Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Oh dear Lord now the government is encouraging us to count kilojoules!

Yes, that's right, and you may have heard or seen the ads yourself. The government has passed laws to make larger food chains show how many kilojoules are in their products. I saw this myself just the other day at muffin break - huge numbers telling me how many kilojoules there were in front of every muffin or brownie. And then a radio ad telling me that the average person consumes about 8700kj per day but you should find out which "figure" is right for you (gosh, excellent pun right there, please note heavy sarcasm). There's a website and there are even apps you can download on your phone to help you keep track.

Sure, their intentions are good, but they are going about it completely the wrong way. It frustrates me sooo much that people don't realise sustainable weight loss isn't going to come from dieting but from behavioural changes. And this method is clearly dieting. Encouraging people to count kilojoules just encourages them to become obsessed with what they are eating, and feel guilty if they eat something that is higher in kilojoules...and maybe subsequently binge. We shouldn't have to feel guilty for eating a muffin once in a while when we feel like it.

Dare I say it, but I'm pretty sure that most people know that McDonalds, Muffin Break, KFC and the like all serve high fat, high sugar food. It's pretty obvious. I'm sorry but when I feel like eating a cheeseburger, or a muffin, I'm not going to look at how many kilojoules it is and think "Ohhh wait I don't have enough room on my kilojoule count for this today...guess I'll have a salad instead." That's not going to satisfy me.

The only way I can see it being of benefit is if you have a choice between two delicious looking things, and if one is lower in kilojoules you could pick that one and still be eating something satisfying. But I personally would rather know how much sugar and fat is in it, instead of how many kilojoules. Anyway, McDonalds has actually shown the nutritional panel on all its products for quite a few years now and it definitely hasn't changed my eating habits. You can't deny or restrict yourself from certain foods because that will just make you want them all the more.

I guess I can see a minor amount of benefit from displaying kilojoule content, but I definitely don't like that we are being encouraged to count how many kilojoules we consume per day. After all, what if you're not as hungry on one day? Or what if another day you need more food because you've been doing a lot of activity? Our energy needs aren't exactly the same on every day and that's natural.

I think the government should do campaigns that focus on acceptance of lots of different body shapes and sizes, doing whatever activity that we can and that we enjoy, and learning to eat when we are hungry and recognise fullness signals. There should be campaigns that fight against all the fad diets and the people that tell you to "cut out carbs".

Maybe even in schools  they should start to teach the kids about enjoying a wide variety of foods and about hunger and fullness and encouraging fun activities.

Yes when I was in school we did learn about "nutrition" - about the food pyramid, food groups, vitamin minerals etc etc. But I think it's missing a vital aspect that Dr Rick explains in "If not dieting, then what?" about how we need to listen to what we FEEL like and ENJOY IT...and all the other non dieting ideas he has. Because sure I knew about nutrition but it never clicked for me until I read this book. It never clicked for me that a) diets don't work and b) there is so much more to being above your most healthy weight, like psychological and emotional issues that have to be addressed before behavioural changes can be made.

Anyway I'm ranting here but I'm just frustrated that this is how a lot of western society views food. I've just ordered "French Women don't get Fat" and it's all about the french way of eating, how they eat really slowly, take time over their meals and really enjoy them.

Once I've read it, more to come on that!