Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Public Health England Calorie Awareness Campaign

Public Health England (PHE) have recently released a new strategy and campaign designed to slow down the obesity epidemic in this country. Their main focus is on calories.

They have launched the One You Campaign, targeting adults to become aware of the calories they consume each day. They’ve come up with the mantra 400, 600, 600. This relates to allowing ourselves a maximum of 400 calories for breakfast, 600 calories for lunch and 600 calories for dinner.

While I’m all for counting calories, as far as I’m concerned, these numbers are as meaningless as the old mantra ‘2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 calories a day for men’.

Also included in the PHE package are the following recommendations for food manufacturers:

• change the recipe of products
• reduce portion size
• encourage consumers to purchase lower calorie products.

These are good ideas in principle. But what’s more likely to happen is food manufacturers and retailers will shrink their products and portion sizes, while maintaining the same price. It’s a win win situation for them but it’s not going to do anything about changing the way people think about and consume their food.

Making people more aware of the calories they consume is helpful. But everyone is individual, and advising us all to aim for the 400, 600, 600 calories is simply not going to work. There are too many variables involved.

For example, there’s no mention of calorie allowances for drinks. A couple of lattes from a coffee shop can add well over 300 calories. And of course there’s alcohol which for some people can add many hundreds of calories a day.

Then there are the snacks which so many indulge in every day. Add in a few biscuits, a cake and the odd chocolate bar and you’re well over 2,000 calories. And we’re back where we started! Hello weight gain.

Surely it’s better to encourage a change in the way we think about and serve food.

We need to be accountable for the food we eat. We need to think about what exercise we’re doing to warrant the amount of calories we’re eating. There’s a huge difference in calories used up by someone sitting at their desk all day and someone rushing around a busy hospital ward or working on a building site.

If you’re sitting at a desk all day, and you find you’re eating snacks, then perhaps you really don’t need lunch as well. We need to get back in touch with hunger and not feel that the minute we feel a bit hungry, we need to shove food into our mouth!

If you’re not hungry when you get up in the morning, then don’t eat breakfast. We’ve been force fed these ideas of three meals a day for years. But snacking is such an ingrained part of life for many of us now, that we simply don’t need three meals a day as well.

If we adopted a more plant based diet, and saw vegetables as the main part of any meal, with a side order of lasagna, or chicken curry or whatever, it would immediately decrease the calorie content while increasing the nutrients and providing a far more filling meal.

Before following the 400, 600, 600 calorie guideline, it would be a really good idea to get an idea of how many calories you personally use up on an average day. This way you can aim to eat that number of calories or fewer if you want to lose weight.

You can get an idea of your daily calorie needs by weighing yourself on a body composition monitor such as the Tanita Innerscan which takes into account your body muscle and fat composition as well as your height.

Or you could use an online calculator such as this Weight Loss Calculator which includes your average exercise.

Weight loss isn’t easy. It takes determination and dedication, but it’s not impossible. And it’s something that everyone can do. Just making small changes to your daily diet can have a positive effect in the long term.


Public Health England new obesity campaign

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