PJs, Cheat Days & Me

Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. Maybe I should keep my opinions to myself. Maybe I should get off my high horse. I’ve had lots of suggestions over the last couple of days, but while the number of people being treated for eating disorders is rising by 7% year on year, I’m not ready to shut up.

Quick background:

cheatday

These PJs were photographed in a New Look store, on 915 hangers in the 915 section. The 915 section is designed for kids ages 9-15, so children and early teens. ‘Cheat Day’ refers to a day off in terms of dieting; a day that can be spent eating usually banned foods. Cheating obviously implies wrongdoing. In my head, eating isn’t cheating, whether it’s for children or adults… I’ll explain why…

I care about people and I care about young people especially, and what kind of world they’re growing up in. There are some things – like politics – that we can’t control, but there are other things that we can influence, and only influence by making a fuss. I don’t think I’m above anyone and I don’t ever want to come across like I’m preaching… all I care about, in this case, is that young people don’t grow up in a world where they feel guilty for treating themselves, bad when then eat something tasty or put down for doing something which is a human right; simply eating.

Yes, we have an obesity crisis. We also have a mental health crisis and the most deadly of all mental health problems are eating disorders. They’re not a trend, not a phase – they are real, they are serious, and they do kill. If they don’t kill physically, they do kill identities and personalities. They overpower, they ruin lives. They have a massive impact that cannot be ignored.

Pyjamas aren’t to blame – I hope we all get that – neither is the fashion industry or models or adverts or the media or any one single thing – mental illnesses are far more complex than that. What I do worry about, and very shamelessly speak out about, is the kind of messed up language that we use, and seem to have come to accept, about food and weight. We have gradually separated food groups into good and bad, superfoods and foods we should avoid, good food and naughty food… it’s all too black and white. The only thing that ever works to stay healthy in the long term is a balanced diet and a healthy attitude. You can have the ‘best’ diet in the world but if you’re torturing yourself with guilt every time you have anything ‘bad’, then that’s not healthy whatsoever. It certainly can’t be fun.

I know very well that not everyone on a certain diet is miserable, but I do know that there are an awful lot of people that use language like this and then create rules and restrictions for themselves that in turn become dangerous. I’ve seen those ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods turn into ‘safe’ and unsafe’ foods, and it’s the unsafe list that tends to grow, leaving less and less left. It might sound over the top, but that is powerful, and that kills.

Guilt is a horrible feeling. It’s bad enough if you do something morally wrong, for whatever reason, but eating pizza or chocolate or sweets should not be one of those things. We should not beat ourselves up for enjoying something. We attach too much emotion to food, and if we didn’t, we’d all be a hell of a lot happier. This applies to people on opposite ends of the scale. People who are underweight avoid certain food groups because of the fear of that guilty feeling, whilst some who are overweight struggle so much with the guilt that they spiral out of control, binge eat, feel worse and eat more to comfort themselves. It’s just not healthy, in any way, ever. I’m all for being fit and healthy, but not this.

When I first saw this picture of these pyjamas in that New Look store, I was under the impression that they were designed for children aged 9-15. It turned out that I was mistaken and that they had been accidentally placed in that section despite only being made in adult sizes. As part of their brief response, post J.K.Rowling retweet and consequential uproar, New Look said the pyjamas were “intended as a tongue in cheek novelty item, reflecting current lifestyle trends.” If ‘cheat days’ – a rare day off a life full of food rules and restrictions – are a current lifestyle trend, I don’t want to be a part of it, no matter what age it’s aimed at.

Eating is not cheating. We eat to survive. It’s that simple.

This isn’t a debate about obesity or  exercise, it’s about people being free to enjoy themselves and eat what they want without being plagued by society’s warped idea of what is right or wrong. That’s caused too many problems and taken too many lives already and I’m done with that.

No apologies.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “PJs, Cheat Days & Me

  1. Excellent article. And I fully agree. As a mother to a daughter, I am really conscious of using positive language when it comes to food, body image and health….she’s only 18 months so probably has no idea what mummy is saying but am hoping it will sink in as she grows up.

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