweight or obese”. The network has not yet taken down clips of the interview from their YouTube channel, and backlash has died down. It is important to remember these instances, to reflect on the ways we talk about eating disorders.