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Home / Health / The British coronavirus campaign is a nightmare for people with eating disorders

The British coronavirus campaign is a nightmare for people with eating disorders

Obesity or being overweight increases your risk of dying from Covid-19, according to Public Health England. The UK government believes that 63% of adults are above what is considered a fair weight.

The new measures include a ban on advertising for junk food before 9 p.m., tools to help people lose weight, and a proposal to ask restaurants how many calories their dishes contain.

As part of the strategy, Johnson spoke of his own weight loss in striking personal terms. The British Prime Minister was infected with coronavirus earlier this year and was included in the ICU in April, at the height of the UK’s shutdown.

Johnson said that he was “overweight” at the time of the illness. “I’m too fat,” he said in a video posted on his Twitter account on Monday.

“I’ve always wanted to lose weight for all ages,” Johnson added. “And like […] Many people, I struggle with my own weight. ”

In the clip, the British leader also suggests that those who lose weight can protect Britain’s venerable National Health Service (NHS).

“If you can lose a little weight […] And protect your health, you will also protect the NHS, “he said.

This strategy is a dramatic change for a leader known for his dislike of the “nanny state”. Johnson has previously opposed similar initiatives by previous governments.

Johnson’s spokesperson said Johnson’s personal experience did not shape policy but added that the pandemic had “highlighted the increased risks facing the nation when obesity has not been contained.”

The government hopes their campaign will encourage overweight people to lose about 2.5kg [5.5 pounds], claiming such a result would yield £ 105 million [$135m] NHS savings over the next five years.

However, the new strategy has caused confusion between athletes and those recovering from eating disorders. Of particular interest is the proposal to ask some restaurants to list the number of calories in the dishes.

People with eating disorders have suffered a lifetime.  Now they have to struggle even more

Eve Bennett, 20, spent part of her teenage years struggling with calorie counting. “When I was 14 or 15 years old, I started using an app to track my calories [intake]”, the student told CNN.

“I am very obsessive about counting calories and I will try to beat myself every day [by eating less than the day before] and I didn’t eat enough. “

Bennett eventually stopped using the app but disliked the suggestion of listing calories. “When you’ve been through that […] You really find yourself too calorie conscious, which is why I find the idea of ​​calories on the menu terrifying, “she says.

About 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, according to Beat, a charity that provides support to those affected by them. About 20% of people with anorexia will develop a chronic condition; disease with the highest mortality rate among mental disorders.

“Eating disorder is a big problem in this country,” Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, who is chair of the All-Party MPs on Eating Disorders, told CNN.

“Making restaurants reveal the calorie contents of a meal – that can do a lot of harm to those in the process of recovery.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was caught jogging on July 29.

Beat spokesman Tom Quinn agreed. Quinn criticized the language used throughout the Better Health campaign as well as the calorie metric.

“We are very concerned that this will have an adverse effect on people with or at risk of eating disorders,” he told CNN.

“We have started to receive responses from people who are suffering, […] those who think these measures will increase their eating disorder behaviors. “

Quinn told CNN that Beat welcomes a number of new policies, including the government’s planned expansion of NHS weight management services.

Beat also has no objection to banning the ads of snacks before 9pm, when children are most visible.

The ban restricts television and online advertising of foods rich in fat, sugar or salt. The government will also hold a consultation on whether to ban online advertising entirely. But despite the famous campaign, the restrictions are not expected to apply until 2022.

And while government ministers are advocating the new policy package, the junk food advertising ban follows the implementation of the UK’s “Eat it all to help” plan.

That plan is designed to help a struggling restaurant industry, including the fined fast food stores.

In “Eat Up to Help”, members of the public receive a 50% discount, up to a value of £ 10 ($ 13.09), at restaurants from August 3 to August 31. Registered fast food outlets, including McDonald’s, KFC and Five Guys.

Quinn criticized how Johnson associates support for the NHS with weight loss.

“Some languages ​​are quite stigmatized,” he said. “[There’s an] The implication is that obese people are spending NHS money and harming others. If you lose weight to save lives, this means you are at the expense of your life otherwise [lose weight], “he added.

“There’s a sense of focus on the individual.” Quinn said this strategy doesn’t focus enough on the broader social factors that contribute to obesity.

Hope Virgo, an activist who lived with anorexia as a child, issued a petition to try to persuade ministers to reverse the calorie listing method.

Hope Virgo is a mental health campaigner and author, who developed anorexia as a teenager.

“Seeing the government’s strategy is very, very difficult,” she told CNN. “If I go in one [restaurant with a] menu and have calories [listed] left, right and center, I will find it really painful. “

Virgo praises the government’s £ 2 billion ($ 2.6 billion) cycling strategy, which aims to help people become more active and is launched right after the Better Health policy. New cycling routes and bike repair tickets are part of the policy.

“Biking and walking play a huge role in tackling some of the health and environmental challenges we face,” Johnson said on Twitter.

“I like the fact that they encourage movement,” Virgo said. “And we are encouraged to exercise – they should do it instead of frightening people and creating fear of weight.”

Virgo added: “My big concern is [that] They are in the right size for all approaches. For people suffering from binge eating or [who] guzzle, [calorie listing] may worsen their illness. “

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The Hobhouse Liberal Democrat believes this strategy ignores the deeper causes of obesity in Britain.

“The cause of our obesity is a very profound structural problem,” she said. “I understand it more than just a socioeconomic issue. It’s a question of the household budget.”

“That’s the problem [in] In poverty you have no choice. [Some people] don’t have a pot and can’t cook a healthy meal. ”

She added: “[The strategy] may help some communities and some people but it will turn over to those they are [healthy eating] Not a simple choice. “

“With more than 6 out of 10 adults and more than one third of children 10-11 years old overweight or obese, we need to make sure everyone is equipped to make decisions about food intake. of them, “a government source said.

The source added that the officials “recognize concerns about calorie labeling and commit to a careful balance between informing and educating people to make healthier choices, while not impacting.” negative for people with eating disorders or those recovering from an eating disorder. “

CNN’s Aleesha Khaliq and Luke McGee contributed to this story.

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