Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Lent is almost over. I have had several interesting and entertaining discussions about the issue. The religious advocated enhancing their spiritual lives by spending more quality time with God e.g. in prayer. One church leader proposed that his congregation de-clutter their homes and refrain from buying anything other than food, medicine and fuel.

Most secular Lent sacrifices centred around addressing the unhealthy elements of the individuals life. Some 'gave up', or drastically reduced their intake of junk food, alcohol, chocolate etc. Others 'took up' something e.g. extra visits to the gym or going to bed earlier. Someone even vowed to restart their failed new years resolutions.

With the general election campaign  in full swing, I found those deciding to give up politics amusing.   On a much greater scale, was the suggestion that society should come together and agree to give up plastic. A very green, if some what implausible idea.

One of the worst Lent suggestions came from my 8 year old; she wanted to give up vegetables! My favourite Lent sacrifice was undertaken by a friend who gave up the car. Within a couple of weeks he both looked and felt a lot healthier.

It's clear that people are anxious about their health (spiritual, physical & mental) and view New Year resolutions, Lent, an approaching anniversary ...  as a catalyst to starting a new or restarting an unsuccessful regime. 


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spencer Tunick

While I am not an advocate of public nudity (far from it);  I do like the sentiments Spencer Tunick expressed this month, about his latest living sculpture Base. The sculpture consisted of people of all shapes, sizes, colours and backgrounds(5200 nude participants) coming together in order to encourage diversity and freedom.

“The base of any truly free society is acceptance that everyone is equal", said .Tunick. “Our bodies are equal; our souls are equal". He continued.  "The body is a living entity. It represents life, freedom, sensuality and is a mechanism to carry out our thoughts. A body is always beautiful to me.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

Seaweed and weight loss

Have you ever wished that you could eat all the bread, biscuits and cake you wanted without having to suffer the consequential weight gain?  Perhaps now you can.

Scientist from Newcastle University have established that adding seaweed these and other foods,  results in a reduced amount of fat being absorbed by the body.  They believe that the natural fibre alginate, found in sea kelp, is responsible for this very desirable side effect.

"This suggests that if we can add the natural fibre to products commonly eaten daily", said Dr Iain Brownlee, "such as bread, biscuits and yogurts – up to three quarters of the fat contained in that meal could simply pass through the body".

On going taste tests look promising.  The scientist will now begin clinical trials in a bid to determine it's effectiveness. Seaweed, concluded Dr Brownlee, "may be more effective than current weight loss products sold over the counter". 

We all know that there have been countless claims and counter claims about miracle weight loss cures; sadly, non (that I know of) have stood the test of time.  To date, the only real solution to weight gain, is healthy eating and exercise; as a lifestyle choice.

In response to comments that  "initial findings suggest alginates could offer a very real solution in the battle against obesity",  I say "prove it".......


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fitness tests in schools

The Government's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson has put forward a new scheme where secondary pupils will undergo an annual fitness test. A letter will be sent to the parents of children who fail the test. In the letter, parents will be informed that their child/children are at risk of of heart disease, brittle bones and obesity. Donaldson argued that the lack of exercise is placing a huge financial burden on the economy of approximately £8.3billion a year.

Amid the normal criticism of a growing 'nanny state' and failed school sports programs, is the worrying news that overall child fitness is falling by up to 9 per cent every decade (On The State Of Public Health report).

Parents in England are currently sent letters if their child/children are deemed overweight for their height in their first and last years in primary school. The program as been greatly criticised for stigmatising children by labelling them as fat at a young age. It has also raised fears of bulling and associated self esteem issues. 

Margaret Morrissey, founder of the Parents Out Loud pressure group, described the warning letters as 'absolutely disgusting'. She added 'every child is different; they all have different genes. If you have the wrong genes, the chances are you won't conform to Government targets.'

As a parent I think the health of my children should start at home.  Annual tests in schools followed by letters seem very heavy handed.   The government has spent years and millions of pounds, trying to educate parents about healthy diet and exercise choices e.g. Change4Life. Despite this, a Newcastle University study (2009) found that 70 percent of parents of overweight children, believed that  their children were a healthy weight. Another study,  this time by the British Heart Foundation,  found that 75 percent of parents thought their children were  "active enough"  when in reality only 10 percent were completing the recommended hour a day of activity. The new campaign leads me to conclude that the government does not think their healthy lifestyle message is getting through.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Wanting to be darker or lighter.

