South London lady recovering from anorexia says energy on menus are ‘dangerous’ for folks battling consuming problems


A south London woman recovering from anorexia has spoken out against a new government directive requiring restaurants to put calories on menus. Rachel Egan, 30, who has had an eating disorder since she was 15, said the policy is a disaster for those affected.

The new rule requires restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees to list the calorie content of meals on their menus, websites and delivery platforms. The move, which is part of the government’s effort to tackle obesity by helping people make healthier choices, has been criticized by eating disorder charities, however, who say it could contribute to harmful thoughts and behaviour.

Rachel, who works in communications and campaigns for mental health, believes the move will also prolong recovery for those with eating disorders and says she is “stuck with anxiety”. Speaking to The Mirror, she recalled a recent visit to a restaurant with her boyfriend, saying: “I already had an idea of ​​what I wanted to eat because I was there [to that restaurant] In front. The last time was about three months ago, but back then calories were not on the menu.”

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Rachel first suffered from an eating disorder when she was 15

Rachel says she tries to eat new things when she visits restaurants as part of her ongoing recovery. But the changes have made her count calories again when she went to a restaurant with her boyfriend.

Her battle with an eating disorder dates back to when she was 15, and although there were other factors that Rachel believes contributed to her anorexia, including a family bereavement and a family history of eating disorders, she says that she became more and more obsessed with counting calories.

“I first noticed that there was a problem shortly after the mandatory calorie labeling and traffic light system in supermarkets went into effect,” she said. As a young teenager, she became anorexic and her body quickly became malnourished.

“I got very sick and ended up in the emergency room. There were concerns about the blood flow to my heart and brain. Her joints were also affected: “Walking was painful. When I was at school and we wrote everything by hand, it was difficult. I was very unwell and very malnourished.”

In addition to the effects on her physical health, Rachel’s mental health also suffered. She was depressed and felt isolated from her friends. “I always say an eating disorder sucks your life out. It’s like the color has disappeared from my life,” she said.

Rachel, recovering from anorexia, believes the legislation should be scrapped

“I was super anxious all the time, thinking about what to eat and when to eat. These thoughts just circle in your head.”

Rachel says a trip to A&E made her realize she didn’t want to die from the disease and began her long road to recovery. She started psychotherapy and got a nutritionist to help with things like meal planning.

“It’s been 15 years and I’m still working on it,” she explained. “I’ve definitely had some highs and there have been times when I’ve been really good physically and mentally. But anorexia is a disease that unfortunately can come back, and that’s how it was for me.” Speaking of the ongoing battle with the disease.”

Rachel said lists for people in need of eating disorder recovery support are incredibly oversubscribed, noting that demand has also increased since the pandemic began. She believes the government’s initiative to force restaurants to put calories on their menu will hamper her recovery.

“It should be withdrawn immediately. The government has already been warned about this. It’s going to be super damaging,” she said. “Part of treating eating disorders is going out to eat and not knowing exactly what’s in your meal.”

“It’s getting even harder to eat out than it already is. It will make these treatment challenges worse and can lead to anxiety.”

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You don’t have to suffer in silence when you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact if you need help.

Samaritans: Call 116-123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected] confidentially

Childline: Telephone 0800 1111. Calls are free and will not appear on your bill

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organization that supports suicidal teenagers and young adults. Telephone 0800 068 4141

Depression Alliance: A charity for people living with depression. No helpline but provides useful resources and links to other information

Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, in a bad mood, or having suicidal thoughts. Click here to visit them

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling miserable. Has a website and a hotline: 0800 58 58 58

Find your local NHS mental health helpline here

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