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The Law To Include Calorie Information On Menus And Its Impact

Since April 2022, businesses with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways must display calorie information on their menus. This is part of the government’s wider strategy to tackle obesity, hoping by providing this calorie information people will make healthier choices when eating out or ordering takeaways.

There is, however, little evidence to suggest that making this information available will have an impact on obesity.  Concerns have been raised for those with eating disorders.

For those with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, seeing calorie information on menus can reinforce a fixation on restricting calories, or exacerbate feelings of shame and guilt. Eating disorders are complex medical and psychiatric illnesses and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Not only do they have very serious consequences for health and relationships but can hugely impact productivity. Being preoccupied with food, excessively focusing on exercise or having poor nutrition can impact cognitive function in the workplace. Eating disorders can affect anyone including those high-performing, dedicated employees who excel in their jobs. Eating disorders do not discriminate.

Signs of an eating disorder in the workplace:

  • Preoccupation with food, weight, appearance, and dieting
  • Physical changes: weight gain, loss, or fluctuations
  • Behaviour changes: increased stress and anxiety, difficulty concentrating, unusual increase or decrease in productivity levels, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, mood swings, irritability
  • Avoiding workplace events where food might be present
  • An emphasis on exercise where the sole aim is to burn calories, not missing exercise despite feeling unwell or having other plans, may also schedule work around exercise
  • Evidence of binge eating, such as the disappearance of volumes of food, or the presence of more food wrappers and food containers than expected
  • Evidence of purging, including heading to the bathroom right after eating

Help and support in the workplace:

Think about the culture in the workplace and attitudes to weight and food. Is there an emphasis on weight loss, counting calories and dieting? Is weight seen as the primary factor in someone’s health? If so, consider adopting Health at Every Size, (HAES) encouraging body acceptance, support intuitive eating, and active embodiment.

If you are planning a works night out consider where you eat; if calories are printed on the menus, several restaurants offer menus without calories. It is worth checking before booking.  Support smaller restaurant businesses that aren’t subject to the same rules around listing calories.

If you are concerned about a colleague, do not talk about them to other colleagues. Instead, approach your colleague directly, do not judge, and offer help and support. If you do not feel like you can approach them, speak with occupational health/ human resources about your concerns.

Employees’ mental wellbeing can be affected if they are caring for a loved one with an eating disorder which is often emotionally demanding, their wellbeing needs to be prioritised and supported.

Eating Disorders are often a way of managing difficult emotions, consider seeking talking therapy for support.

Useful resources

GP: Often the first port of call, your doctor can take a blood sample and ECG to monitor physical health. Can refer to a specialised eating disorder service if needed.

For more details on the signs of eating disorders and support available check out BEATs website: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Books on supporting someone with an eating disorder:

  • Anorexia and other Eating Disorders: how to help your child eat well and be well, Eva Musby
  • Skills-based Learning for Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder: The New Maudsley Method

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