Culture

Does The “Crackdown” On Obesity Create More Problems Than It Solves?

Georgie looks at the new government proposals, the impact it may have on mental health and on those struggling with eating disorders.

Maßband wird wie eine Bandnudel aufgewickelt.

If you’ve never experienced an eating disorder, you won’t truly know what it’s like to be controlled by calories every single day. The obsessive checking on food packaging, the sneaky search online before placing an order and heavy reliance on nutrition apps to ensure the portion content.

It can be utterly exhausting.

Person Eating Vegetable Dish

Last week the UK government announced they were taking some drastic measures towards tackling obesity including banning offers on unhealthy foods, reducing adverts for junk food and displaying calories on restaurant menus.

These new plans, which have been introduced as the result of ‘laziness’ during lockdown and the COVID 19 virus being particularly prominent in those of a higher weight, are part of a major strategy to make us all more conscious of the food choices we make.

It’s thought that we will all think twice about placing an order in a restaurant if we know the calorific content and therefore reduce the number of obese people draining limited NHS resources.

“For many of these people, eating out in public at a café or restaurant is a daunting prospect”

Sounds like a foolproof idea right? Well no, not quite.

The plans, whilst seemingly harmless, have been met with huge concern that they will encourage obsessive behaviours around food and act as huge triggers for those battling eating disorders and body image issues.

For many of these people, eating out in public at a café or restaurant is a daunting prospect. A huge part of an eating disorder is the fear of weight gain, food choices being judged by others and a relentless obsession with calorie maths and habitual exercise.

Two People Eating

It can take years of treatment and therapy to allow sufferers to eat intuitively and respond to natural hunger cues with zero regard for the calories that are in their meals. It goes against instinct to eat portions of food without knowing their nutritional values and a compulsion to burn them off with exercise or worse, purging.

“One in five people with anorexia will die from the condition”

The government plans risk exacerbating all of that, resulting in a crisis of the opposite nature. Yes, obesity has links to many other health concerns and is very expensive for the NHS, but given that eating disorders are thought to cost them over £15m per year too, this is not without huge implications either.

One in five people with anorexia will die from the condition, it is an all-consuming, debilitating illness with long-lasting implications on sufferers’ physical and mental health.

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A key part of the treatment for eating disorders is relinquishing control over calorie intake and working to a point whereby eating becomes instinctive rather than regimented. Building up to eating in public places is going to be even more challenging when calories are plastered all over menus.

Extremes of weight be them high or low are dangerous and undesirable, but in the midst of one of the biggest mental health crises in years, perhaps demonising food and damaging the recovery of thousands isn’t the most beneficial strategy either.

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