London Mayor’s First Order of Business? Ban Body-Shaming Advertisements

An advertisement that was banned in the U.K. last year for being harmful.

Every person around the world most likely sees an advertisement promoting a negative body image every day. Although this is just a simple truth, one that’s so common that most people don’t even consciously realize it, London’s new mayor wants to change the status quo.

Sadiq Khan, who was recently elected to the office, swore during his campaign that he would ban all advertisements promoting “unhealthy or unrealistic” body images that “can demean people, particularly women,” the BBC reports. It turns out that he wasn’t just pandering for votes. True to his word, Khan took action and starting next month, all body-shaming ads will be banned from the city’s transportation network.

“As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies,” Khan said. “It is high time it came to an end.” Khan made the campaign promise after an ad for a Protein World weight-loss product resulted in a worldwide discussion about the ethics of advertising.

Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, agrees that advertisements like these can have a major impact on someone’s self-image. “The causes of eating disorders are complex, but there is no doubt that the advertisements we see every day have an impact. Among American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69 percent say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape and 47 percent say the pictures make them want to lose weight.”

Considering that low self-esteem is a big risk factor for developing eating disorders, it’s vital to ensure that the media and advertising companies are thoughtful when deciding how to promote their brands.  

London isn’t the only city to take steps toward combating the negative effects of harmful ads. Trondheim, Norway, the third-largest city in the country, has banned images that feature scantily clad models in publicly owned spaces in order to eliminate negative body image issues from their population. In São Paulo, Brazil, all outdoor advertisements (billboards, etc.) were banned in 2006 as part of the “Clean City Law” that fought to rid the city of “visual pollution.”

For eating disorder treatment referrals, visit or contact the National Eating Disorders Association’s helpline: 800-931-2237, Monday — Thursday, 9 a.m. — 9 p.m. ET, Friday, 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. ET.

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