Photo of Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire, Liberal Democrat)

What discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on the effect of dieting on the health of women.

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Lynne Featherstone (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; Hornsey and Wood Green, Liberal Democrat)

I meet ministerial colleagues regularly to discuss a range of issues, including health, dieting and the body confidence campaign. Being at a healthy weight is important in

helping people to reduce the risk of serious illness. The Government are committed to helping people to reach and stay at a healthy weight.

Photo of Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire, Liberal Democrat)

It is January, which means that adverts in women’s magazines everywhere are promoting diets and miracle weight-loss plans. The inquiry of the all-party parliamentary group on body image has heard evidence from the Royal College of Psychiatrists that not only do 90% of diets not work, but that for people who are susceptible, dieting can trigger eating disorders. How can the Government successfully promote fitness and healthy eating patterns against the onslaught of bad advice to skip meals, cut out food groups and obsess over every calorie, with all the negative health consequences that that creates?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone

Lynne Featherstone (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; Hornsey and Wood Green, Liberal Democrat)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that she and the APPG do on body image issues. It is important that the link between dieting and eating disorders is looked at closely. She rightly mentions that 95% of diets fail. As a Government, we believe that a diet is not just for Christmas but must be about one’s lifestyle. The best advice is common sense. It is to eat healthily all year round and take appropriate amounts of exercise.

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Angus MacNeil (Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Tranpsort); Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scottish National Party)

Dieting and calorie counting can be positive as well as negative, as has just been pointed out. A positive development might be to have calorific information on alcoholic drinks as well as the unit count. Have the Government given any consideration to that?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone

Lynne Featherstone (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; Hornsey and Wood Green, Liberal Democrat)

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point and I will take it up with the appropriate Minister.

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Philip Hollobone (Kettering, Conservative)

Given the beneficial effects of breastfeeding on weight loss and on the baby’s health, and that Britain has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates of any country in Europe, what work is the Minister doing with the Department of Health to encourage women to breastfeed their babies?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone

Lynne Featherstone (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; Hornsey and Wood Green, Liberal Democrat)

The issues around breastfeeding are very sensitive. We have to find the balance between raising the benefits that breastfeeding can bring and not making people who feel that they cannot breastfeed feel bad about it. The hon. Gentleman raises two important points about weight loss and what is best for babies. It also has benefits in relation to allergies. I work with the Department of Health on all these issues.

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Diana Johnson (Shadow Minister (Home Affairs); Kingston upon Hull North, Labour)

It has long been a Liberal Democrat policy to make personal, social and health education compulsory in schools. That could include body image classes. Does the Minister regret that the coalition Government have set their face against making PSHE compulsory?

Photo of Lynne Featherstone

Lynne Featherstone (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; Hornsey and Wood Green, Liberal Democrat)

The Government are reviewing PSHE. The hon. Lady is absolutely right about body confidence. The Media Smart programme for schools is voluntary, but it has had the greatest ever number of downloads of any such programme. We should also use the big society and have other groups going into schools. Not everything should rest on teachers’ shoulders.