‘That’ Unhelpful Call for Calorie Listings
Every now and then I read a headline and stop in my tracks to say the word ‘hallelujah’ under my breath.
What a refreshing change to see that some MPs and charities are raising a collective voice to issue a stark warning about the potential implications of adding calorie counts to menus.
This is something I’ve posted a vlog about in recent weeks, and it troubles me enormously.
Not only do I struggle to believe that by labelling restaurant dishes with their associated kcal values, we’ll actually see a significant improvement in obesity rates in the UK, I feel it’s an utterly disturbing proposition when it comes to people like myself.
The rationale of the Government has so far been that it would be a useful ‘tool’ in their armoury in attempting to reverse the rising tide of obese people across the country.
It rightly argues that some cafes, restaurant chains and takeaways are already choosing to take it upon themselves to label items of food with their calorie level, but it doesn’t mean that it is a good, safe, or widely appropriate route.
So for the uninitiated, just what is my beef with this scenario – and how does something like it pose such a risk to someone like me?
Well, the eating disorders dialogue is pretty sodding unforgiving at the best of times.
It’s a muted chatter, until of course you put it in the midst of a specific food scenario.
Whether you’re talking about a grocery shopping encounter, or at a restaurant table, it’s going to rise up right there and then and grab control of your disordered brain. It’s going to start reminding you of the behaviours it wants you to follow, and the utterly depressing and restrictive regime it wants you to stick to.
Now that I’m so committed to recovery, and determined to pursue full health, it doesn’t take away the battle that goes on with that dialogue – nor the triggers which cause its volume to be louder.
You can imagine then, that while there are times I feel deeply motivated toward that ‘meal out’ with friends and family, or would love nothing more than to sit and savour a burger and chips as part of my conscientious desire to ‘nutritionally restore’, it still doesn’t take too much to sway me off that path.
The smallest comment, doubt, or deviation in activity, can have me changing my order from spaghetti to a side-salad in a heartbeat.
And that, without the addition of scouring through the menu only to be confronted at every line by the kcal stats for that particular dish.
See how unhelpful that might be?
See how it could be another triggering mental health experience which sways someone with disordered eating into making a poor choice, when perhaps, they might have otherwise been slightly more able to diffuse their internal dialogue and eat the very thing which is needed to rehabilitate?
Daniel Pryor, Head of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute, puts it perfectly.
Commenting in relation to the fact that charities like BEAT and a handful of MPs have stepped in on this matter to raise their concerns, he said: “A mandatory calorie count on every menu item in the country will make life much harder for individuals suffering from or at risk of developing eating disorders without making any significant impact on obesity rates.
"Research suggests that calorie counts tend to exacerbate conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders while having little effect on the food choices of overweight people.”
Consultation on the issue closed earlier in the month, so the jury is still out, as to what will happen next, and whether the argument in the interests of those with eating disorders will be viewed respectfully and robustly.
I certainly hope so.
If in the meantime you have views on this, or perhaps you’re a restaurant or café owner who wants to know how YOU could do more, please do get in touch. I’d love to chat.
I’ve written in the meantime to MP Andrea Jenkyns – someone who is active on this issue – in the hope that she will share more with me about the debate, and perhaps even take on board another determined voice in this arena.
- Apr 2019