From the 6th of April calories have been posted on the menus of all restaurants, cafés and takeaways across the UK with more than 250 staff. This is despite concerns raised by eating disorder charity Beat about the risks that calorie labelling poses to people with eating disorders and the limited evidence that calorie labelling on menus will have its intended outcome.
Now that this government scheme has had time to take effect, I think it is important to explain the impact it could be having nationwide not only on the restaurants themselves who will be losing money but on the mental health of consumers.
The new rule is part of government plans to tackle obesity by helping people to make healthier choices. However, I do not think the government considered in their plans that eating less is not always healthy.
Many people who suffer from eating disorders will be so triggered by seeing the calories they are consuming that it may stop them from eating at all. Modern beauty standards have set the idea that being skinny is healthy in many people’s minds, but this is not the case. Undereating can be just as dangerous for your health as overeating and this new government scheme encourages just that.
Not only is this a dangerous decision for the health of consumers but it takes all the fun and enjoyment out of eating in a restaurant. Forget picking the item on the menu that looks the most delicious, now customers will be ordering the food with the smallest number under it.
For the 1.25 million men and women in the UK who suffer with an eating disorder, eating out has just become even more stressful than it already was.
Chefs too have expressed their concern with this, as having to calorie count every time they make dishes will remove all creativity and spontaneity they have in the kitchen. If these chefs refuse to surrender their creativity, then they will be forced to pay a fine of £2,500.
I agree that obesity is a problem that needs to be helped in our nation as it is costing the NHS £6.1 million a year and causing the development of diabetes. However, shaming people for their eating habits is not the way to go about it. Not only will it hurt their mental health, but it will significantly impact the economy with the public spending less on food. Plus, there is no evidence to support the claims that this will reduce obesity.
In fact, if you look to the US who have had calories on their menus for years, obesity is worse than ever. Since they started slapping calories on their menus the people of the US have been ordering items with more calories rather than less.
Besides, they may be making the issue worse. Those who suffer from binge eating disorders are more likely to binge when they feel ashamed. If they become triggered by the calories on menus it may only make things worse for obesity in the UK.
As associate professor of the psychology of obesity at Leeds University and director of Obesity UK Stuart flint said: “Obesity is very complex. If it was as simple as eating less or more, people wouldn’t gain weight to the extent we have at the moment, and people would be able to lose weight more easily.”
The Government have based this new rule on pure ignorance with no evidence it would work or support from officials who actually understand the matter. They have caused more harm than good with a whole new generation of young people who will become obsessed with a ridiculous number on a menu.
I’ve heard it said many times to ‘just not look’ at the numbers if it bothers you so much and if anyone truly thinks it is that simple, they should do more research into what those with eating disorders truly have to go through every day. Perhaps then you may grow more empathy for the matter.
But to bring it into focus for those who do not understand. Have you ever been told not to look at something before? Doesn’t that just make it a million times more tempting? Then you understand.
If you are struggling yourself with the new addition to eating out, please use this link to see charity Beat’s advice for eating out with eating disorders.