13 December 2008

LighterLife: are people dying?

Let’s take a moment to mourn Jacqueline Henson, whose inquest this week revealed that she had died after drinking a huge amount of water as she tried to follow the LighterLife diet. Heartbreaking evidence concerning the circumstances of her death were provided by her husband Brian, who said that the diet had been going brilliantly, "she loved it because she was losing weight. She was over the moon." On the night she died, Jacqueline’s 18 year-old daughter Chantelle found her unconscious.

This is not the first time that LighterLife have been implicated in a death. Matilda Callaghan died of a heart attack after living on LighterLife’s very low calorie diet for six months. One death might be described as a tragic accident, but two is plain careless.

In both cases LighterLife denied any liability. Regarding Ms Henson a spokeswoman claimed that the company states clearly how and when water should be drunk. As for Ms Callaghan, LighterLife boss Bar Hewlett told the inquest that "Miss Callaghan had been obese since the age of 12 and could have died at any time." She made a longer refutation in an open letter after the case was heard. Apologies for the vile blog I have linked to.

Despite their claims of innocence, there is a growing body of evidence against LighterLife, as reported by the BBC and the devil’s Daily Mail; Jacqueline Henson’s sister has also hit out at the company. And then there’s TOAST, secretly funded by LighterLife as a supposedly independent anti-obesity charity, and promoting their programmes, whilst also in receipt of government cash.

In any other sector, except perhaps the arms trade, it would be astounding that a company with this kind of record would have any credibility left. Weight Loss businesses are a law unto themselves, however, and LighterLife continues to enjoy good business. As well as sponsoring 2007’s Guild of Health Writers Awards, they also benefit from the UK’s lack of regulation in the counselling and psychotherapy industry. LighterLife recruits counsellors through the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy’s magazine, Therapy, which is available to the organisation’s members. LighterLife’s counsellors are trained and accredited with the BACP, who are playing an instrumental role in the development of an official UK register of therapists which is likely to be introduced within the next few years. Accreditation and BACP membership means inclusion on that register. Nobody seems to think that this is a problem, even though it is questionable, given the evidence cited above, whether LighterLife adheres to the BACP’s ethical framework.

One would think that companies that push very low calorie diets would be unsustainable because the products and practises they promote are doomed to failure and are really risky. Yet I’m stunned to see that Optifast is still a viable brand, as is Slimfast, and LighterLife also keeps popping right back up, despite the various PR disasters. How long can they go on? How many more deaths will there be?


La di Da said...

Npt only is Optifast still viable, they're in thick with the medical profession as a Scienterrific Fatty-go-Bye program. Especially those peddling lap band surgery and stomach mutilation surgery. They make those aspiring to or being coerced or shamed or frightened into malnutrition surgery go on it before they get the chop, at least here in Australia. In fact a lot of fat people are encouraged to go on it before any surgery to lose weight to make the surgery "safer". (Oh sure, sending a weakened, semi-starving, malnourished person in to surgery. Well done.) It's been given an air of legitimacy by the marketers too who have cleverly made it only available via pharmacies.

vesta44 said...

This doesn't surprise me at all. Look at how many people have died from WLS, and doctors are still pushing it as the solution to being fat. It's all because they all just know that if we didn't lose weight we'd be dead anyway, so at least we're gonna die thin from their diets and WLS. Thanks, but no thanks, I was told 30 years that if I didn't lose weight I'd be dead in 5 years. Just goes to show how much they know.

Charlotte Cooper said...

@ La_di_Da
Noooooo! Say it ain't so! And of course WLS mortality rates and the inevitable ill health that follows VLCD and WLS can just be blamed on the fat.

The marketing strategy too, nooooo.

Charlotte Cooper said...

@ vesta44

Keep on keeping on!

Anonymous said...

LighterLife contains everything you need to stay healthy, the people who have died on it either had underlying health conditions or drank too much! The guideline is to simply drink to thirst. Just because people look at the surface facts (i.e 520 calories) and make an ill informed decision that it is bad, doesn't mean it is. LighterLife is saving my life at the moment, You lose weight while getting all the nutrients you need, no amount of diet and exercise could have got 14 stone off me and stopped my legs from giving up on me. Lighterlife saved my life. Helen M.

Charlotte Cooper said...

I am sorry that you are suffering and have suffered in the past.

Even if those women had underlying health conditions or drank too much, why wasn't this monitored by LighterLife? What responsibility do they really have to their customers?

I don't believe that living off powders and snack bars for months on end is a smart way to develop healthy eating habits, or to look after your body's wellbeing.

The way you talk about LighterLife as life-saving is also troubling to me, they are a company making money out of you.

"no amount of diet and exercise could have got 14 stone off me"
This is a diet. The data on weight loss through dieting, especially that achieved by crash dieting, shows that long-term weight loss is unlikely for most people. After a diet people typically regain the weight lost and more. What makes you think things will be different this time?

I think there are better no-risk ways of developing good health and a peaceful relationship with your body. I don't think that this is what LighterLife promotes, despite the company's rhetoric.