The Government’s new ‘Better Health’ campaign has come under criticism from health experts and people who suffer from eating disorders.
Boris Johnson has formally launched a raft of measures to help the country lose weight to help ease the impact that coronavirus can have on overweight people.
While the new measures include bans on junk food advertising before 9pm and the end of discounts on unhealthy food, the decision to include calorie counts on restaurants menus has received criticism from those who are in recovery from eating disorders (EDs).
In the UK alone, it is estimated that between 1.25 and 3.4 million people are affected by an eating disorder, according to “the leading independent provider of behavioural care in the UK” the The Priory.
Mia Guerrero, who suffers with an eating disorder, has felt maligned by the new measures and fears other people who are affected will be put off visiting restaurants.
“I don’t feel like the government has taken into account [eating disorder] sufferers and I do feel neglected,” she said.
“Eating a low calorie intake was the unhealthiest thing I ever did, and I nearly died doing so.”
“[For people with an eating disorder] eating a meal out is already a scary idea let alone when faced with numbers to battle with.”
Guerrero also has concerns about the impact of the plans on young children and the “dangers of calorie counting”.
“I don’t know what it will take for society and those in power to wake up and realise how much diet culture is destroying people’s lives.”
“Eating a low calorie intake was the unhealthiest thing I ever did, and I nearly died doing so,” she said.
i'm sorry but doesn't this just speak for itself? before the measures are even put in place ed sufferers are being triggered 165% more than usual. i can't work out whether the government don't care or… don't care https://t.co/blwnxa9gNr
— MIMS (@miaaaa_a_) August 21, 2020
Kate Shannon-Hill, a healthcare assistant at Ellern Mede Eating Disorder Services, has also raised concerns about the new policies.
Shannon-Hill believes the Government’s plan will increase the negative stigma around eating high calorie meals.
“I think it could impede recovery from eating disorders, since it maintains a focus on counting calories and categorising foods as ‘acceptable/unacceptable’, she said.
Shannon-Hill works with numerous young people who are diagnosed with EDs who have mentioned the new law. She believes it “appears to collude with their illness” and heightens their fears over high calorie foods.
Regarding the new law, Shannon-Hill believes it is still important for those who have an unhealthy relationship with food to still go out and enjoy meals in restaurants.
“I would advise [restaurants] to have two separate menus, one with and one without calorie information on it,” she added.
“The goal is towards intuitive eating, self-love and self-respect. The more you love yourself, the less likely you are to make poorly informed health decisions.”
An online petition, launched by campaigner Hope Virgo, has been started to prevent the enforcement of the calorie count laws and has already gained 21,000 signatures.
Virgo has received “thousands” of messages from her followers and supporters who are “scared of what will happen” when the new rules were announced and implemented.
“I wanted it to make a stand against the Government’s decision,” she said.
“It is about making Boris [Johnson] aware of a different policy, one that would work better. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate out of any mental illness and not many people know that.”
Virgo believes the Government have disregarded those affected with EDs and have not looked at mental health or the wider implications around obesity.
“The government are blaming all the issues around Covid-19 on obesity in the UK and have pulled out a plan that was produced years ago. I would love the opportunity to speak about what they could do instead,” she added.
Virgo also mentioned that restaurants could choose to boycott the policy, if given the choice.
Gareth Mackey, who is a owns a restaurant in Dunstable, will implement the policy if it is mandatory, but worries about the messages that the measures could send out.
“The general trend in hospitality is towards providing considerably more information for the consumer,” he said.
“I am supportive of this [giving customers more information] although it does add considerable to the administration burden of running a restaurant.”
Mackey’s restaurant has yet to reopen since the global pandemic and he is not planning on boycotting the new policy.
“I can understand why it [the policy] may not fit into some fine dining restaurants models but for us we are more open to it,” he said.
Gareth Mackey, discussing the factors involved when implementing the Government’s new policy.
The Government have said that there is an “obesity time bomb” and that this must be addressed now amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of the virus on the obese.