On Wednesday 6th April 2022, highlighting calories on menus became a mandatory requirement of all UK restaurants/cafes that employ 250 or more staff. This has been on the government’s agenda for quite some time now. I did, in fact, write a post expressing my opinion on the prospect of the new rule back in April last year (you can read it here: https://portfolioofhope.com/2021/04/27/why-i-disagree-with-highlighting-calories-on-menus/.)
My opinion is still very much the same as it was this time last year, that; adopting an anti-obesity strategy such as this will not help to deter people from their unhealthy eating habits, it will, more than likely, actually intensify them (both in people who are overweight and people who are underweight.) The only way that our countries eating habits will undertake a sustainable and long-lasting change, is by tackling the root cause of them…
To do this- to first, acknowledge, and then, tackle, the root cause of our dysfunctional relationship with food, we need to ask ourselves some potentially hard and painful questions; Why do we eat past fullness or, in the case of restrictive eating disorders, ignore our hunger cues? Answering questions such as this honestly will lead us to realise why exactly the governments new anti-obesity measures are doomed for inevitable failure.
Why is this, then? Why precisely are the new measures doomed for failure as I suggest them to be? Well, with our relationship with food being largely tied to our emotions (hence the prevalence of the well-known phrase; ‘emotional eating’), when we are feeling emotional, whether those emotions are good or bad, we turn to food in an attempt to control the way we are feeling (disclaimer: this is a short-term fix and doesn’t work, therefore I certainly don’t recommend it.)
Instead of plastering the number of calories of all our favorite dishes on the menus of all our favorite eateries, a measure that would fail to help the people whom it is targeted towards (people struggling with obesity), and severely harm the people who could really do without such triggering measures (which is, lets face it, not just people struggling with eating disorders, but everyone), we should, instead, give people who are in need of it, access to therapy. This would help to tackle what is an incredibly complex problem, a problem that needs far greater intervention than that which is currently being offered by our government. Why? Because, the fact is that, people know what is in the food they eat, they’re not stupid, and therefore, people will continue to eat what they want to eat, regardless of any ‘health warnings’ they are given, a result of the obesity ‘epidemic’ being for a reason far greater than a ‘lack of knowledge’ (and actually, implying that it is for such a surface-level reason, can actually be very insulting for people who struggle with their relationship with food.)
I therefore hope that the government will rethink the measures which they have implemented, when they realise how they are, not only ineffective, but also incredibly damaging– dangerous, even.
In terms of the impact that displaying calories on menus will have on people living with eating disorders (of which there are around 1.25 million such people living in the UK alone), I want you to consider the following analogy…
Your friend has just told you that they are struggling with depression. They wake up every morning and feel unable to see a ‘point’ in continuing with their life. What they need is your support to get through the hard times, that, and access to therapy so that the cause of their depression can be realised and then treated. Instead of offering them such support though, you print them off a document titled ‘101 ways to commit suicide fast and painlessly!’
You were probably reading the above analogy shaking your head, questioning how anyone could do such a thing. What you probably weren’t doing, however, is realising that, handing someone with an eating disorder a menu listing the calorie content of everything is the equivalent of that analogy. It is just like handing someone with depression a guidebook to suicide. Totally lacking in compassion, understanding, and empathy, and certainly lacking in consideration.
After reading the above analogy then, I hope that, like me, you too will understand the need for the removal of such inconsiderate measures, and I hope that the government will also understand, and choose to show a bit of compassion, making the decision to stop this mess before it’s too late.