Home » Calorie labelling on menus is dangerous.

Calorie labelling on menus is dangerous.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for students to experience disordered eating. This has clearly worsened recently, as studies have indicated a ‘significant increase in ED prevalence amongst students since the Covid 19 pandemic’ (Ladner, 2022) Which begs to question why the government thinks now of all times is appropriate to make calorie totals on menus mandatory. In all honesty the people who are at the most risk from this change are those already attempting recovery. For these people restaurants are often the only respite from the constant battle between calorie counting and trying not to calorie count. A meal out is the only break from the mental calculator that lives in the mind of everyone who has experienced disordered eating. As regrettably, they know the calorie content of a banana, a scraping of butter and 30g of cereal and will most likely add these up in their heads automatically and ritualistically at every meal and snack. Whether this affects their meal choice will probably depend on the day and other factors such as stress etc. Yet, restaurants provide an almost calorie free zone. Or they did. As although you could, and they probably did, choose what they thought was the lowest calorie option it was never explicitly displayed, and the mystery was comforting. In plain terms what you don’t know can’t hurt you. However, due to this change in policy, eating out is about to become more stressful and anxiety-inducing to those struggling than it already was. Because despite what I’ve just said, for some people having the inability to control the preparation of your own food is already terrifying enough. Add in seeing calories printed in black and white and its panic attack inducing.

Moreover, whilst it may seem a simple way to reduce obesity as it may prompt people to eat less calories, it has been indicated to be completely ineffective as ‘’ it seems they [people with obesity] go for broke when presented with calorie counts, choosing dishes with more calories, not fewer.’’ (Finnely, 2022) Which makes the new policy even more irritating as it is harming far more than its helping. Whilst the target group are ignoring it or doing the opposite entirely, others are developing new fear foods. I still can’t eat fish and chips after seeing the calorie content on a Weatherspoon’s menu because it’s ingrained in my own personal calculator. I also can’t eat cheesecake after seeing it has a minimum of 600 calories. Do we really need to rob people of the joy of having a dessert? Because I guarantee that other people with a history of disordered eating won’t order it now either. 

It seems we’re stuck in a society warring between body neutrality/ acceptance and get thin no matter the cost. We’ve all been told to break up with our scale but it’s a lot easier to break up with your eating disorder, and eat what you actually want, when you don’t have the calorie content of raisins printed on a salad bar. In summary, I’m disappointed and hurt by the new legislation because it’s based on absolutely no evidence. Whilst I hope it has no effect on you personally, it will affect someone you know so give them a little reassurance next time you go out to eat. Thanks to the government they’re going to need it.  

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Sheffield