We live in a world already dangerously obsessed with calorie counting, dieting and body image. The media is constantly dishing out (if you pardon the pun) conflicting advice on exactly what, when and how we should eat in order to achieve the ‘ideal‘ body type. From misleading weight-loss adverts on our TV screens, to body-shaming articles in certain* newspapers (*not naming names…).
For most of us, it is simply confusing. For those who already struggle with an eating disorder, it’s downright triggering. And for those (especially younger children) predisposed to disordered eating, it is potentially harmful!
It is concerning, therefore, that an organisation we rely on for more accurate guidance, is the very body promoting such a damaging mindset.
The new campaign from Public Health England portrays the false message that calories are an accurate indicator of the health value of certain foods. For example, many processed, sugary snacks (the very type that this campaign is trying to steer the public away from!) are produced to be ‘low calorie’ and therefore fall under this 100 calorie benchmark.
Likewise, there exists an abundance of nutritious snacks (e.g. nuts) with a higher calorific value that are likely much more conducive to a healthy, balanced diet. Surely, this is what we should be aiming to promote?
I shan’t lie, partly what motivates my dissatisfaction with this campaign is my ongoing struggle with anorexia and restrictive eating habits. A preoccupation with numbers and ‘rules’ around food is exactly what I am attempting to distance myself from. So to hear: ‘look for 100cal snacks, 2 a day max!‘ bellowing out of my TV or radio every two minutes makes my already disordered thoughts more difficult to disentangle.
Nevertheless, I maintain that my reasoning is relevant not only to those who struggle with disordered eating, but to society as a whole.
Please do not misinterpret my intention with this post, for I completely agree that we should be encouraging healthy and balanced eating. However, using calories as a benchmark for what constitutes ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ food is, in my opinion, an irresponsible approach to this; with potentially adverse consequences.
I am not oblivious to the minority of misinformed opinions that I’m certain will arise from this post. Some may assert that I am simply ‘over-reacting’. I ask you, therefore, to consider these basic facts:
- Eating disorders are extremely dangerous, and potentially life threatening
- Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any other psychiatric illness
- 1 in 5 of those who suffer from anorexia (that is a massive 20%) will die prematurely as a result of their illness
(For more facts and statistics on eating disorders, please visit the Beat website)
Eating disorders destroy not only the lives of the sufferer, but their family’s lives too. That is why we should be taking every step necessary to ensure that disordered eating is stamped out at the source, and is certainly not encouraged by such authorities as PHE, whose message can have a far-reaching and detrimental impact.
Thanks for reading,