Dietitians, nutritionists and Eating Disorder specialists have expressed concern around the stigmatising effect of the new suggested government proposal to have calorie counts on menus and alcohol, to promote their pick of weight loss apps and to put the sole responsibility on individuals to lose weight and ‘save the government millions’.
Our founder and nutritionist Ruth shares this concern about this current ‘one size fits all’ approach – ‘We know that obesity is not simply down to individuals ‘choosing’ to eat a certain way or choosing not to exercise. Food and exercise are a small part of a much bigger picture involving education, accessibility, psychology and environment. Suggested solutions such as putting calories on food and drinks menus and suggesting that people follow rigid weight loss diets are not only proven to be unsuccessful, but also risk pushing people towards disordered eating.’
So what can we do? Ruth says we can encourage people to follow healthy lifestyles by providing the information and education around what this means and how to do it. Yet we need to be honest about the impact that lifestyle interventions such as diet and exercise will have on body weight – research has shown that for people with a BMI of >30 (classified as obese) the chance of achieving weight reduction to a BMI of <24.9 (aka “normal” or “safe”) is LESS THAN 1% via lifestyle interventions.
This is why when we’re talking about the importance of healthy eating and exercise we need to take the focus away from weight, and focus on the huge health benefits such as improved mood, better sleep, better bone health, decreased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, reduced cancer risk..the list goes on.
We also need to lobby for the food industry, the educational sector and our planning agencies to support the changes that people do want to make, yet do not have the means to. It’s very easy to point fingers and blame individuals (many of whom are sadly less well off, have had a poorer education and don’t have such ease of access to healthy foods) without looking at the bigger picture.