News articles released this morning (11/12/2019) are stating that “exercise advice on food labels could help tackle the obesity crisis”. Two articles in particular, from The Guardian and The BBC, have piqued my interest. They’ve even opted for images of pizza boxes and the traffic light nutritional information system, in order to push a more negative stance towards these items.
The Guardian claims that “Saying how far consumers need to walk to burn off the calories could change eating habits” however I feel this could have a negative impact not only on the obesity crisis but for those with eating disorders also.
The traffic light system on food packets displaying how good (or bad) the amount of calories/salt/sugar/fat in something is one thing towards highlighting what is considered “healthier” for us, but with a rise in eating disorders (of various types) having food tell you exactly how to burn off what you’re about to eat is potentially dangerous.
Why is this dangerous?
Young people especially will spend hours in the gym exercising in order to burn off the calories they’ve eaten & more, and yet the Government still aren’t happy that we aren’t a stick thin society.
Obesity is a problem that should be tackled, but I personally do not think that this is the right way to go about it. Encouraging people to love their bodies and to want to be their strongest self should be key, rather than encouraging people to obsess over the number on a scale and how many times they can wrap a measuring tape round their waist.
“A fizzy drink containing 138 calories, for example, could be accompanied by a small symbol of a person showing it would take 26 minutes of walking or 13 minutes of running to burn off.” [The Guardian]
The advice suggested is also potentially incorrect, and could have people completing dangerous amounts of exercise in order to feel less guilt about treating themselves to something that tastes a little less like a lettuce leaf.
We’re also not taking into consideration here the fact that people often don’t have a choice about what they eat. Families in the UK are living off less than £5 a day and are finding it hard to make ends meet. I’m sure it’s completely healthy for children to have to go to school often without breakfast or dinner the night before instead of eating a pizza that cost their parents £0.14p. The pizza isn’t healthy at all, but it’s food on the table nonetheless.
I’m sure the warning does work, however should we as a society be encouraging unhealthy relationships with food? Should we be encouraging everyone to walk just that little bit further so they can sit down and eat? Because the message you will be sending a lot of people is that they can’t eat something unless they work to burn it off afterwards. This can cause a lot of mental health issues.
“”So if you buy a chocolate muffin and it contains 500 calories, for example, then that’s about 50 minutes of running.”” [The BBC]
It is far more dangerous to encourage 50 minutes of running (or 100 minutes of walking if we use the ratio mentioned in The Guardian). We should instead continue to push the ideology of a healthier lifestyle through smaller, less forceful changes.
We all know that if we go gung-ho into something, after a week or so we will crash and burn and revert back to old habits.
Advice should be:
- 30 minutes of healthy exercise 3-5 times a week
- 15,000 steps of walking per day (unless your current step count is less than 6,000 in which case aim for 10,000)
- Choose a healthy side to your meal
- Have 60% of your plate be vegetables/salad
- Allow yourself a treat day (or two) per week, but then continue to eat healthy at other meal times
- Go out for walks with family and friends
- Use weights in your exercise routine in order to encourage quicker fat burn and muscle build-up
- Choose the exercise routine that works for you
- Yoga for slow, calming routines
- HIIT/Tabata workouts for immediate fat burn that lasts longer
- Running to clear your mind and have time to yourself
- Walking to enjoy the outdoors
- Don’t treat your diet and exercise routine as a punishment for your body.
Instead, the Government and officials are trying to push unhealthy thought processes onto us and they can see it isn’t working so they encourage further detrimental behaviours.