Calorie Counting is Not the Answer

Content warning: eating disorders; body issues; obesity

1 in 5 anorexia sufferers will die of their mental illness. Anorexia is the most deadly of all mental illnesses. Obesity costs the NHS approximately £8 billion a year. I have friends dying of both.

I am confused. I’ve had arguments with Boris-till-I-die Tories who seem to want the mental health system to burn. I can’t ignore the niggling voice that says, “What if x had been helped with their obesity, would they now have y illness?”

Of course, I don’t think encouraging obsessive calorie counting or weighing kids in schools will reduce obesity. And I think that the body positivity and neutrality movements are quite possibly the best things to happen since sliced bread. But I can’t help thinking that, if GPs were able to help more than give a few free weeks of a calorie counting app that will ruin a person’s relationship with food (Weight Watchers I’m coming for you), then maybe we would get somewhere and people wouldn’t be dying unnecessarily.

I’m all for stopping problems before they begin, which is Boris’s claim that he’s trying to do in encouraging the nation to lose weight. But why does that only matter when it’s fat people that the government wants to target? What about children with mental health issues, victims of domestic violence and the elderly at risk of losing their independence? Our society is not build on early intervention and prevention in other ways so why start there for our bodies?

Fatness by no means equates to unhealthiness! Just as being thin does not mean someone is healthy. So in targeting everyone who falls at the wrong end of an outdated measuring system (BMI, you’re next on my list), we perpetuate these ‘societal stereotypes’. (Read ‘blatant untruths’.)

For me, not everyone who I know who is fat is unhealthy, but many of those who are unhealthy are so as a result of their weight. The same goes for my thin friends too. If there was an obvious solution to this issue, I feel we’d have found it already.

Until then I’m safe in the knowledge that putting calories on restaurant menus is not it.

Photo courtesy of Dan Gold

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