We are deeply concerned and disappointed about the government initiative to include calorie labelling on menus, which takes effect from today.
Our CEO and Founder, Kerrie, shares her thoughts on this new legislation.
Outdated messages about calorie control are confusing, inaccurate and ineffective. For people living with an eating disorder these messages can be extremely damaging often distorting the pro recovery choices sufferers feel able to make, and increase their awareness of nutritional content in ways that are neither healthy, or helpful.
For those with an eating disorder, external and internal pressures to make the lowest calorie choices can become obsessional, and this can quickly descend into unhelpful coping strategies that rely on becoming hyper focused on numbers and in a no-win competition with their Eating Disorder. Likewise, this emphasis on calorie awareness as a solution for disordered relationships with food reinforces the belief that calories alone are the magic cure for weight loss suggesting that it is simply a case of keeping the numbers low to lose weight.
We have to accept that this overly simplified approach to the issues people are facing in their relationships with their bodies and with their food are far more complex than simple input/output arguments, and that we need to address the deeper underlying difficulties people are facing rather than looking to food consumption controls, shaming messaging and inaccurate education.
This preoccupation with calories as a solution reinforces anxiety, exacerbates outdated beliefs and knowledge around how bodies work and fundamentally drive deeper issues. It’s time to change the message.
“This preoccupation with calories as a solution reinforces anxiety, exacerbates outdated beliefs and knowledge around how bodies work and fundamentally drive deeper issues. It’s time to change the message.”
Not only will this strategy cause significant harm to individuals suffering with – or at risk of developing – eating disorders, but research has shown that obesity, like overall health, is a complex and multi-dimensional issue, and cannot be minimised to calories and food alone.
Our charity partner, Beat, have called on the government to reconsider this legislation. They have also created a resourceful guide on how to navigate eating out, including tips on how to prepare; how to process thoughts after a meal; and how to support a loved one.
They share their top recovery reminders:
- When you see the menu with calories, let yourself process any feelings that come up and discuss them with someone you feel comfortable with
- Before eating out, remind yourself how far you’ve come. This next challenge could be a positive one in your ongoing recovery
- Set a limit on the time you spend looking at the menu
- If you can’t decide what to eat, you can always order what your friends and family are having – and even ask them to pick their meal in advance
“Calories have been disputed as an accurate way of determining how ‘healthy’ our diet is. It is very difficult to estimate how many calories any one person needs as this is so many different factors can influence this, something a universal recommended daily calorie intake does not take into account. You should base your meal plan on the medical advice that you have received, not general Government guidance.” – Beat, Advice for Eating Out with Calorie Labelling
Throughout the week, we invited the online community to share their thoughts and concerns about this new legislation – we want to take this moment to thank them for their bravery and to reassure the eating disorder community that we are here. We will come alongside you as you navigate this new challenge, and if you would like to reach out for support, know that you can. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact us by filling out an online form.
Want to do more? If you’d like to stand against calories labelling on menus, we invite you to sign an Orri community member’s petition here.