WHY EXERCISE FOOD LABELS ARE NOT THE ANSWER
Today (11th December) Researchers at Loughborough University have suggested that food packs should be labelled with the amount of exercise a person would need to take to burn off the calories contained in the food product. After looking at 14 studies, researchers believe that about 200 calories could be cut from a person’s average daily calorie intake.
There are certainly benefits of being aware of both the energy we are consuming (through eating) and the energy we are expending (through day to day living and exercising.) In very simple terms, if you are consuming more energy (from food and drink) than you are expending (from day to day living and exercising) you will put on weight, and vice versa.
It is the case that we can be unaware of the nutrient and calorie density of food, and for that reason there is benefits in knowing the calories and macronutrient breakdown of foods (within reason). In addition, stress, lack of sleep, patterns of non-optimal eating can cause our hormones, habits and hunger signals to be out of whack. Working out what we are eating in terms of calories and what we are burning is a useful exercise to get this back in check. Exercise labelling is not the answer.
Firstly, whilst the researchers have said that such labelling will likely lead to people indulging less, from our experience such labelling is likely to lead to the opposite as it will cause people to be over restrictive and pushed into unsustainable diets, which will then inevitably lead to binge eating, guilt and deprivation cycles.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly for us, is that such labelling characterises exercise and movement as some kind of punishment for eating. Movement and exercise are amongst the greatest free pleasures in life, and we should be thankful every day that we are able and well enough to move and exercise.
Food and exercise should not be seen as quid pro quos, but should be celebrated and enjoyed in a balanced and sustainable way.