From 6th April this year, large restaurant chains in the UK (those with more than 250 employees) must now print how many calories are in each meal on their menus and websites. For many, this might not be too much of a concern and could easily be ignored or go unnoticed. But for those who have any uncertainties in their relationship with food or eating habits, this could be extremely damaging when it comes to eating out. If you’re feeling worried, anxious, stressed or anything else about this change, that’s ok and totally valid. Here’s some reminders from us that might help to keep in mind.
Reminder #1: You don’t eat like this all the time
For most of us, eating out is something we do with friends and family, our significant other’s, for special occasions or some sort of celebration (even small ones!). It’s important to remind ourselves that we don’t eat like this on a regular basis or all the time. It’s okay to indulge in tasty foods that might be more calorific than our home cooked meals. We deserve that every once in a while! Try to focus on the occasion as opposed to the calorie content of the food - that will help us divert our attention away from calorie counting. If it’s something that is really bothering you, here’s what we recommend:
Try your absolute best to (and we know, this might not be as easy as it sounds - just give it your best go), to save any worries or concerns you might have about the food you’re eating until after you have left wherever it is you’re eating. Then, when you get some time to yourself, dedicate five minutes writing those worries and feelings down on a piece of paper. Once everything you’re worried about is written on the page in front of you, destroy it! Rip it, screw it up, throw it away, burn it (we do encourage you to do this with caution though!) - whatever you need to do to know that those worries are now gone. You have eaten the food, you (hopefully!) enjoyed it, and if it’s calories that are worrying you - they will not make a difference. Because like we hopefully agreed, this is not something we do regularly, and it’s all about balance in life. As long as we’re generally looking after our bodies, it’ll thank you for a tasty treat!
Reminder #2: Everyone is different and needs different amounts of food
All bodies are different, head to toe, inside out. Regardless of what society, social media, or weight loss programmes might tell you - you are allowed to eat whatever and however much you want. Serving suggestions and calories do not define you or what you should be eating. Let’s put this into perspective. If we’re focusing on calories, this can become a problem when it comes to eating the foods that we need. For example, if a meal from a fast food restaurant and a home cooked meal have the same caloric amount, that does not mean they have the same nutritional value or will have the same effect on our bodies. Therefore, only looking at how many calories are in a meal can give us an unfair idea about what we are eating.
Additionally, what one person might consider ‘a lot’ of calories for one meal, another might see it as ‘not so much’. We are all individuals, we all have different requirements when it comes to our diet, and we all need different amounts of food. When reminding ourselves of this, be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Your body does so much for you, and we are all doing our best to look after it in ways that work for us. Counting calories will only scare us out of looking after our amazing bodies rather than taking care of it. Focus instead on enjoying what you’re eating, being grateful for the food in front of us and not being so hard on yourself.
Reminder #3: You are in control of what you eat, not the other way around
Do we need to remind you that you are an AMAZING person, inside and out?! Really, we thought you’d be so aware of that by now. No matter what you look like, where you’re from, whether you like pineapple on pizza or not, or how many calories you consume - you are incredible. What you eat, what’s on a plate in front of you and what you choose from a menu does not define you or your worth. You can choose to eat whatever you want, and you are no less valid than you were before that meal. Food is not the be all and end all. We need food, we deserve food, and we are allowed to give ourselves permission to enjoy food - whatever it is!
As long as we are treating our body to nutritious foods, not just focusing on unhealthy junk foods (but we’re sure you already know that!) a yummy meal at our favourite restaurant or takeaway every now and then should not be seen as a punishment. Nor should choosing a meal that has a higher amount of calories than another. Like we mentioned before, that doesn’t mean it’s more or less healthy - many nutritious foods can be high in calories but also have a high nutritional value in something else, like protein or fibre for example. Eating a meal that is high in calories does not mean we are unhealthy or not taking care of our wellbeing - actually, making choices to eat something we want for pleasure in order to make ourselves feel good could potentially have more of a positive impact on our wellbeing!
Final note: Try not to let this change control your choices too much, especially when the point of going out to eat is to have fun, socialise and feel positive emotions. Spend time practising gratitude towards your health and body, surrounding yourself by people who support you, and being compassionate towards yourself. An addition to a food menu should not change the way you treat yourself. What matters most is who's sitting around the table, not what's on it.