• emmanuellegammage

How effective is Boris Johnson's new anti-obesity plan?

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson announced an anti-obesity plan with the following measures: restaurants will include calorie counts on their menus, junk food adverts will be banned before 9pm, shops will no longer be able to offer 'by one get one free'(BOGOF) promotions on unhealthy foods, doctors will be told to encourage exercise and lastly, research will be conducted into the traffic light system to see how effective it is.

Well, I have a lot of issues with this plan.

This plan screams anything but health to me. It has completely ignored the needs of those suffering with eating disorders and it hasn't solved the root of the problem - our relationship with food and with ourselves.

This plan is basically a diet, and diets don't flipping work.

We need to stop focusing on numbers to measure health. It's outdated. BMI and calories tell us nothing about our complex bodies! Calories are literally a unit of energy - and you absolutely cannot say that one type of diet would suit everyone because there are so many factors to consider - how active you are, your age and your dietary requirements to name a few. I am a strong believer in throwing the scales out of the window because so many people think 'if I can just get down to X then I'll be happy and all my problems will be solved' but that's not true. We should be focusing on how our body feels rather than relying on a number.

My biggest concern lies with calorie counting. I'm MAD. Calorie counting is a form of restriction and control and we don't need it to make healthy food choices. It will most likely shame people and make us feel guilty for eating. It may help with short-term weight loss but you can't expect people to calorie count for the rest of their lives - what a sad existence!

Calorie counting will simply add to our complicated relationship with food rather than aiding it.

Many people will most likely choose lower calorie options even if they don't want to because they feel like they should - how is that healthy? Food isn't just to survive anymore, we should be enjoying our food.

Guilt and restriction is what causes eating disorders. A super nutritious meal with avocado and oily fish may be super high in calories but if its high in calories does that make it unhealthy? No.

I listened to an old episode of the Deliciously Ella podcast: Diet Myths Unpicked and guest speaker, Rhiannon Lambert said that she showed a university audience a picture of leaves and a picture of a burger and chips and she asked 'which one do you think is healthier?' and obviously everyone assumes the salad, whereas actually, the burger is far more nutritious than a pile of plain leaves. It's an amazing podcast that is really worth listening too and could potentially change your whole perspective on health!

High numbers scare us so even though that burger may be super nutritious, many of us would shy away from that. But the numbers on the menu don't mean a thing. They don't take into account anything personal to you - so please, ignore them.

I'm so angry that this plan has completely neglected the needs of us suffering with eating disorders - considering there are millions of us. The mental health services for us are majorly under-funded and all too often people are turned away for not being 'sick enough' which is crazy because you would hope to be treated before things got worse (as with physical


What we should be focusing on is changing how we see food.

Millions of us have been diagnosed with eating disorders and there are probably millions more that haven't because the issue lies not with food itself, but how we see it.

Labelling foods as 'good' and 'bad', prescribing moral value to food and restricting is SO damaging. We need to change this narrative. Stop telling children that they can only have chocolate if they've been good, stop eating 'healthy' just because you think you should, why not find nutritious meals that you actually enjoy instead? Stop dieting like it's going to change your whole life, it won't bring you happiness and stop judging someone's health on their appearance.

There's also considerable research into the psychological and social aspects of health which is really worth looking into to educate yourselves.

"By positioning weight loss as a personal choice – count your calories, avoid the cheap deals – the government is building a bridge of string over a burning canyon" says Eleanor Morgan.

Morgan explains that obesity is hardly related to food itself, but it's "a product of emotional distress, poverty and inequality" and often a response to trauma. She suggests that Boris Johnson's government should be focusing on the systematic roots and ask people 'what happened to you' rather than fat-shaming and or thinking of health as a personal decision.

I truly believe that by focusing on how our body feels and listening to it without rules, numbers and restriction, speaking about our mental health and well-being and teaching our children this early on, then our relationship with food and our well-being will improve.

To answer the title to this blog post, the total effectiveness of this plan is 100% bullshit. But I'm just a 21 year old girl from Mendlesham, so what do I know?

Please, if you are worried about the implications of this new plan contact BEAT (an eating disorder charity) helplines or message me, I'm more than happy to give a little pep talk and offer any advice! We have to support each other.


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