Beyond the numbers

This presentation is for the general public, health professionals, researchers, caregivers.

Policies intended to promote “healthy” body weights have the potential to trigger or negatively impact disordered eating. In Ontario, the Healthy Menu Choices Act mandates that all food-service vendors with 20 or more locations display the number of calories in each food and drink item.

Despite concern regarding unintended effects, little is known about how individuals at risk for or with eating disorders experience calorie labelling. We conducted qualitative interviews and assessed risk of eating disorders among a sample of young adults who had been exposed to a calorie labelling intervention. The analysis reveals young adults’ lived experiences of calorie labelling, including how they feel about, perceive, and experience calorie labelling, and suggests that these attitudes, perceptions, and experiences differ between those with and without disordered eating thoughts and/or behaviours. The findings have implications in terms of considering unintended consequences of well-meaning public health policies.

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