A Scots woman who battled an eating disorder and a personal trainer have shared their views on calorie counts being noted on food menus after health chiefs invited the public to have their say.
In England, food outlets with more than 250 employees must now display calorie counts on non-prepacked food and soft drinks on menus, takeaway websites and labels.
The Scottish Government has since launched a consultation on Friday which allows the public to express their views on the matter.
Neonatal intensive care nurse Blair Paton is concerned that Scotland may follow suit and fears it could spark an increase in eating disorders.
The 24-year-old’s weight plummeted to just six stone while she survived on fizzy juice, Mentos and veggie sausages during a dark battle with anorexia.
Blair, from Paisley, Renfrewshire, developed the eating disorder at age 15.
She believes that calorie counts on menus are ‘dangerous’ for ‘vulnerable’ Scots who could be susceptible to the ordeal she’s endured.
She told the Record: “I think it’ll increase the amount of people with eating disorders because those who previously didn’t worry about calories are now getting it shoved in their face and made aware of it.
“A meal out should be enjoyed and not based on calories
“I think information should be a choice, restaurants should have them available for people who wish to see them on a separate menu but not plastered all over menus for everyone, especially the vulnerable.”
Blair reflects upon her own struggle to get better and thinks stats next to dishes on menus would have hindered her recovery.
She added: “It would have made me even more reluctant to eat out because sometimes not knowing the number of calories I was eating was a relief from the constant counting.
“I think it would have hindered me getting better if I ordered based on calories rather than what I actually wanted to eat.”
Meanwhile personal trainer, Vivienne McLaughlin, is no stranger to calorie counting and thinks the move to include calories on menus could be good for health-conscious Scots.
The 30-year-old, who has tried ‘every fad going’ including the maple syrup and cabbage soup diets, previously piled on weight as a teen.
Vivienne, from Robroyston, Glasgow, also once dropped to a size six when losing weight because she ‘didn’t have any education on nutrition’.
The mum-of-two feels many people could benefit from having a greater awareness of the calories in what they eat.
She told the Record: “For many of my clients, the best way to lose weight is to calorie count. If restaurants note the calories on the menu it gives them freedom to go out for food, but still stay on track with their health and weight.” loss.”
The gym owner stressed that people are often confused about the calorie count in foods too.
She added: “An avocado may have more calories than a bar of chocolate.
“I think we should be educating about food for health reasons, not just for weight loss.
“There is a massive gap in the education system regarding nutrition and exercise and it’s not taught at an early enough age
“Rather than just calories on menus the government could consider putting it into the school curriculum.
“I do, however, think a choice of menu would work well and allow people to choose what menu they see. I agree that something like this could be triggering for those who suffer from disordered eating like bulimia or binge eating.”
Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “We know that giving people more information, such as the number of calories in meals will enable people to make healthier choices when eating out, or ordering in.
“This is not a novel practice – calories are already required on retail food purchases and calorie labeling for out of home sites is mandated in many other countries.”
To take part in the consultation head to the Scottish Government website.
For more information on anorexia and support available for those affected by it visit the NHS website.
Vivienne has been nominated for several Scottish Health and Fitness Awards. Vote by heading to the official website.
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