Too fat, too thin, are we too obsessed with calories?

Battle of Ideas festival 2022, Saturday 15 October, Church House, London


From 1 April 2022, new regulations were introduced forcing businesses with 250 or more employees to display calories on their menus, including children’s menus. The government says this will help people make healthier, informed choices when ordering food. Obesity is one of the greatest long-term health challenges this country has faced, according to the government, with 28 per cent of adults classified as obese.

However, others argue that calorie counts, along with children being weighed at school from the age of five, encourage an unhealthy mindset towards food which could lead to and worsen eating disorders – already a serious health problem. In March, for example, the NHS reported treating record numbers of children and young people for eating disorders.

In a world where people are constantly told that if they are not attractive, they are not valuable, why would we make it easier for them to obsess over their diets and bodies? Are such rules valuable help when making food choices or are we heading towards a future where we eat by number, not for flavour and fuel? Will these policies improve health or encourage obsession?

Katie Axe
paediatric nursing student, University of Leeds

Emma Burnell
founder and political consultant, Political Human; journalist; playwright, No Cure For Love and Triggered

Dr Jennifer Cunningham
retired community paediatrician

Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler
senior lecturer in education studies, Institute of Education, University of Derby; author, The Racialisation of Campus Relations