If I asked you to promote my new brand ‘Freelee the Banana Girl’ would you laugh at me? But this is a successful brand that has been built through social media. It features a skinny 30 something who champions a high carb low fat diet – she is essentially a Fruitarian (she claims 97% of her food is fruit). Her story goes that after battling eating disorders and failing at many diets she eventually worked out that if she lived on fruit she would lose a lot of weight. She did, and she’s in good shape. This speaks volumes for fruit but says very little about the eating disorder embodied in this diet, or her appeal to women with eating disorders or who are obsessive about their body image.
As a Personal Trainer I have worked with young women who were slim and obsessive. They weren’t anorexic, but body image and being skinny was at the centre of their lives. My effort was to create exercise programs that would improve function and quality of life, and point them to healthy food. Along the way I learned just how obsessive someone with an eating disorder can be. They could manage to live entirely on fruit if there was a chance it could make them skinny – it takes obsession to do that.
Freelee loves to show her body off. She is simply super excited about it. She is openly making the most of her 15 minutes. However living on fruit alone will not provide all the nutrition she needs. At some point the health consequences of such a limited diet will manifest. Freelee is not a nutritionist nor has any qualifications at all. Her attempts at explaining nutrition in her Youtube videos are virtually incoherent. Yet she has tens of thousands of followers. Following someone called Freelee the Banana Girl for nutritional and weight loss advice is not something I could recommend. The question is – why are so many prepared to subscribe to someone who has no qualifications at all, and who displays an obsessive eating pattern?
There is controversy with another online health brand created by Belle Gibson. It appears Ms Gibson faked cancer to sell her health brand and products. She was very successful in building up a substantial following. Her healthy food and lifestyle brand has now fallen apart. But what about those who followed her, taking nutritional guidance from her? Gibson is in her early twenties, with no qualifications, and yet many people were prepared to base their food choices and cancer related decisions on what, ultimately, some chick on the internet said?!
A big part of the reason is that the National Dietary guidelines aren’t working, they lack credibility, and they’re not sexy enough either. They don’t address the deep need for a six pack. Or help if you have an eating disorder. They are simplistic and generic, and easily ignored. Given the general health status of our society there is no reason to think that the Guidelines are functioning, even if you do agree with the science. And the science is up for question now too.
So people are left to their own devices. This leaves brands like Freelee the Banana Girl, Belle Gibson, and celebrity chefs and journalists, and even lawyers, providing the answers to a confused and perhaps vulnerable public. My recommendation, if you want relevant, personal answers, is to find a good naturopath and take it from there.