Growing pressure of New Year fad diets causing body anxiety

Posted on Dec 30, 2014

Ahead of the onslaught of New Year’s fad diets in early January, we are issuing a warning against the damaging impact of quick fix fad diets on body image

  • Research shows messaging around ‘diets’ is increasing each year
  • Over 1,200 mentions of the word ‘diet’ in the UK media in first five days of January alone
  • Fad diets are putting pressure on people to achieve unrealistic ‘perfect body’
  • National body confidence campaign, Be Real campaign encourages a long term attitude to healthy eating


Ahead of the onslaught of New Year’s fad diets in early January, Be Real, the UK’s national movement for body confidence, is issuing a warning against the damaging impact of quick fix fad diets on body image. The caution comes as new research shows diet messaging in the first five days in January is increasing year on year.


Findings of a media audit of the past three years reveals there was a 62% increase in diet messaging between December and January last year. In January 2014, there were over 1,200 mentions of the word ‘diet’ in national and regional media articles in the first five days alone – 43% more than the year before and 66% more than 2012.


As the pressure to try the latest diet mounts, Be Real reveals people are feeling an unbearable pressure to conform to an idealistic body shape at all stages of their lives, meaning that many are falling victim to unhealthy attitudes to body image. A fifth even admit they’d lose a finger to achieve the perfect body shape.

Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of Be Real, says: “We know that healthy eating is important and we are not ‘anti-diet’ but at this time of year we know it’s really difficult to escape the deluge of health and fitness messaging which appears all around us, much of which focuses on fad diets.


“As pressure increases at the start of January, we want to encourage people to take long term attitudes to healthy eating, rather than endlessly trying quick fix solutions which are not only damaging but often don’t actually work.”


According to recent findings from Be Real, a fifth of adults have skipped meals to try and lose weight and a quarter of us admit to struggling to keep up exercise and diet regimes. A third say we’ve returned to our previous weight after dieting, indicating that a short-term, quick fix mindset is stopping individuals from achieving long-term healthy lifestyles.

‘Be Real; body confidence for everyone’ is a national movement campaigning to change attitudes to body image and help all of us put health above appearance and be confident in our bodies.


Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of youth charity, YMCA England, says: “Young people are telling us that they feel under extreme pressure about how they look which is leading to an unhealthy relationship with their own bodies as well as physical and mental health concerns. Through Be Real, we’re calling for those in the diet, health and fitness industries to come together to promote long-term healthy living and wellbeing ahead of short-term quick fixes, enabling people to focus on feeling good and being healthy.”


Holli Rubin, psychotherapist specialising in body image and a supporter of Be Real says: “Dieting and losing weight top the New Year’s resolutions lists every year and the pressure this causes often means we’re setting ourselves up to fail. The cycle of dieting is very hard to break and very bad for our general health and well being. It can be very demoralising and leads to negative feelings about how you look and more importantly who you are. Combating dieting with a more longstanding approach known as intuitive eating is the best way forward for 2015. You will ultimately feel so much better.”


Be Real is uniting schools, businesses, charities, public bodies and individuals to change behaviour and celebrate real, healthy and diverse bodies. The campaign has been founded in partnership with Dove and is coordinated by YMCA. It is sponsored by All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, bareMinerals, Debenhams, Facebook, Forster Communications, Government Equalities Office, N Brown, New Look, Superdrug and YMCA.


Advice on how to adopt a long term approach to healthy eating can be found at


Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said:

“We know that losing weight is a significant undertaking and that being unsuccessful only adds to people’s anxiety and low self-esteem. It is important to try and maintain a healthy weight to significantly lower your risk of developing serious long term diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However ‘quick fix’ diets are unlikely to help people achieve this in the long term.

“The PHE Change4Life healthy lifestyle campaign gives support and advice on eating a healthy balanced diet and being more active. It offers tips and hints on simple swaps you can make to reduce sugar, saturated fat and salt in the diet and also provides healthy, affordable recipes to feed a family of 4 for around £5.”


Be Real is inviting people to join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook to help #fightthefad by identifying good and bad examples of diets and healthy eating and sharing them with @bereal_campaign #bereal and on at