The government's calorie labelling policy, which requires all cafes and restaurants with more than 250 staff to include the number of calories of each dish on their menu, comes into force today.
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The change in policy has been based on the government's plans to tackle obesity, but many are concerned the move will be deeply troubling for the 1.25 million people living with disordered eating in the UK.
Eating disorder charity BEAT has challenged the new law, saying that "calorie counts on menus won’t prevent obesity, but they will harm people with eating disorders".
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Calorie labels are required on menus from 6 April
Though the government is hoping introducing calories on menus will help support people to make better, healthier choices with their meals, many are concerned that it could increase fixation on restricting calories, lead to harmful thoughts and be extremely triggering to those who struggle with their relationship with food.
Regardless of whether you have a diagnosed eating disorder or not, toxic diet culture can be extremely difficult to navigate.
If you're worried about the new calories policy or you're feeling anxious about your next meal out, scroll on for tips on how to cope if you find it overwhelming, confusing or triggering.
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Ask a friend to read out the menu for you
If you're likely to be swayed by the lowest-calorie option, don't be afraid to ask the person you're dining with to read out the options on the menu for you. Eliminating the visual calorie information may help you make a decision on your meal based on desire, rather than fear.
You can request a menu without calories
If you're worried your relationship with food could suffer if you're subject to the number of calories in your meal, you can simply request a menu without them. Wagamama, for example, is just one of the restaurant chains to offer 'calorie-free' menus to those who ask for one, recognising that the government's new policy could be "challenging" for some people.
Wagamama will offer a 'calorie-free' menu for those who ask
Remember that food is fuel
Don't forget that nutrients in food fuel your body are are vital to keeping your heart beating, your brain active, and your muscles working. They also help to build and strengthen bones, muscles, and other body tissues. Being too restrictive on your daily intake of calories on a regular basis can seriously affect your cell growth, muscle repair, reproductive system, immunity and mental health.
Don't sweat the small stuff
Try not to get too hung up on the number of calories on the page. If you're dining out for a special occasion or for an occasional treat, shift the focus away from food and try to channel that energy into enjoying time with your friends or family. Enjoy the moment. And as the saying goes, treat yo' self.
Talk to someone you trust
Always try to avoid bottling your emotions or concerns. Whether you're dining out with a friend, family member or partner, speaking to someone you trust about how you’re feeling can help ease symptoms of anxiety. If you are eating out with friends and family, telling them how you feel before the meal might help you feel more comfortable, and it means they can support you if you need to take a break while you're out together.
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