As you may recall, in January I was pretty pissed off when Public Health England released an advert calling for the promotion of two 100 calorie snacks a day (you can read this here ‘Look For 100 Calorie Snacks’ B*S* Advert). I get what it’s trying to do, especially with the obesity crisis, but as I said in the previous article, it’s not okay for kids, adults with Eating Disorders, etc, etc. Shit advert, shit message, case closed.
So, when I got an email from One You (on behalf of Public Health England) on Tuesday, I expected something a little better from them. Yet, they have managed to make me even angrier with their new campaign calling for the public to eat 400-600-600, meaning 400 calories at breakfast and 600 calories at both lunch and dinner. It completely astounds me how ignorant and damaging this is.
Before I start ranting about how awful this advert, I’ll try not to be too biased by looking at the (limited) good points. According to the NHS, 58% of women and 65% of men in the UK are overweight, which is a pretty shocking statistic. They also recommend eating 500-600 calories less than you would normally consume to lose weight healthily, which ties with the campaign they are promoting. However, calories are not the end all and be all that is so-emphasised in modern weight loss, in fact focusing on what you’re consuming rather than the calories is much more efficient when looking at weight loss (think 250 calories in 1 medium avocado compared to 249 calories in 69 Jelly Tots – which do you think will help with weight loss). Let’s also remember that the standardised 2000/2500 calorie average is complete bullshit, everyone needs a different amount based on their height, weight and activity level.
Let’s move on to the awful points. Public Health England is actively promoting unhealthy eating through calorie deficiency. As aforementioned, calories are a bit shit. Exercise, moderation and putting good nutrients in your body should be the primary focus from Public Health England. Even further than this, massive lifestyle and dietary changes can be extremely dangerous causing problems such as dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, even fainting, and shouldn’t be undertaken without first consulting with a doctor or dietician. I’m not a health expert and don’t claim to be, but it’s pretty basic knowledge that dramatically cutting your calorie intake is going to mess with your health, both physically and mentally – and I can personally vouch for this through lifelong dieting and eating disorders. Public Health England, please give up on trying to restrict people’s calories, thanks.
The effect that this campaign will undoubtedly have on children is scary. As a twenty-something woman, I grew up surrounded by the Atkins diet, Special K challenge, the Grapefruit diet and the rise of group diets such as WeightWatchers and Slimming World. I’m not saying these diets are inherently bad (maybe I am about the Grapefruit diet, that’s just plain bollocks) but it formed the basis of my relationship with food. Even if you turn on the television, walk down the street, listen to the radio, you’re surrounded by advertisements for meat, fast food, takeaways. It forms the world we live in. Being told from a young age that you need to limit what you eat to a certain number of calories per meal is more dangerous than the government seem to realise, and I envisage that if obesity rates fall due to this campaign, eating disorder rates will increase.
Coming off the back of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, it’s absolutely disgraceful to send out such an email. As I discussed previously, eating disorders are rising, particularly with men. Whether this is due to more awareness or whatever doesn’t matter, what matters is that this is a serious problem that cannot be ignored. Blatantly mental health is not in the same league as obesity as proven by this email. The most important thing to remember is that eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes, ages, races – it’s not just the extremely low weight young woman with anorexia. Eating disorders aren’t just anorexia or bulimia either, including binge eating disorder, emotional overeating and OSFED – other specific feeding or eating disorder (more information can be found on B-Eat’s website here). If anything, this just shows how painfully out of touch the government still are in regards to mental health, despite their aim being ‘protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and health inequalities‘.
Finally, food, lifestyle, everything really comes down to moderation and awareness. It’s the only angle that really makes sense to everyone – children, those who are slim, those who aren’t so slim, those with eating disorders, those who are overweight. Each person is different and shouldn’t be advised a stupid calorie counting diet. Again, Public Health England have fucked it up. Please don’t fuck it up again.
**If you or your loved one’s condition is critical, suicidal, or just very worrying, please call 999. You can also contact the Samaritans on 116 123 – 24 hours a day or Mind‘s infoline on 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm)**