It was a cold day, and all I wanted was a coffee and muffin from Dunkin’ Donuts. So, I parked my car, walked in, and scoped out all of my options. There was only one muffin that was labeled reduced fat, which to me at the time would be the only possibility. But, I needed to know more. So, I asked the girl how bad the muffin really was for me. She took out a binder with the nutritional information, and handed it to me. The second I saw the number of calories that were in that “reduced fat” muffin, I gasped. “No thank you,” I said. I’ll just take the coffee.”
I recovered from an eating disorder fifteen years ago, and to this day it still takes work to maintain a healthy lifestyle by balancing diet and exercise.
When I suffered from anorexia, I looked at, studied, and considered every single morsel of food that went into my mouth. That meant going to the grocery store was a tedious and drawn out experience. No matter what item I picked up, I compared it to every rival on the shelf. I made sure I bought the one with the least amount of calories and grams of fat. I tortured myself. I was obsessed with the numbers, and deprived myself of everything I declared as “bad,” or too fattening.
Lately, it seems like every restaurant I walk in to flashes the calorie count of each menu item in my face. Do you believe the amount of calories that are in Starbucks’ Salted Caramel Mocha? While I am trying to understand the health benefits of this new concept, I must argue it does far worse for those struggling with eating disorders, or those who are predisposed to developing one. All I keep thinking about is how it would have affected me fifteen years ago, and that scares the shit out of me.
A healthy choice is far beyond the number of calories in food. The message the food industry is sending to people is that a low-calorie diet equates to healthy eating. And, that is completely incorrect. Listing the number of calories next to each food item can trigger an eating disorder for someone with a genetic or environmental predisposition. It is deterring people from ordering items they would normally desire, and what their body may have needed at that time. Or, let’s say they eat it, they feel a mass amount of guilt later, which isn’t healthy either.
Low calorie does not guarantee nutrition. Low calorie does not guarantee health. And, more importantly, low calorie does not guarantee happiness.
In the end, do the positives of listing the calorie-count on menus really outweigh the negatives? The answer is NO. So, for the sake of people like myself who battle diet and disordered eating, please just consider making your food healthier as a corporation—and, removing those numbers from the menu. Besides, people who are looking to make changes in their diet should not be relying on restaurants listing a calorie-count—they should seek help from a professional.
Nonetheless, I’m headed to Starbucks to order a Salted Caramel Mocha.