What does sun beds and skin lightening creams have in common?

They both carry health risks and are used by individuals who are unhappy with their natural skin tone.

The Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill was recently passed to allay the risk of getting cancer from sunbed usage. The bill is targeted at addressing the increased risks that teens face.

Labour MP Julie Morgan, who proposed the legislation, said it would "save lives". Cancer Research UK Head of policy Sarah Woolnough said they were "delighted". Continuing "We urge the Government to prioritise this Bill to ensure legislation that will prevent young people putting their health at risk is in place before the upcoming election."

While the use of tanning beds controversy rages on, it's antithesis is also causing similar concerns here in the UK and in USA, Africa, India, China, Japan .... In this instance the issue is centred on the rise in the use of skin lightening creams. A survey carried out by the British Skin Foundation found that 16% of dermatologists believe lightening creams are ‘completely unsafe’, and 80% felt they are only safe when prescribed by a dermatologist (prescription).

Skin lightening creams can cause:
- permanent skin bleaching,
- thinning of skin,
- development of visible blood vessels,
- uneven colour loss leading to a blotchy appearance,
- redness,
- intense irritation, and
- blue-black discolouration of skin.

The skin tone debate is essentially it is a cultural debate; a debate that could have severe health repercussions. In the West, tanned skin is often associated with health, wealth and looking attractive. While in non white countries, especially ex-colonial, darker skin is associated with the lower classes (outdoor workers) and the uncultured.

Lighter or darker. Does it really matter? Isn't health far more important?


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Picture perfect


Last month psychiatrists announced that they are disturbed by the harmful influence of the media on an individuals body image. In a bid to resolve the issue, they called for a new editorial code of conduct that would significantly reduce the promotion of unhealthily thin bodies and stop the glamorisation of eating disorders.

Eating Disorders experts within the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsychs) argued that the media should be promoting a far greater diversity of body shapes and sizes. This would have the effect of increasing a persons body image. In additional to the code, they went further by a) advocating the use of a kite mark that would be used to clearly identify images that had been digitally enhanced and b) launching a forum.

The forum is supported by medical experts, the media industry and politicians. Dr Adrienne Key, a consultant psychiatrist stated that the aim of the forum was to "collaboratively develop an ethical editorial code that realistically addresses the damaging portrayal of eating disorders, raises awareness of unrealistic visual imagery created through airbrushing and digital enhancement, and also addresses the skewed and erroneous content of magazines."
She continued, "eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are serious mental illnesses. "Although biological and genetic factors play an important role in the development of these disorders, psychological and social factors are also significant".

However, Annabel Brog, editor teen magazine Sugar, told the BBC that the addition of a kite mark on images was impractical because it would be very difficult to know where to draw the line. Many images, she argued, were digitally enhanced to brighten up colours rather than make models appear perfect.

The debate continues....


Friday, March 05, 2010

First disabled model

We received the news, that Shannon Murray has become the first disabled model to star in a High Street fashion campaign, as big step in the right direction. The ultimate aim of course, would be to see disabled individuals represented in the media as a legitimate part of every day society.

Shannon 32, who has been wheelchair bound since breaking her back as a teenager, has become the new face of designer Ben de Lisi's new fashion range for Principles (housed within Debenhams). In the advertisement, she is seen sitting in her wheelchair beside standing models and Ben.

"I hope the images challenge a few misconceptions about disability", Shannon said. "It's been a long time coming".

More good news. The campaigners made an additional effort to depict diversity by their inclusion of a size 16, a size 10 and a less than average height (5 ft 4") model.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The media and sexualisation

This video discuses some of the issues highlighted in last weeks Home Office report on the sexualisation of children.

The reports called for:-
- Tougher regulation of sexual imagery in adverts
- A ban on selling "lads' mags" to under-16s.
- Selling mobile phones and games consoles with parental controls automatically switched on.
- A ban on "sexualised" music videos before the TV watershed
- A ban on Jobcentres advertising positions in lap-dancing clubs and massage parlours
- Internet service providers to block access to pro-bulimia and pro-anorexia websites
- The creation of a website where parents can report any "irresponsible marketing" they believe sexualises young children.