We are currently campaigning for a change in the rules around how diet brands and weight loss products are marketed around children. While we work on the ASA and the government to create change from the top, and ban the advertising of these diets and slimming services around schools, we want to create change from the inside too.
The money raised from this Crowdfunding campaign will fund the creation and distribution of 1000 leaflets to be sent to schools around the UK, and the creation, training and delivery of ten pilot workshops for teachers, raising awareness about body image and diet culture and giving them tools to navigate this subject with the children in their care.
ABOUT THE #FREEFROMDIETS CAMPAIGN:
The #FreeFromDiets campaign started as a petition in the summer of 2019, launched by presenter, writer and campaigner Molly Forbes, co-host of the podcast Body Cons and Channel 4's body positive show Naked Beach.
The campaign started out as a simple petition to end diet marketing around schools and kids' clubs and has evolved into a social movement backed by a team of ambassadors and health professionals, round-table discussions, public-facing events and now, a Crowdfunding appeal.
Schools, sports clubs and places of leisure for children and young people should all be safe spaces for under 18s, where they are not at risk of being body shamed, exposed to harmful messaging around dieting and diet culture, or encouraged - whether inadvertently or not - to focus on ideas around restricting food and aspiring to a particular type of body.
These ideas are at odds with the core message being promoted by slimming clubs and weight loss products - that in order to live a happy and fulfilled life, to be a worthwhile member of society and to inspire others, you must be thin or have a body that meets the narrow beauty ideals we regularly see in the media.
Current advertising guidelines state that slimming and weight control products or services must not be addressed to people under 18, but this is not stopping slimming clubs from targeting schools, childrens' sports clubs and places for children and families as sites to recruit potential new members to their groups.
We have received countless messages from other parents, letting us know about banners for slimming clubs being displayed on or near schools, leaflets for slimming clubs being handed out on or near schools and posters being put up in many sports and recreation clubs for under 18s across the country.
Although the slimming clubs may argue that they are not directly addressing under 18s with this form of marketing (and intend instead to speak to parents), there is no doubt that children are seeing these messages - and in some cases being encouraged to take leaflets home in their school book bags.
There is no doubt that being exposed to marketing for slimming services and weight loss products on or near school, at their sports' club or dance classes could have a negative impact on a child's body image and be damaging to both their mental and physical health.
Molly started the #FreeFromDiets Petition to call for tighter regulations, enforcement and investigation of the way these services and products are marketed and new slimming club members are recruited, with a ban on advertising within a 100 metre radius of any school, sports club or place of leisure for children and young people, to include putting up banners, posters, handing out leaflets or sponsoring sports kit. Just as it is not deemed appropriate for junk food ads to be placed near schools or for brands making HFSS products to sponsor kids' sport clubs, we argue that the same rules should apply to slimming services and weight loss products.
While we work to change the rules at the top, we want to create immediate resources and tools for schools to help them bring about change from the inside. This is a subject that's nuanced and often misunderstood, but with children as young as five displaying body insecurities and the rate of pre-teens being diagnosed with anorexia doubling in the last decade, this is an urgent issue that needs addressing.
Our children deserve a childhood free from negative body image influences and to be given the chance to grow up loving the skin they're in, appreciating it and not feeling compelled to conform to narrow beauty ideals or ideas of health which are manufactured by a multi-billion pound diet industry. Banning the advertising of slimming services and weight loss products around schools and places of leisure for children and young people is an important step in protecting their mental and physical health when it comes to body image.
From a campaign to a social movement...
Following the launch of the #FreeFromDiets petition in Summer 2019, Molly gained the support of a huge array of experts in this field as well as thousands of parents, some of which have become ambassadors for the campaign including: Dr Joshua Wolrich , Tally Rye, Stevie Blaine, Laura Phelan and Tova Leigh. You can find the full #FreeFromDiets ambassador line up here.
Our work so far...
Molly has also gained support from a team perspective with a campaign manager joining her to help with awareness and to support with requests.
The #FreeFromDiets team hosted their first roundtable event in November 2019 with attendance from ambassadors, experts and representatives of Girl Guides, this was a dynamic discussion on the topic and the aim was to leave with a tangible solution to the problem, that's where you come in!
We left the roundtable knowing we had to do something within schools to get the #FreeFromDiets message out there and decided that our first focus will be on teachers and how we can support them to create a positive body image environment for the children they teach. We set about finding an expert to help us put this together and ultimately deliver this, cue Faye Capp, our resident consultant teacher who will be at the helm of the creation, development and delivery of these workshops as well as supporting in putting together free resources for teachers.
HOW WE CAN MAKE AN IMMEDIATE DIFFERENCE:
We are crowdfunding for £5000 which will allow the #FreeFromDiets team to create and deliver 10 workshops to schools across the UK as well as free teacher resources for 1000 schools, this will be the pilot series that will give us positive case studies to take to school boards and education departments to ensure these workshops become common practice.
The #FreeFromDiets team would be hugely grateful for your support to help us hit this target and demonstrate that this is needed in the UK. You can also sign the petition here.