Eating Out without the Calorie Count #EWOCC
In April 2022, Parliament passed legislation making it compulsory for restaurants, cafés and takeaways with more than 250 employees to print calorie labels on menus. We know that many people with eating disorders will find this makes an already challenging situation harder.
Our Eating Disorder Peer Recovery group has been formed to address issues such as this and we are launching this summer with our Eating Out Without the Calorie Count (#EWOCC) initiative. The aim is to:
- Support our patients to continue to move forward in their recovery journey; continuing to enjoy eating out without the pressure of the calorie count.
- Encourage restaurants to be welcoming and recovery friendly by providing flexibility and the ability to make a recovery informed choice (rather than an Eating Disorder informed one).
The Eating Disorder Peer Recovery group launched the "Eating Out Without The Calorie Count" campaign to encourage restaurants to offer a calorie-free menu option to support young people in recovery.
Kirsty Stapledon and Jessica Sharman are two of our Children’s Hospital Charity funded Peer Support Workers within the group. They use their lived experience of having an eating disorder to support service users. Read quotes below from Kirsty, Jessica and others about the campaign:
"When I heard the news about the new legislation, it sparked something in me. While I consider myself recovered from my eating disorder, it made me worry about my mental health and if it would influence how I act at a restaurant.
"I've done so much work to get to a better place, and this feels like it's stopping me from just going out and enjoying my experience at a restaurant. For those currently struggling with eating disorders, seeing calories on menus could hinder their ongoing recovery process.
"When someone with an eating disorder is in recovery, we're trying to learn that food is more than numbers; it's about nutrition and the benefits to your body. Having that calorie-free menu option would support and help our service users who are recovering."
- Kirsty Stapledon, 22, Peer Support Worker
"Seeing calories displayed on menus can be a huge challenge for people with experience of eating disorders. As someone who has recovered from an eating disorder, I have found it especially challenging having that number seemingly thrown in my face when trying to enjoy a meal out with loved ones. To me, it feels like a reminder of all the times I obsessed over calorie-counting and could not sit and enjoy a meal without guilt and shame afterwards.
"Lucky for me, I am now better able to deal with these triggers, but I know for many it is a great barrier to their recovery. It takes away from what going out for a meal should be: enjoying ourselves and spending time with loved ones.”
- Jessica Sharman, Peer Support Worker
“When we go for meals, it should be a treat and a nice thing to do as a family, but having calories on menus adds anxiety to what should be a pleasant outing.
“When there are calories on menus, I can see how difficult it is for my daughter who is struggling with an eating disorder. If we had that option to request calorie-free menus ahead of time, it would take away so much stress and help us to normalise eating out and once again make it an enjoyable experience.”
- Parent (Anonymous), Inpatient Mental Health Services
Are you a restaurant or café in Birmingham or the surrounding area and want to get involved?
You can contact our team on email@example.com to find out more, get involved in our #EWOCC campaign and be featured on our website.
Keep an eye on Twitter for updates using the hashtag #EWOCC.
Advice and support
The SEDS team offer tips for managing if no calorie-free menus are available:
If you're looking for more support, our partner, Beats, has put together guidance to help with dining out now the new laws have come into effect.
For more information and advice on how to stop calorie counting’ click below: