Extreme online diet fads put teens at risk
IMPRESSIONABLE teens are putting their health at serious risk by gobbling up online videos promoting dangerous diets including total fasting or consuming nothing but coffee for 24 hours.
Doctors are concerned about the popularity of "what I eat in a day" videos on YouTube showcasing the diets.
The hashtag "what I eat in a day" is also growing in popularity on Instagram, with users spruiking nothing but salad for the day.
Australian YouTubers promoting fasting diets with "what I eat in a day" videos include Sydney's Ruth May, who has more than 1.5 million views.
This week, May talks about having a coffee, running 13km and not eating until 2.30pm, when she has a salad of eggs, salmon and spinach.
Dinner is steamed vegetables and tofu and dessert is a cacao hot chocolate with ice-cube-sized frozen coconut oil and cacao.
In another, May says she once "went on a 24-hour fast" with just coffee but was "fine".
Sydney's Sarah Stevenson, known online as Sarah's Day, talks about fasting until 4.30pm, while another video lists just two daily meals - one of which is a smoothie.
Stevenson, who calls herself YouTube's "holistic health princess", has racked up more than 77 million views in total.
AMA NSW president Dr Kean-Seng Lim told The Saturday Telegraph he was "seriously worried".
"If this were to become the daily diet for someone they would actually be becoming quite vitamin deficient, quite iron deficient," Dr Lim said.
"For a teenager … it's going to have a negative impact on their school performance."
Western Sydney University obesity expert Dr Nicholas Fuller said the diets were too low in calories.
"These 'influencers' are predominantly appealing to the young and this sort of messaging puts a person at risk of all sorts of health issues," Dr Fuller said.
Butterfly Foundation ambassador Mia Findlay said the messages were harmful to people recovering from eating disorders.
"(They) can now point to videos which show food restriction and use it to justify their disorder," Ms Findlay said.
"The connotations becomes 'follow this diet and you can have my shiny, happy life'."
Jenna James, 32, who is recovering from anorexia, said the videos confused her. "They've become hard to avoid on social media," Ms James said.
"It can make things quite foggy and I question my dietitian and psychologist."
PREJUDICE A HEAVY BURDEN TO BEAR
By Christine Morgan, Butterfly Foundation CEO
"Weight bias is defined as negative attitudes towards, and beliefs about, others because of their weight. These negative attitudes are manifested by stereotypes and/or prejudice towards people with overweight and obesity. Internalised weight bias is defined as holding negative beliefs about oneself."
- World Health Organisation (WHO)
What I'm going to say is likely to make you feel uncomfortable . I hope it makes you stop, reflect and take a good look at those around you and yourself .
Re-read that statement from the WHO.
What do you think your personal biases are?
How are your learned behaviours or perceptions shaping your reality? How are they shaping your thoughts and reactions to others or yourself?
But this isn't simply about self-esteem and positive body image. It isn't about weight and size as a concept. This is about the very real and ugly prejudice and discrimination people face due to weight bias - in the workplace, in the health system, in the school system, at home and online.
When a bigger-sized person comes into the room, what does your internal voice say to you? When a smaller-sized person sits next to you in doctor's waiting room, what assumptions do you make about their health? What preconceived ideas about weight does your child take into the playground?
This Love Your Body Week - which begins on Monday - I challenge you to really look beneath your appearance and others.
To change the conversation we have to first acknowledge our own weight bias.
Join the conversation to #CHANGETHECONVO this Love Your Body Week.
Take a pledge at www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/love-your-body-week