With an estimated 1.25 million Brits suffering from eating disorders, what is proposed as a “common-sense approach” focussing on weight and calorie counting - is incredibly destructive; indeed, this approach stands in stark contradiction to the approach favoured by clinicians who seek to avoid a scrupulous and psychologically damaging focus on weight, calorie counting, and BMI.
Effective empowerment means equipping people with information to make better informed choices. While it is true that providing calorific information may have been useful for some, it is important to realise that for those suffering from eating disorders, this sets entirely the wrong precedent. Further to this evidence has shown that 1 in 4 people who restrict go on to develop an eating disorder.
Regrettably, this strategy risks becoming a “one size fits none” model which does more harm than good.
The evidence is clear: 93 per cent of diets fail. Add to that the fact that for those with eating disorders, calorie counting does nothing more than create a cycle of guilt and self-hatred. Calories don’t equate for health so instead of becoming fixated on a number we need to be focusing on wider health messages.
The other thing to add here is that we live in a society where disordered eating is normalised; this is extremely unhealthy and adding calories to menus will fuel this further. We will have children restricting, feeling concerned about calorific consumption which as a result could lead to an increase in eating disorders. An illness with the highest mortality rate and one that costs the UK over £15 billion a year.
The other area of concern for us is around obesity being judged on a person’s BMI. Whilst we know that we are in an obesity crisis, what we need to be aware that by fat shaming we are causing yet more harm. Evidence shows that the BMI measurement is an accurate indicator for health but is in fact racist, sexist and does not take in to account a person’s health. We need to be learning from movements such as Health at Every Size (HAES) who have shown that health can be achieved at every size. But only focusing on weight we are ignoring a person’s upbringing, social inequalities, jobs, whether the individual has a fear of attending the doctors because of weight stigma. If we address this, then we will be able to address obesity in the long term and not just find quick wins which will be detrimental to others.
We are calling on for the Government and Public Health England to: