'Ugly, Joyless and Miserable' – Here's What People Really Think About No.10's New Obesity Strategy

Health and wellbeing is now being tied to numbers. Is that really a good idea?
People have hit back at No.10 for deciding to put calories on menus and for encouraging people to measure themselves
People have hit back at No.10 for deciding to put calories on menus and for encouraging people to measure themselves

The government has unrolled two new approaches towards maintaining a healthy weight this week – but they have not gone down smoothly.

Calories will now be displayed on all menus in large chains (restaurants, cafes and takeaways more than 250 members of staff) in England in a bid to tackle obesity.

However, this policy has been criticised for missing out on the nutrition in each meal, and it means restaurants will probably have to spend more to print their menus – despite many still recovering from the pandemic.

It could also exacerbate harmful habits around eating as people focus on their numbers instead of the meal, although the Department of Health and Social Care has countered this by saying obesity is one of the biggest health issues in the country.

Then on Friday, health body NICE unrolled a new waist-measuring technique as an alternative to BMI (body mass index).

It advises that an adult’s waist should be less than half of their height if they want to be healthy – accumulating weight around your middle can put you at risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

It comes after BMI has been heavily criticised for blocking people from getting IVF, and for failing people of colour when it comes to calculating their risk of diabetes, although NICE still said measuring BMI was helpful.

Measuring people around the waist is supposed to take into account how some groups are more prone to carrying weight around their waist, putting them at higher health risk even if they have lower BMIs.

Yet, this technique has also been criticised as it is not accurate for people over 35, pregnant people or children under two.

Here’s what people think of the government’s decision to make health a numbers game.

Masterchef winner Sven-Hanson Britt said adding calories to menus would “end creativity” in restaurants and encourage children to focus on “that little number below a dish”.

He wasn’t alone in saying that any enjoyment found eating would now be negatively impacted by these numbers.

People said there was not “a single productive, healthy reason” to measure the calories in drinks such as black coffee.

Others described it as “pointless nannying” which also ruined the restaurant experience.

While some noted that actually poverty is the main cause of obesity – a poignant point, considering the UK is caught in a cost of living crisis at the moment.

After NICE suggested BMI is still a useful tool, people pointed out that BMI in general was also a “terrible indicator” of overall health, particularly for people with chronic illness.

Others asked why body shapes haven’t been taken into consideration, and how this could differ for shorter people.

And then, there were the inevitable jokes...

What do you think of the new strategies?