(TW- this article deals with the topic of eating disorders)
Boris Johnson, a controversial figure to say the least. Somewhat similar to Marmite, you either love him or hate him. With children from various relationships scattered throughout England and perhaps further a field, he is a very busy fellow, not that he does much in terms of sticking around…and of course the racist jokes and comments made throughout his political career, he really is a tabloid’s dream.
With research suggesting that weight may have some bearing on defending against the infamous Coronavirus, the government has taken a new approach to managing the pandemic. The golden idea is to display calories on menus for food and alcoholic drinks. This may seem like a harmless attempt to make the public aware of their eating habits and to promote healthier lifestyle choices, but is this more problematic than good?
Boris himself admits to being overweight and is making changes to help build up his fitness, this in itself is harmless. What may be more of an issue is plastering numbers and calories onto menus across the uk. Why? Eating disorders have become a widespread issue within the uk in recent decades. Between 1.25 and 3.4 million people across the uk are affected by an eating disorder. That being said, it is extremely difficult to gauge just how many are living with an ed as many go untreated.
I can vouch for myself and say that I have never been treated for an eating disorder and yet, have had an unhealthy relationship with food. Whether it was starving myself or trying to make myself sick, I had a very different opinion on food back then than I do now.
Whilst of course, recovery is possible for many people, that struggle, anxiety around eating certain foods can remain.
Of course when an overweight person has an ed, it can be harder to spot and any weight loss is usually praised by their unknowing peers. We usually associate being smaller with being healthier.
So how will this affect someone with an eating disorder?
Calories and numbers are realistically the backbone of many eating disorders. If I had never started counting calories in an attempt to lose weight, I never would have knelt over the toilet. Thankfully for me, I was able to recognize how bad things had gotten and understand that this wasn’t a healthy behaviour to continue.
This obsession with calories doesn’t just manifest itself. It’s the obsession with weight, body image, an extreme diet industry and many other influences that build into what is, an eating disorder. The most widely known one of course, is anorexia nervosa. Maintaining a calorie deficit is how you lose weight over time, but with this can be taken too far. With restricting calories to the brink of starvation, and or making yourself sick, or taking some form of laxative, eating disorders kill.
Let’s break it down…
1. Calories being almost everywhere can be extremely triggering to those currently suffering with an ed. Eating out can be difficult enough, but seeing exactly how many calories they are eating can and will promote their unhealthy eating behaviours.
2. For someone recovering from an ed, this can cause them to relapse and fall back into the same patterns that led them to having an eating disorder. This makes recovery a lot more difficult.
3. For younger generations, seeing calories all the time can cause an unhealthy infatuation with calories. This can lead to unhealthy relationships with food in the future and the idea that more calories=bad, which actually is untrue.
4. Instead of healthy behaviours such as listen to your body and eating when you’re hungry, this promotes unhealthy behaviours such as excessive calorie counting, and being afraid or ashamed to eat a certain thing because of the number they read.
5. With an already struggling NHS and under funded mental health services, the system is already failing children and adults across te uk with eating disorders, let alone any possible rise in numbers.
Whilst obesity is a problem for the NHS and the uk as a whole, this doesn’t strike me as a good way of promoting ‘better health’. Encouraging education on listening to your body and it’s needs, exercise schemes and campaigns and making the public more aware of small changes they can make, more widely available healthier alternatives, and the many ways in which you can exercise seems a lot healthier. Advertising alone can have a huge impact along with free resources and information on how to lose weight in a healthy way, and of course, how to then maintain that healthy weight.
This campaign has the ability to help a lot of people, however at what cost will it be to the millions of people living with eating disorders today?
What are your thoughts, how do you think we can improve public health? Do you think that this campaign is a force for good?
I hope wherever you are, you are happy and safe and that you are needed in this world. I hope that you are challenging yourself whilst keeping within your limits. Until next time,