Diet Products (Celebrity Endorsements)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th March 2019.

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Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

Like other members, I express my appreciation for and gratitude to Shona Robison for securing this evening’s important debate, which exposes the unhealthy impacts and risks of celebrity-endorsed diet products.

I also thank the project in Dundee that Ms Robison mentioned, Wellbeing Works, and welcome our guests to the public gallery. I appreciate the work of Mandy Jones, from the empowered women project, in launching the significant “Let’s stop” petition on change.org.

Like Monica Lennon, I have been struck by the positive action of some celebrities, such as the actress Jameela Jamil, who has called out what is a scary rise in celebrity endorsements of quick-fix diets and detox programmes and she has called on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to ban such adverts. I think that all members who are in the chamber tonight support that call. Jameela Jamil’s testimony is important, because she experienced anorexia as a teenager. She talks about how she was influenced by celebrities as role models when she was growing up.

In the few minutes that I have to speak in the debate, I will succeed, I suppose, in sounding either very old or just like my mother, but the great thing about being in my 40s—and I am well into my 40s—is that I have learned to dump certain concerns. I stopped caring a long time ago about things like varicose veins, cellulite and the size of my—how can I put it in parliamentary language?—derrière, simply on the basis that I do not need to look at what is behind me.

My mother always said that being the perfect 10 would not make me happier, and she was absolutely right. As I look back on all my adult life, I can see that if I had been a size 10 as opposed to a size 14, absolutely nothing would have changed; there is nothing in my life that makes me happy now that would be affected in any shape or form by that.

Being the ideal weight or body shape changes absolutely nothing. However, unhealthy weight loss and obsession with body shape and size can—and do—have massive consequences for people of all ages, particularly young people.

Professor Stephen Powis, along with many other experts, has spoken about the risks of quick-fix weight loss and how they always outweigh the benefits. We heard from Kenny Gibson about various side effects.

I am sure that all members agree that we have a responsibility to protect young people’s mental health. Celebrities on social media must not stoke body image anxiety among young girls—and boys; all our young people face unprecedented pressures.

It is difficult to impart to young people the resilience that comes with age and experience without sounding old, patronising or out of touch, but I have been genuinely shocked by some of the images on social media that I have seen. It is easy for someone like me, who is well into their 40s, to be flippant and to laugh about the fact that all the cabbage soup and detox tea in the world could never result in any part of my anatomy defying gravity. However, members will know that I am thinking about Kim Kardashian, et cetera.

Like other members, I want social media outlets and advertising agencies to take further action to protect our young people. There are many parallels with the action that has been taken on cigarette and alcohol advertising and the work that the Government is doing to consider regulations relating to other cosmetic products.

The biggest thing that we can do for our young people is to support them to have critical minds and to be critical about the adult world around us. We need to nurture our young people to know their own minds and to be strong and resilient enough to make their own informed choices and to lead their own lives.