TW: TOPICS AROUND EATING DISORDERS DISCUSSED THROUGHOUT THIS ARTICLE
Rules introduced at the beginning of April state that all restaurants and food establishments in England that employ more than 250 staff members will now be required to display calorie counts on all menus, and non-pre-packed food and soft drinks - in a government fight to tackle obesity in the UK.
The rules are only mandatory in England, and in those larger establishments, however, it is encouraged across the UK, and to small food businesses, and many seem to be following suit.
But what effect is this going to have on the public, and the food and drinks industry?
For many, going out to a restaurant is a ‘treat’ and it tends to be a time where you leave calorie counting behind - if that's something you do, but with the new rule, this is something that may not be as pleasant an experience as it once was.
Research by the NHS states that 1 in 6 people are at risk of developing an eating disorder at any time and it's felt by many that the calories on menus will encourage those who are already dangerously ruled by calories to obsess further - and those at risk may be pushed to a disorder further.
For far too long, the unrealistic ideals placed on the younger generation to look a certain way, often rule their eating habits - and introducing enforced calorie counting on menus could lead many down a dangerous path.
Beat, an eating disorder charity said, “Requiring calorie counts on menus risks causing great distress for people suffering from or vulnerable to eating disorders since evidence shows that calorie labelling exacerbates eating disorders of all kinds.
“Although we recognise the importance of reducing obesity, research shows that anti-obesity campaigns that focus on weight instead of health are counter-productive, while the number of calories consumed is not a reliable indicator of health.”
As well as the prior argument against this new legislation, it is also going to cause increased costs for businesses, as they are forced to produce completely new menus. It is also set to cause changes to what people are ordering. In most cases, the most expensive dishes at a restaurant are the most luxurious and are packed with calories. If people are more aware of this and are becoming increasingly concerned about their calorie consumption, restaurants may notice a dip in their earnings - as fewer people buy the more expensive options.
"To imply that a calorie-controlled diet is automatically healthier just isn’t true,” said one writer, speaking to Cosmopolitan Magazine. “I’m extremely wary of calorie counts becoming mandatory on the menus of many food businesses this month. The government claims this change will “help the public to make healthier choices when eating out” but I fear that using calories as a single measure of a healthy diet is totally missing the big picture. In my most extreme period of calorie counting, I could barely leave the house”, she explained.
Today is No Diet Day, and to celebrate, we're encouraging you to drop your rules and restrictions around food, and join in this no-shame, body-positive day!
No Diet Day was introduced in 1992 by Mary Evans to help men and women around the world appreciate their own bodies, and help tackle tough issues regarding diet and body awareness, focusing on a number of agendas, including; taking a day off dieting, safe diet education, and celebrating bodies in all shapes and sizes.