Guest Blog: The wasted impact of healthy eating campaigns on people with eating disorders

By Sarah Louise Robertson


Do campaigners, doctors and the diet food industry realise they’re possibly preaching to the converted in their on-going quest to reduce the country’s waistline?


I’m becoming increasingly convinced they don’t. Every week there are new action groups popping up, revealing research or health experts alerting us to the growing burden of obesity.


We’re being warned almost daily of the public health epidemic about to erupt if we fail to cut our craving for ‘junk’ food, hit the gym and shed pounds, sharpish.


Oh, I hear them; I hear them loud and clear. But as a vegetarian in recovery from anorexia nervosa, should I be the one listening? No, not really. In fact I’m probably one of the last people they need to be talking to, but are the people who need to quit the sugar addiction and read up on calories ACTUALLY listening?


Like many in recovery from anorexia, I probably need to move less, eat more, control less and increase my intake of Omegas, those are ‘good guys’ the fats we need in our diets.


Instead of listening to these warnings, what I need to do is step away from the nutritional information charts, put down the calorie counter and ignore the traffic lights. If only it were that easy when you’re fighting an illness that feeds off these health-obsessed headlines.


Each time a new campaign’s launched, my food shop seems to take twice as long.  Entire ranges of soups, baked beans, fruit juices and cereal bars need checking and filtering thanks to the latest scares on what we should or shouldn’t be eating.


The traffic light guides are like colourful alarm bells in my head, I bet you can guess my favourite colour? You got it, green. But are the general population, and more specifically the overweight people they’re trying to target, really reading them?


But do other people still pick what they fancy, you know, the ‘bad, naughty, hard stuff’, despite the red alert over bulging waistlines, while I’m left wandering the aisles in a spin?


Do they consider the impact these campaigns have on people with eating disorders? (Which are also killing people and costing the NHS £billions) Do they assume we can just ‘zone out’ and realise we shouldn’t listen? – Like we can switch off anorexia right? NEWSFLASH; I can’t, I struggle and your continuous war on fat is making it harder. 


I know it’s not all about me and other recovering anorexics, but do they consider how these campaigns affect obese people with disorders such as binge eating (BED)? Like telling sufferers to cut the sugar addiction is enough to overcome a mental illness?


I just wonder how much good these campaigns constantly telling people to lose weight, eat healthier, watch sugar, eat fresh and count calories, etc. actually do? Personally, I think they’re bad for my health and mental health. 


About Sarah Louise Robertson


Freelance Multi-Media Journalist, Researcher and Eating Disorders campaigner based in the Midlands and North West.

Read her blog Daydreams and Reality