Are The Introduction of Calorie Measurements on Menus Helpful or Triggering?

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With the introduction of calorie measurements on more and more menus in restaurants and takeaways, I can’t help but wonder whether this is good or bad?

Now classifying as either all good or all bad I know, is very black and white thinking.  But when I struggled with anorexia, that’s what foods were.  They were either good or bad.  No middle ground.  No in between.  They were either safe or not safe.

So will introducing calories into menus make you start counting calories about everything you eat, and will you stop eating the things you love because they are more calories than you originally thought?  This might initially sound helpful, but once you start labelling food in terms of good or bad, once you decide that you’re only going to eat safe, good, healthy foods that have fewer calories, you start to deprive yourself.

Once this happens, you will, sooner or later, end up craving that food type.  And at first, your will power may be strong.  But after time, your resolve starts to fade as the deprivation continues until  eventually you press the “Screw It” button and succumb.  The problem is, that it usually results in eating far more than you normally would so you are then left feeling guilty.  So what happens next?

You resolve to be good this time and try again.  And this pattern continues.  This is typical Yo Yo dieting or disordered eating.  And if things carry on, who knows you could develop a full blown eating disorder, going through cycles of restricting and binging.

So am I saying that introducing calorie measurements on menus could trigger an eating disorder?  Not at all.

People who develop eating disorders are using food to stay in control of their life, they need a coping mechanism, and food is it.

A person who doesn’t require food to be their ‘crutch’ is not likely to be triggered.  For them, providing calorie content will provide awareness which then enables them to make more informed choices.  The measurement is providing guidance to someone who maybe looking to be a little healthier.

But what if you already are on a diet or you have an eating disorder?  Then chances are you will already know exactly what the calorie content is of every item on the menu, although the measurement may provide an element of safety in that it confirms your knowledge.  However, please be aware that the figures given are very approximate and particularly with processed foods in supermarkets, the amount of calories stated can be out by as much as 30%.

For a more healthier attitude towards eating, I believe it’s far better to follow these rules (Paul McKenna, I Can Make You Thin):

  1. Eat when you’re hungry
  2. Stop when you’re full
  3. Listen to what your body needs
  4. Enjoy every mouthful

When you have an eating disorder the first two rules are subjective because your sensors which tell you when you’re hungry and full are distorted so it may take a while for your body to get back into a natural pattern.  But it is very possible.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can feel more relaxed and let go of the guilt around eating and food, book a call with me now.


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