“I’m recovering from anorexia – calories on menus are a disaster for people like me”


Rachel Egan, 30, from South London, has been recovering from anorexia since she first developed an eating disorder at the age of 15. Now she has criticized the government’s policy of putting calories on chain restaurant menus

Rachel Egan
Rachel says having calories on menus is an uncomfortable experience

A woman recovering from anorexia has criticized “harmful” government policies forcing restaurant chains to put calories on menus.

South London’s Rachel Egan said the directive will prolong recovery for people with eating disorders and could make people feel “guilty and ashamed” about going out to eat.

The 30-year-old, who works in communications and campaigns for mental health, said the directive made her “full of fear” when she went out to dinner with her boyfriend a few nights ago.

She told The Mirror: “I already had an idea of ​​what I wanted to eat because it was me [to that restaurant] In front. The last time was about three months ago, but back then calories were not on the menu.”

Rachel, who says she tries to eat new things when she visits restaurants as part of her ongoing recovery, said she and her sister chose something she wouldn’t normally order.

Rachel first suffered from an eating disorder when she was 15


Rachel Egan)

She opposes the government’s policy of putting calories on menus


Rachel Egan)

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But when she returned to the restaurant with her boyfriend and saw the calories on the menu, she immediately started evaluating them.

“That’s what an eating disorder brain notices,” Rachel explained. “You start looking for the ‘safest’ option.”

In the end, Rachel picked a meal that she liked the sound of — but only ate half of it as she was aware of the calorie content of each bite.

“I skipped a juice because the soft drinks also contained calories. A juice has more calories than a Diet Coke,” she said.

Rachel’s battle with an eating disorder dates back to when she was 15 and started extreme calorie counting.

“I first noticed that there was a problem shortly after the mandatory calorie labeling and traffic light system in supermarkets went into effect,” she said.

Rachel added that she doesn’t believe the system is the only reason her eating disorder manifested.

She explained, “I also recently had a family bereavement and I have a family history of eating disorders.”

Over time, Rachel became more and more obsessed with counting calories, which developed into anorexia.

At that time she was still a young teenager, her body was quickly malnourished.

“I got very sick and ended up in the emergency room. There were concerns about the blood flow to my heart and brain.

“I had low blood pressure, which can affect the brain as not enough blood gets there.”

As Rachel’s body weakened, she also suffered from joint problems.

“It made walking painful. When I was at school and we wrote everything by hand, it was difficult.

“I was very unwell and very malnourished.”

She is concerned about how the legislation will affect people in recovery


Rachel Egan)

Adding to the physical effects of anorexia, Rachel’s mental health was at an all-time low.

“I always say an eating disorder sucks your life out. It’s like the color has disappeared from my life,” she recalled.

“I was super anxious all the time, thinking about what to eat and when to eat. These thoughts just circle in your head.”

Rachel added she’s depressed and feels isolated from her friends because a lot of a teen’s social life revolves around food — like going to the movies and ordering a bucket of popcorn.

“A lot of teenagers do this, but I struggled to be a part of it,” she said.

After her trip to A&E, Rachel said she realized she didn’t want to die from the disease and embarked on a long road to recovery.

She was introduced to psychiatric services and began psychotherapy. She also got a nutritionist to help with things like meal planning.

“It’s been 15 years and I’m still working on it,” she explained. “I’ve definitely had some highs and there have been times when I’ve been really good physically and mentally.

“But anorexia is a disease that unfortunately can come back, and it did for me.”

She added waiting lists for people in need of eating disorder recovery support are sky-high, and demand has also increased since the pandemic began.

In December 2020, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health warned of a huge increase in cases of anorexia nervosa in children compared to the previous year.

Some pediatricians have claimed they have quadrupled cases as they urge parents to watch their children for signs of eating disorders.

With that in mind, Rachel decided to pay for private treatment to help her recover – which she says is going well.

But for others who need support, she argued the government’s initiative to force restaurants to put calories on their menu will stall their recovery.

“I don’t think there is anyone who could benefit from this policy,” she said.

“It should be withdrawn immediately. The government has already been warned about this. It’s going to be super damaging.”

She added: “Part of treating eating disorders is going out to eat not knowing exactly what’s in your meal.

“It’s about getting used to the idea that it’s okay not to know everything.

“It’s getting even harder to eat out than it already is. It will make these treatment challenges worse and can lead to anxiety.”

Rachel also pointed out that when calories are on the menu at a restaurant, it will no doubt spark conversations around the table about calorie counts, which can be incredibly triggering for people who suffer from an eating disorder.

“We try to minimize exposure to these conversations, but when you’re in a large group and you’re the only person with an eating disorder, it’s not easy to ask everyone to stop talking about it,” explained she.

“We have only just emerged from the pandemic and there is a tremendous increase in the number of people with eating disorders combined with chronic underfunding.

“Now the government has put that on top of that.”

The Department of Health and Social Care has been asked for comment.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and need support, you can contact them hit the hotline which is open 365 days a year

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