If you ride the New York subway, you may have noticed a poster like this:
The goal of the campaign? Pretty obvious: to make people aware of how many calories are in their food.
Not merely content with posting calorie counts in chain restaurants, NYC has begun a new campaign to tell people how many calories they're supposed to eat each day, and how all of their "unhealthy" food choices are going to fit in (or not).
Craving a burrito with sour cream and guacamole? What if you knew it had more than half the calories you should eat in a day?
No, you'll still crave the burrito. You'll just feel guilty.
The Health Department says that the average American should eat no more than 2000 calories per day. They, of course qualified it by saying
"The 2,000-calorie figure is an average. Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations vary by age, gender and level of activity. Men can consume more calories than women without gaining weight, and 20-year-olds more than 60-year-olds."
So if all of these "little changes" in our diets are so important, then why are you giving us a number that could be off by some of these "little changes"? Two thousand calories per day is a blunt average, and most people don't need 2,000 calories per day. They need a little more, a little less. But when you're splitting hairs over a bran muffin, maybe you should get a better idea of what the "average" adult needs.
I read this, and I felt guilty. Why? I eat more than 2000 calories each day. I realize that my history of anorexia doesn't make me the "average" American, but my knee-jerk instinct was that I was doing something wrong by fueling my body properly. It's that never-ending drone of no...no...no...too much that our culture can't seem to get enough of.
Will these ads change people's food choices? Probably. I feel self-conscious enough when ordering food, let alone having the whole freaking world know exactly how much I'm eating. Would they guy behind the counter care? Probably not. Would I be aware of this? Most likely. Would I worry about it anyway? Yep.
I wouldn't want to order something high calorie, because I would be afraid of people looking down at me. Thinking I'm "weak" and extolling their own virtue for ordering low fat and sugar free. Or feeling guilty that I'm not ordering the lowest calorie item on the menu. I'd like to say that I'd go in and order whatever the hell I liked, thank you very much, but I know I probably wouldn't. I would stand in front of the register, quaking in fear, thinking, "I didn't order too much, did I?"
People aren't going to go to a restaurant and think, "Gee, what do I feel like having?" No. They're going to think, "How many calories do I have left to spend today?"
It's not like accounting, a neat sequence of credits and debits, plusses and minuses. Someone forgot to give the Big Guy in the Sky that notice, because your body counts calories much different than a calculator. Besides, we know how well our governments can manage finances- do you really want them managing your calories in the same way?
These signs have simply driven home the point:
Eating is a sin, thinness a virtue, and dieting a chastity belt. And eating disordered behaviors come with a health department seal of approval.
(I just read that the NYC Health Department is going to be starting a BLOG about CALORIE COUNTING. Which is really like anorexia boot camp, if you ask me. Needless to say, I won't be reading...)