A discussion on the Britain’s proposed changes to their nutritional labels. My thoughts on why the activity to burn off the calories in food should NOT be added.
Every year the FDA has rolls out some proposed changes to United States’ nutritional labels. I am all for updates, transparency, and giving consumers more information, so usually I agree with most of the new ideas. For example, this year they are working on a rule that would require brands to not only list the amount of sugar in their product but the percentage that the serving adds to their daily recommended amount. I think this is great and is definitely a great way to make people more mindful of ADDED sugar in their diet (I am hoping they stipulate between naturally occurring and added sugar so as not to confuse people!).
Just like the US, Britain is dealing with a mass obesity epidemic and they too come up with changes to their nutrition labels on a yearly basis. Since the US and Britain are such close allies and similar in terms of their societies, most of the changes made to either usually follow each other in some way. With that in mind, I was alarmed when I recently saw a news story about Britain’s proposed nutritional label changes.
This year, the Royal Academy of Public Health announced that they were considering adding ‘exercise calories’ to their food’s packaging. What are exercise calories you may ask? Well they would include the amount of activity it would take to burn the calories in the specific food you were buying. I was SHOCKED by this new plan. Not only do I think it is useless, but potentially dangerous as well.
I get their thinking. They want people to add more exercise and movement into their day while at same time learning to be more mindful of how calories in and calories out really work. The public sometimes has a warped sense of just how much they are consuming and just how much activity it takes to maintain a healthy equilibrium in terms of weight. I don’t disagree here. But I don’t think adding ‘exercise calories’ to nutritional labels is an effective or beneficial way to go about addressing the issue.
For starters, how would they ever decide how many ‘exercise calories’ to put on the label? EVERYONE burns calories differently! It depends on size, weight, age, height, gender, activity level, metabolism, and a host of other individual factors. And that’s just naming a few things to consider!
Would they choose an average? Have different guidelines for men vs. women? What about kids? Would “healthy” foods get these same labels?
Secondly, adding this type of information to food is just furthering the obsession with diet culture that our society is already plagued with. It’s going to foster a perfect environment for eating disorders, restriction, and exercise addiction.
Those that are already into fitness may feel even more obligated to ‘burn off’ what they consume and those that are new to it will have a first introduction that leads them to taking extreme measures. Just consider this quote from Susan Roberts, a scientist at Tufts University…
“You can’t get a regular human to do more than 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day. If you label the food, it’d have you doing four to six hours of exercise a day… so ridiculous.”
Food and exercise should not be connected! You don’t have to ‘earn’ what you eat through movement. You don’ t ‘deserve’ to eat only when you’ve worked out for the day. On the contrary, you need to eat to live. Just being alive makes you worthy of food and enjoyment.
Speaking of enjoyment…adding MORE numbers and measurements to an already complicated label is just totally sucking all the fun and pleasure out of eating. While food isn’t everything, it IS meant to be enjoyed as well as provide nourishment.
In a world where the majority of people already have an unhealthy relationship with food as it is, adding more factors for them to obsess about isn’t helping any of our problems.
How about instead of adding things to packaging, we start promoting healthier foods on a daily basis? How about instead of focusing on burning calories, we suggest little ways people can add movement to their day?
The government always seems to want to emphasize ‘removing’ things in order to get healthier. Certain foods, amounts of calories, fat grams, sugar, etc. But clearly, since we’re still struggling with weight problems (on both ends of the spectrum), that isn’t working.
It’s time we focus on ADDING things to our lives. Adding whole foods. Adding movement that makes us happy. Adding more water. Adding more sleep. Adding time outside. Adding random acts of kindness. Adding more compassion for ourselves!
The one thing that shouldn’t be added? Exercise calories on nutritional labels.
Health is so much more than calories in and calories out. It’s about mind, body, and spiritual balance. Creating more reason for people to fixate on numbers in regards to their food choices is just hindering their ability to achieve that equilibrium.
Just my two cents.
What are your thoughts on this proposed change in Britain?
Would you like to see this policy implemented in the US?
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