This week Tabitha talks to Andrea LeMarre about the harmful effect of calorie counts on food packets and in restaurant chains.
If you knew how much seeing calorie values displayed on food items and in restaurants affects someone with an eating disorder such as Anorexia, you’d not think it was ethical.
I’ll tell you about it. When I was trying to weight restore I wanted to eat. However, seeing a calorie value on a food would put my brain into fight-flight-freeze making it impossible to make a decision. Another thing that happens when this HPA axis response in the brain kicks off is that one can feel nauseous, short of breath, panicked and therefore trying to eat becomes not only uncomfortable but almost impossible because my throat would feel like it was closing up — it’s the same feeling you get when you are about to cry.
So yes, a full-blown fear response in public that I would have to pretend wasn’t happening which would usually result in an about-turn and leaving without eating. This was not be being a prat, it is a mental illness which means I can have a fear-response to that sort of thing on par with the type you might have if you see a rattlesnake.
That response has never gone away with full recovery. It is still there, but my fully nourished brain can dismiss it and override it in a way that it could not when I was underweight. Now it creates anger to see calorie values on food. We do not need to know the precise amount of calories or fat or anything else about our food.
Your body is not a calculator. We do not need to know what exact percentage of fat or any other nutrient in is in what we eat. The body will work it out and balance it’s own intake if we stop trying to interfere. The point is that putting calorie values on food is futile at best, but at worst causes people to artificially alter what they eat as they try to be “healthy” and all this does is create imbalance in the body which usually leads to some sort of battle between what the body wants to eat and what is actually consumed. And that’s not even going into the problems that calorie labelling elicits in a person with an eating disorder.
We need to stop messing around with the relationship humans have with food. When we push people to make decisions based on arbitrary values such as calories, we put the body and brain out of sync.
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