Ocado, the online supermarket, recently had a suggestion for me. I was about to pay for my weekly shopping when a suggestion appeared on the website page.
"Exchange the products below and you can save 1,216 calories," it promised, suggesting that I replace regular coconut milk with a version with less fat.
It was not the only "handy" tip. I would have to run a little more than two hours, or walk more than six hours to burn the calories that I would consume if I kept my original choice, I was reliably informed.
EVE SIMMONS: Ocado, the online supermarket (photo, stock image), recently had a suggestion for me. I was about to pay for my weekly shopping when a suggestion appeared on the website page
I hesitated for a moment before purchasing the full version. Because I don't care how many calories are in my coconut milk. I am healthy.
I don't want to cut or lose calories.
And even if I did, who wants to say that I want Ocado to punish me while I buy ingredients to make a Thai green curry?
DO WE REALLY NEED THIS PATRONIZING MEMORIES?
Okay, I'm sure some people will find the Calorie Saver tool from Ocado, which was launched in 2016, but which I have been mercifully saved until last week, useful. But am I the only one who finds the whole thing completely patronizing?
Of course Ocado is not unique. It is almost impossible to walk through the main street without seeing anything that suggests that we are all too fat and need to eat less. Wetherspoons, Pizza Express, Nandos and Wagamama now display calorie counts on their menus.
In May, the government announced that this scheme would be extended to smaller local restaurants and popular takeaways. Pret a Manger has jumped on the low-calorie trend and promotes 250-calorie soup-like, low-blood eggs and spiral-cooked vegetables as a "nutritious and healthy" lunch.
"Exchange the products below and you can save 1,216 calories," it promised, suggesting that I replace regular coconut milk with a version with less fat (pictured, the calorie counter)
For adults with a healthy weight, Public Health England recommends that we consume around 400 calories at breakfast and 600 at lunch and dinner.
This leaves around 400 to 500 for snacks and drinks throughout the day, making that 250-cal soup painfully inadequate as a meal.
And the justification for all this calorie nannying? It is often suggested that part of the reason for our & # 39; national obesity crisis & # 39; is that people tend to underestimate how much they eat.
There is no denying that overeating – often without completely wanting it – can mean that the weight is rising.
But do low-calorie suggestions help? You would think that, given that they are now rammed down our throat daily, the evidence that they did so would be clad in iron. But what do you know, that's not it.
IF IT LOWS, WE EAT MORE
A recent study by researchers at Cambridge University, in which 28 studies were collected, concluded that calorie labeling reduces consumption by an average of eight percent.
That's about 48 calories per meal – hardly a huge saving if you think a typical piece of Hovis is about 90 calories.
There is no denying that overeating – often without completely wanting it – can mean that the weight is rising. But do low-calorie suggestions help? (stock image)
And for those affected by low-calorie alternatives, weight loss doesn't have to be the result. Researchers have consistently shown that when products are labeled "low-fat" or "healthy," we eat about 23 percent more – which negates calorie savings.
An audit from 2014 revealed that this is supposedly & # 39; healthy & # 39; options can contain up to four times more sugar than the regular alternative, making us susceptible to hungry pangs.
According to dietitian Frankie Phillips, focusing on calories is a "blunt" tool when it comes to healthy eating.
"Calorie content is only a small part of a healthy diet," she says. "For most people who have to lose weight, it's not just about calories, but also about eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising more and learning to cook.
"There are also many foods that contain many calories, but also many vital, healthy nutrients that many people lack, such as avocados or nuts. Just by concentrating on one part of your diet, nobody gets healthier. & # 39;
A typical piece of Hovis is about 90 calories (pictured, stock image of bread)
Another reality: around 1.3 million Britons older than 65 are actually underweight.
It is for this reason that Lesley Carter, head of the Malnutrition Taskforce at Age UK, advises this part of the population to get as many calories as possible & # 39 ;.
"Full-fat products are a great way to increase intake without adding volume," she says.
"We see many older people supplying their fridge with low-fat products and thinking that they are healthy, but in fact these products are the exact opposite of what they need to gain strength."
SCRAP THIS CHILD DIET APP
Thousands of health workers have resisted a new weight loss app for children, created by the diet company WeightWatchers.
More than 80,000 people have signed a petition calling for the £ 57 per month app – which teaches eight to 17 year olds to stop and think before eating certain foods. I am a proud signatory – because there is no evidence that it makes children healthier.
Research published in The Lancet magazine shows that childhood obesity has decreased, although the percentages in disadvantaged areas are still rising.
The only arrangements that have reversed the obesity rates among children were investments in schools, care institutions and the local environment in difficult areas.
The & # 39; s programs in Amsterdam and Leeds followed a city-wide approach: healthy eating lessons at schools, safer cycling routes, subsidies for sports clubs and a reduction in sugar, salt and fat in many supermarket products.
In Amsterdam, childhood obesity declined by eight percent in three years, and in Leeds by six percent in six years.
Smartphone apps can offer a solution to many of the problems of life, but childhood obesity is not one of them.
WEBSITES CANNOT COUNT BURNED CALORIES
And what about the Ocado smart counter that calculates the extra hours needed on the treadmill?
"The numbers are very inaccurate," says Phillips.
"Burned calories depend on a variety of factors, including metabolism, BMI, height, and how fit a person is.
"The figure for a small woman will differ drastically from that of a large man because more energy is needed to move a larger body weight mass."
One size does not fit with everything that concerns losing weight. "Algorithms make assumptions that do not suit individuals," says biomedical researcher Anna Shcherbina, who has studied the accuracy of fitness tracker watches and apps.
"Energy consumption is variable based on a person's fitness level, height and weight, among other things."
As a former anorexia, I can tell you the total calories of most shopping baskets in less than a minute.
But luckily, after years of intense therapy, I now have the mental determination to ignore dietary messages that don't apply to me.
For about & million million Britons with eating disorders, this kind of & # 39; useful & # 39; advice is harmful – concerns about food that & # 39; bad & # 39; for us, aggravate by making us fat.
"People who are anxious about food, or who are recovering from eating disorders, should blind themselves to these types of messages because it reinforces the condition," says professor Janet Treasure, psychiatrist consultant and chief research eating disorder at King's College London. "These counters are not useful."
So although I appreciate the tips, I think I'll keep all the calories in my shopping basket, thanks.
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