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!
(Featured photo by Annie Theby on Unsplash)
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.
Related post: 6 things you shouldn’t say to someone with an eating disorder
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
Fadima Mooneira says
Interesting information about calories on menu. I’m not sure it’s a good or bad thing. Because we don’t have it here in Malaysia. However, thank you for sharing.
Ugh, having to count the calories every time we wanna eat really can nerve me at some points. It can get real tough having to deal with this big decision by government. Absolutely love these ideas – go to small run-in stalls and a distraction method are the two of my likings. Thanks for sharing this xx
Agreed! Thank you x
Sarah Dickinson says
At first I wasn’t bothered about the whole calories on menus thing, but after googling a restaurant recently to check out their vegan menu + immediately seeing the recommended number of calories a woman should have everyday really out me off. 😢 I can’t imagine the damage its going to do to those who do or have suffered with eating disorders. 💛💛
It’s so heartbreaking x
Thank you for sharing this post, Caroline! I have to admit that I hadn’t thought of the negative connotations for putting calories on menus. I had only thought about it as a way to tackle obesity, but your post has made me realise that this is a much more nuanced topic.
Thank you x
Amazing suggestions here! I’m absolutely dreading this coming into place and I know it’s going to negatively affect so many people. Supporting smaller establishments (which is great to do anyway) sounds like a perfect idea, as is researching restaurants with calorie-free menus! It’s so important to tell someone if you’re not feeling comfortable with the conversation too. Thank you so much for sharing on such a vital topic x
Me too! Thank you 🙂
Thank you. For the first time ever, I’ve never thought people with eating disorders would have a challenge with this. I thought it was a way to tackle obesity. Government should make it optional not mandatory. So sorry you had to go through this. Also, thank you for bringing up ways to tackle calories on menu
I agree, thank you x
These are great tip. I must admit I am considering calories lately as I have some fitness to improve after having covid and relying on take aways.
Thank you. I know that calories may be beneficial to some people, so an optional menu might be a better way to go about it.
Here in Canada, we’ve had calories on menus for years. I had never thought of it from the perspective of someone with an ED before so thanks for enlightening me. I do see it from the other side, though. Obesity is a huge public health issue. However, I question if posting the calories really makes a difference. I would argue that 100% of people know that overeating is bad for you, yet they do it anyway.
I agree x
Miriam Jones says
This is so bad, I’m sorry you’re going to have to go through that. I hope it does make more people go to independent and local places to eat but it just adds unnecessary stress and anxiety to eating out!
Thank you x
These are such great ideas. It’s horrible that the government is doing this.
I agree, thank you for reading x
Sumedha @ thewordyhabitat says
This is the first time I’m hearing of such a rule and it is atrocious! The loophole of it not applying to small businesses is a great one and will hopefully bring them more business.
It’s so awful! But yes, that is one good thing to come out of it.
There’s a conversation to be had here. Let’s hope that restaurants now required to produce calorie labelled menus will also have an option of calorie-free menus. As one would help reduce calorie consumption, the other calorie counting.
I hope so
Mummy Conquering Anxiety says
Thank you so much for sharing this post. J don’t want to see calories on a menu. Personally I find it condescending and irrelevant. You go out to have fun! Not to be lectured.
In respect of the damage it will do to some people, I’m sad the government didn’t listen!!
This is such an interesting debate. I think the wider issue is people aren’t educated about food and don’t know what calories, macros and nutrients are in what they eat. Many people overeat without even knowing it. It’s just years and years of social and cultural problems that have caused many issues and people should be educated on food overall.
I think menus should just have a QR code which then gives people the ability to easily scan and access calories and nutritional info if they feel like they want to. Calories alone don’t really say a lot as 500 calories of fat, salt and sugar are not the same as 500 calories of whole, natural foods.
That’s a good idea. I totally agree, crisps are often low in calories but that doesn’t mean they are the most nutritional snack!
I agree with you, I don’t agree with having calories on menus. It has something that just makes me cringe, the idea of checking calories before ordering. And I can’t even begin to imagine the damage it will do to people who are struggling with eating disorders. Great tips, though, and good to see some restaurants providing alternatives.
Thank you x
I'm All Booked Up says
We don’t see this very often in the United States. The only items on most menus with calories are in the “skinnylicious” or “light” sections.
I think I’ve seen a light section on the menu before too.
Jenny in Neverland says
I agree with Corinne, I think they should use things like QR codes for people to access the calories if they want to. Luckily my favourite restaurant is printing non-calorie menus for those who request them, which is great x
What a wonderful, heartfelt article you’ve written. While I’m not in the throes of my eating disorder any longer, I still struggle with things like this as well. It’s really helpful to keep what you’ve suggested in mind! I definitely spend a lot of time asking my husband to read the menu to me. And online menus are usually helpful as well, I agree! Thank you for sharing this!
Thank you! xx
What an amazing post, with great tips. I had no idea some restaurants had menus without, but that is such a great idea and something I think they should all have to do. It’s definitely a great incentive to eat at local restaurants which is much needed after covid xx
Hannah | https://luxuryblush.co.uk/
Thank you x
I’m totally with you, I think it’s absolutely disgusting that the government have decided to put calories on the menu to apparently help with ‘obesity’. You’ve shared some great tips here lovely which I’ll for sure be sharing with friends who have trouble with calories etc. this is such a good post, thank you so much for sharing! Xo
Elle – ellegracedeveson.com
Thank you so much x
Hmm, nice seeing others view on calories but honestly I don’t even go out much and I’m too lazy to start counting the calories of what I’m eating maybe it cause I’m surrounded by those who didn’t give a two cent about it.
I had no idea that it was only big, franchised companies with lots of employees that had to do it! That makes things so much easier as I prefer going to small independents!
It’s still not a great thing in my opinion. I understand the thinking behind it but find it very triggering for people like you and me who are in long-term recovery. This is NOT the way to tackle an obesity problem. Correct education is!
I agree x
Nic | Nic's Adventures says
I agree with some of the other commenters that the nutritional info should be on a QR code or downloadable.
I wish sometimes they would put other nutritional info on menus as well, so people like me Type 1 Diabetic’s can plan our meals when we go out instead of guessing what the carb content is when we get the meal, I’m forever getting it wrong and have to pay with high blood sugars! Which then affects my sleep and mental health.
A QR code with that information would definitely be better to not exclude anyone! I’m sorry you have to go through this