Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Letter to Yahoo Shine re: Tanya Murphy

Dear Beth,

I had some consultation with the Moms and more.  Our response to your questions is below.   First though, you have to watch a few videos and see the reach of this woman.  Remember a few years ago when Tipper Gore successfully pushed ratings for music through legislation.  I think this is what we need when groups like Nick Ritchie claim to cure EDs, and Freelee promotes a dangerously unhealthy diet to people with eating disorders.  That would be a goal...we are also going to start interacting with the congresspeople sponsoring the Truth in Advertising bill.   Meantime we have tweeted over 100 people with our team of almost 20 moms and others, written the Australian Communications and Media Association, Therapeutic Goods Regulatory authority, Department of Health, National Medical Research Council and the FDA.

The hardest thing is that we don't really see the controls on non-medical people like Freelee dispensing dangerous health and nutritional information.   We need DISCLAIMERS and REGULATION.

•I completely understand that someone like this may be dangerous for ED-prone women (and particularly for those in the throes of a disorder). But still, how do you think she’s actually “preying” on or “targeting” women? Does she have some sort of way to reach out directly to women with certain social media profiles, for example?

The important thing to note here is that Freelee is promoting a diet that ANY woman or man may feel is 'good' for them, and that by starting this dangerous diet (which is clearly not healthy or balanced nor recommended by WHO), it could lead on to trigger an eating disorder in those pre-disposed to one. It's important to emphasize here how no-one necessarily knows that they have this brain-based illness until it's too late; until the body weight has dropped low enough for the illness to kick in.  

Her channels:  Freelee reaches over 100,000 people on her Instagram account.  She gets over 2 million views on some of her youtube videos on Frelee channel https://www.youtube.com/user/Freelea.  She has a website as well claiming over 10,000 members, and over 30,000 LIKES on her fb page.  I am not sure how she reaches out to certain profiles... but she has a book, sells 'coaching' and appearances.  I would imagine that she is able through fb to target to certain groups who might also belong to any eating disorder or thinspo group.  On FB you can see some stats - eg that her main group is 25-34 years old apparently. It isn't possible to see the profiles of those who LIKE her.  Paid Advertising is on her site. 

She's a young woman, speaks to other young women in her videos (e.g. getting the THIGH GAP), wears crop tops and shorts and trendy clothes that appeal to young people. She talks in some videos about having had anorexia and bulimia but doesn't talk about receiving any treatment for these serious illnesses - claims her fruit diet for 7 years 'cured' her.  Yet her videos show her as an emaciated woman showing  skin and talking about her body...pretty indicative of EDs overall. 

•There are endless diet/weight-loss people out there, which cannot be controlled. Why is Freelee in particular such a danger?

First is the modality of marketing - this is all NEW for us in the last few years.  Global reach. She is using generally unregulated social media sites (or loosely regulated) to promote her 'products' which are books and appearances through her videos.   

Secondly, She promotes a diet that is NOT recommended by the WHO.  This is a 100% fruit diet.  So it is not only vegetarian, or vegan but COMPLETELY FRUIT.  There is no evidence that this diet has a positive health impact.  If anything recent hospitalization of Ashton Kuthcher with pancreatitis as he aimed to emulate Bill Gates fruitarian lifestyle was a strong reminder.  Bill Gates died of pancreatic cancer.     Why is she dangerous?  She's promoting an extremely limited diet that is not only impossible for ANYONE to maintain and remain healthy, but also that if an individual who is pre-disposed to an eating disorder (and therefore more likely to find this kind of diet attractive) could very well die from it quite quickly. Once you're in the throes of an ED, the mind will lynch on to anything that sounds like it will help you to lose weight. This woman is promoting a diet for death. 

 What qualifications does she have to dish out advice on nutrition??  None that we can see.  Several of the girls of the  Mothers Against Eating Disorders group were sucked into Freelee’s very convincing 'program' and ended up in hospital.  She has a strong rhetoric and really appeals to those with the genetic predisposition to EDs... 

•Is there some way that this woman and others like her actually profit from viewers?

Yes.  You-Tubers get paid a percentage by the advertisers on their sites if they are part of the you tube partner program.  This is based on views/subscribers.  They also then get resources if people buy their products/books/etc. So it is obviously in Freelee's interest to have as many viewer and subscribers as possible. 

Two really powerful videos are below. One is the 'thigh gap' video.   All you need to do is watch this video to feel bad about yourself. This is a well known and criticized phenonmenon originally promoted by VS models and the subsequent backlash and supports caused the National Eating Disorders Association to launch a website to counter it. 

Secondly is this video showing Freelee 'fat shaming' another well known You Tuber for going off her Fruitarian diet.  This is her common approach to criticism.  


Detractors/Supporters.  Below is an interesting article also profiling Freelee and her followers as well as her detractors. htttp://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/02/why-the-30-bananas-a-day-diet-is-monkey-business.html.   We haven’t yet been in touch with the nemesis site but I think we shall reach out. 
“While Freelee is busy banana-fying the world, her haters are busy trying to squash it. A YouTube video of her making a reference to “obese brothers and sisters” blocking “fit people” from getting down the stairwells of the Twin Towers on 9/11 was posted on Gawker with the headline: “Is This the Worst Person on the Internet?” The site is provocative enough in the vegan world to earn its own digital arch-nemesis “30 Bananas A Day…Sucks!”. Identified as a “blog written by the community for the community….without censorship” it’s a virtual crusade against 30BaD, slamming everything from the diet plan itself to the “negligence” of Freelee and Durianrider, who regularly exercise the right to remove negative posts about the diet. But as is the case with anonymous users—posting on any blog—it’s difficult to decide what’s fact and what’s fiction on 30Bad’s hate site. Some users cry of negative side effects; (“My Tooth Crumbled WTF Do I DO?!”) others praise it (“Another 30BaD Success Story).”

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