I am completely enraged that the government have decided to make it mandatory for calories to be on menus. It is the absolute wrong decision and will cause nothing but harm. Since my last post on calories on menus, so many people have signed petitions, emailed the PM, and emailed their MPs. It is heartbreaking. I consider myself recovered from anorexia, but I know that I will struggle with this adjustment. My biggest regret in life is the years I spent counting calories, I hate to think about what this will start.
Since the government have decided to go ahead, we need to do everything we can to cope!
How to cope with calories on menus
Ask for a menu without calories
I am hoping that all restaurants will do this, but I know that Pizza Express and Wagamamas have a menu without calories which you can ask for. It can be so easy to get sucked into counting calories, so the best thing is to avoid it entirely. I would definitely struggle to pick what I actually want to eat if the calories are beside the item. If you are anxious about asking for a menu without calories on in front of people, you could call in advance.
Go to local/independant restuarants and cafes
The government rule is that calories on menus are mandatory only if the establishment has 250 or more employees. I think that the best way to cope with calories on menus is to go to local/independant places. It’s always better to support small over chains, and this is just another good incentive.
Read an online menu
I’m not sure if calories will be required for online menus, but if they aren’t then simply look it up on your phone. Alternatively, you could look up the menu before you go so that you have already decided and do not need to look at the menu.
Talk to someone about how you are feeling
I fully appreciate that not everyone has a family member to talk to, but honestly speaking to anyone is better than no one. It can be hard to open up but speak to a helpline, a friend, a doctor etc. They can help you work out a plan and how you can personally cope with calories on menus.
Ask someone to read the menu to you
If you are with someone who knows your struggle with calories/disorder eating, ask them to read the menu. I am sure they will be more than willing to help. Then you can choose what you would like without seeing the calories and having them dictate your choice.
Remember why you are in recovery/have recovered
It can be really easy to slip back into old eating disorder tendencies, so try to remember why you are recovering/recovered. Something that helps me is to have a photo album of good moments where food wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Or when I could eat what I liked, without the fear of how many calories were in it.
Focus on who you are with
If you are with friends, talk to them whilst you are looking at the menu. Try to remember why you are out, whether that be for a birthday or just a night out. Focus on your company to ensure that you don’t overthink too much about what you are going to eat.
Bring something with you
When I am in stressful situations, I like to bring along my fluorite crystal and wear a crystal bracelet my mum made for me. I have the crystal in my pocket and hold it when I am feeling particularly anxious. The bracelet my mum made me is made up of smoky quartz, red bamboo, coral quartz and garnet. The first 3 are good for anxiety, and the garnet is my mum’s birthstone so that she is always with me when I’m anxious. Your item can be anything, maybe a fidget toy if you need something to do, or a pack of cards to play with while you wait for the meal.
Research restuarants with calorie-free menus
This is a little bit like my first point, but I think it’s important to look at which restaurants and cafes have a calorie-free menu. Ultimately, we want to avoid seeing calories on menus and the easiest way to do this is to not go there. I really hope that the government realise that calories on menus will only have a negative effect.
Go with someone you trust
Maybe the first time you go to a restaurant with calories on the menu, you could go with someone who you trust. If you are going for a family meal, let one person know so that if the conversation is around calories, they can change it. I’m a bit worried about friends talking more openly about calories and what they are choosing etc. If you are not comfortable, say something. I understand that is far easier said than done, but changing the conversation is a good start.
Set a time limit for looking at the menu
Personally, I don’t love this idea but I know that it will be beneficial for some people. If you have to look at a menu with calories on, looking at it for as little time as possible is a good idea. Looking at it for too long might cause you to spiral out and going to a restaurant should be an enjoyable experience!
Plan something for after the meal
Having a distraction planned in advance for after the meal is a good way to take your mind off things. Going from being surrounded by people in a scary situation to being on your own can be hard. It could be anything, but just make sure you have something fun planned so that your thoughts don’t stew.
Be kind to yourself
This one is the most important. Be kind to yourself! It is natural to feel anxious about going to a restaurant with an eating disorder, let alone one with calories on the menu. It is bound to be tough the first time, you should be proud of yourself for powering on <3 You’ve got this xx
Related post: The importance of positive affirmations during recovery
I hope some of these ways to cope with calories on menus have helped you!
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, get in touch with a helpline, your doctor or someone you trust.
England number: 0808 801 0677
Scotland number: 0808 801 0432
Wales number: 0808 801 0433
Northern Ireland number: 0808 801 0434
Samaritans – 116 123
Mind – 0300 123 3393
Best wishes, Cx