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Exercise Advice On Food Labels Would Be Patronising, Triggering And Pointless

Grazia logo Grazia 11/12/2019 Rebecca Reid
a close up of a bowl: Exercise Advice On Food Labels Would Be Patronising, Triggering And Pointless © Credits: Grazia Exercise Advice On Food Labels Would Be Patronising, Triggering And Pointless

Academics from the University of Loughborough have suggested that that the government should put labels on our food which tells us exactly how long we would have to work out to burn said food item off, in order to tackle the ‘obesity crisis’.

A simple, easy idea which would cost the government almost nothing - what’s not to love?

Well, as it happens, quite a lot.

Many people, including representatives from eating disorder charities, have already pointed out that putting warning labels about how long you’d need to run to burn off a piece of food would be triggering to those with eating disorders. And of course they are absolutely right.

These proposed measures would plunge every food shopper into the mental calculation that so many of us have lived with during periods of disordered eating – if I eat that Babybel, how long will I have to run for? Can I fit in enough skipping to allow myself this apple? Anyone who has lived like that will tell you that it’s exhausting, painful and ultimately fruitless. These calculations don’t lead to healthier choices, they lead to total obsession and often result in a binge/purge cycle.

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But aside from the danger that could (would) be done to vulnerable people for whom supermarkets are already a living hell, there is also the fact that these measures are nonsensical.

Your body is burning calories right now. It’s using up energy so that you can breathe and think and check Instagram and roll your eyes at what your manager just said. You don’t have to run for 45 minutes to burn off the sandwich that you ate for lunch, you just need to live until dinner time when you feed yourself again, and that food powers you through sleep.

Of course if you eat more than your body needs to function then it will be stored as fat. We know that. And let’s be honest, lots of us don’t really care. We bake a camembert and drink half a bottle of white wine because we want to, not because we think it has the same nutritional value as a stick of celery and a green juice.

Do we really need the government to act like a kind of mean nanny who confiscates our Halloween sweeties and says that we’re not allowed any pudding unless we’ve bunched a bag of salad first? It’s controlling and infantilising.

As ever, it is simpler for the government to choose to believe that we are gaining weight through ignorance than through anything else, because putting up signs is far easier and cheaper than structural changes such as subsidised healthy food, cooking lessons on how to make balanced meals and bringing people out of poverty where obesity is most prevalent.

If we really, truly want to offer people help to live at a lower body weight, we need large scale, considered change as results of academic studies and fully funded research. Not a fat-shaming sticker on the front of a packet of chicken breasts.

READ MORE: Middle aged women are increasingly affected by eating disorders

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