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On May 25 Amy Smith, the CEO of Jenny Craig, will present to a conference of educators for the Alliance of Girls' Schools (AGSA). Described as a "champion of women's health" by Catherine Misson, Principal of Melbourne Girls Grammar School, Jenny Craig's CEO will be enlisted to "inspire" attendees: what they learn will impact on what they bring back to the classroom.
Already letters from health professionals have begun flooding in, with some voicing their protests from as far as the US and Middle East. They all agree on one thing: Global giant Jenny Craig, which profits from the billion-dollar diet industry, is not an appropriate 'leader' for educators of young girls.
Bombarded relentlessly with toxic body image messages, girls are constantly pressured to conform to an unrealistic and narrow ideal. Eating disorder experts report dieting to be the biggest predictor of eating disorders, with unhealthy weight loss practices becoming the norm in schools.
By the age of 12-17, 90% of girls will have been on a diet of some kind. 8% of teen girls smoke to control their weight, and many compete to see who can eat the least number of calories during lunch at school.
When the ultimate goal is a certain number on the scale- rather than the ongoing engagement with health-giving behaviours, we are putting young people at risk of developing eating disorders and a lifetime pattern of unhealthy weight loss practices.
Global giant Jenny Craig thrives on women's body dissatisfaction and the idea that their bodies are ‘not good enough.’ To date, there is no independent research to show that the Jenny Craig approach leads to sustainable outcomes for the majority (>3-5 years). 'Before and After' shots do not count as evidence: what is really being sold is weight cycling for most.
Regardless of what Jenny Craig's CEO is speaking about, having the Jenny Craig brand adopt a leadership role legitimizes the diet industry and sends a strong message to educators that weight is what matters most. One could just as easily have the CEO of a tobacco company present an "inspiring" talk on their business success.
We wonder how many educators will walk away thinking weight loss should be on their agenda (and that Jenny Craig will be there to help them)? How many will transfer these negative body beliefs - consciously or subconsciously - to their students?
Jenny Craig has also sponsored the Kyle and Jackie O Show, with Kyle Sandilands known for his long history of hostile comments towards women. These include fat-shaming female Australian Idol contestants by accusing them of having "tuckshop lady arms," having a "jelly belly" and an attack on Jenny Craig's own ambassador Magna Szubanski stating "You put her in a concentration camp and you watch the weight fall off … like she could be skinny."
It was only after the public vented their outrage at Sandilands following his disparaging remarks about a female journalist's appearance and threatening her with violence, that Jenny Craig finally pulled their sponsorship. "You haven't got that much titty to be having that low cut a blouse. Watch your mouth or I'll hunt you down," Sandilands warned, and called the journalist a "fat slag"
It beggars belief how Jenny Craig's CEO could possibly be seen as an appropriate choice for educators of young girls, let alone a "champion of women's health." While we welcome the urgent and vital discussion on body image and weight and health issues for the conference, the CEO of Jenny Craig is not an appropriate choice to lead this.
Several attempts have been made to discuss the issue with Jan Butler, conference organizer, however she has refused to discuss the issue.
It's time to escalate matters. Please sign the petition and tell Jan Butler it's time for Jenny Craig's CEO to go!!
The Age - Schools' Jenny Craig furore
Sydney Morning Herald - Petition Against Jenny Craig
ABC News The World Today interview with Lydia Jade Turner - Furore over speaker at girls schools conference
Business Spectator - Anger over Jenny Craig CEO girls' schools talk
News.com.au - Girls' schools pressured to expel Jenny Craig
Listen - Mornings with Jon Feine - Interview with Lydia Jade Turner
Part transcript from the above interview in The Australian - We knew about Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Oil. Now there's Big Diet, or is it Big Thin?
Free speech for the fat-shaming, sexist diet industry? Not if mummy bloggers can help it.
Lydia Jane Turner, "eating disorder specialist" and managing director of Body Matters Australasia with ABC's Jon Faine, Melbourne 774 yesterday:
FAINE: An online petition trying to stop (Jenny Craig chief executive) Amy Smith even speaking to a girls' schools conference?
Turner: Yes, that's correct . . .
Faine: Do you believe in free speech?
Turner: I do but I think there are also limitations to free speech . . . For example you wouldn't have the head of a tobacco industry talking at a conference for girls' schools . . . Jenny Craig is a global giant when it comes to the diet industry, which actually thrives on creating body dissatisfaction and drives thinness for women. We also know the Jenny Craig company has previously chosen to sponsor the Kyle and Jackie O Show with full knowledge that Sandilands has a long history of fat shaming and making sexist comments . . .
Faine: Then they pulled their sponsorship.
Turner: They only pulled the sponsorship after the public outcry. So it looks as if what matters most to Jenny Craig is profit.
Faine: Well they are a business, they're not a charity . . . How many have you got on your online petition?
Turner: Last time I checked we were up to about 1200. There's just been such an outpouring of support. From eating-disorder communities, dietitians' groups, medical doctors, we've also had eating-disorder sufferers, so it's reached a lot of people. Parents, mummy bloggers, women's rights activists, there are a lot of communities who find the idea of Jenny Craig at this conference incomprehensible.
Interview with Lydia Jade Turner on Radio Adelaide Breakfast - listen here.