Dr Hilary Jones criticised for 'harmful' claim about people with eating disorders

·Lifestyle Writer, Yahoo Life UK
·5 min read

Watch: Dr Hilary Jones makes claim about people with eating disorders

Dr Hilary Jones has been called out for his claim that 'people with the most serious eating disorders don't go to restaurants' as he explained why he supports calories being put on menus.

As of Wednesday, new rules requiring calorie information to be displayed on menus and food labels will be enforced in a bid to help improve the nation’s health and tackle obesity levels, according to the government.

However, the move has caused concern that this will be triggering and problematic for people living with eating disorders.

Speaking on Lorraine on Wednesday morning, Dr Jones, who also works as general practitioner, shared his thoughts on the new legislation with stand-in host Ranvir Singh.

Dr Hilary Jones on the red carpet at The Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, in partnership with TSB, at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Dr Hilary Jones' claim about people living with eating disorders has been labelled 'harmful' and 'disgusting'. (LightRocket via Getty Images)

"If you're torn between which you're going to have, why not go for the healthier option," he said in reference to choosing between meals with different calories.

"So I think it is useful. Of course, the whole thing's being criticised by people saying 'well people with eating disorders might be encouraged to...'

Singh then jumped in with, "It's triggering for some people isn't it, that's the word they used."

Dr Jones added, "People with the most serious eating disorders, anorexia, don't go to restaurants and they know exactly how many calories are in everything. So I don't think that's a problem."

He claimed "67% of the adult population are either overweight or obese", adding, "They need assistance in choosing healthier foods. The eating disorders, we're talking about less than 1% of the population. So, I think by and large you're going to help more people."

Read more: Eating disorders need to be seen as an emergency, says campaigner Hope Virgo

Viewers have since taken to social media to express their shock over his comments. "This is a disgusting and harmful thing to say," wrote one. "How dare he say this, this is so damaging! People with anorexia are allowed out and are allowed to recover."

Another said, "My recovering anorexic daughter wants to go to restaurants. She wants to be 'normal' to push herself towards recovery. We as a family want to go to restaurants. Your ignorance on this matter is apparent."

While another wrote, "Did Dr Hilary just state that people with anorexia don't go to restaurants? Does he realise that people with anorexia do go to restaurants because anorexia isn't just people on NG feeds [nasogastric feeding tubes] in hospital? * cries in mental health advocacy tears *."

Eating disorder charity BEAT shared its response to Dr Jones's comments within the Twitter threads. "We're shocked that someone with a medical background would display such ignorance about eating disorders on such a public platform," a spokesperson said.

"A lack of understanding can be a huge factor in people with ED's not getting the help they need."

Read more: NHS mental health referrals reached a record high in 2021

Watch: Hope Virgo launches new #ChangeTheStory campaign to tackle eating disorders

The new calorie labelling rules means it is compulsory for businesses like cafes, restaurants and takeaways with more than 250 employees to display calorie information of non-prepackaged food and soft drinks.

Calorie information will legally have to be displayed on menus, online menus, third party apps, food delivery platforms and food labels (with some exemptions) at the point a customer is making their food and drink choices. Menus and labels will also need to include daily recommended calorie needs.

Public health minister Maggie Throup said, "It is crucial that we all have access to the information we need to maintain a healthier weight, and this starts with knowing how calorific our food is. We are used to knowing this when we are shopping in the supermarket, but this isn’t the case when we eat out or get a take-away.

"As part of our efforts to tackle disparities and level up the nation’s health, these measures are an important building block to making it as easy as possible for people to make healthier food choices."

Read more: Stacey Dooley urges mental health discussion and shares coping strategies

In a statement shared on social media about the launch, Beat said, "We’re extremely disappointed that the government is making calories on menus mandatory in England from 6 April. We know it causes anxiety for people affected by eating disorders. We know it can increase fixations on restricting calories for anyone with anorexia or bulimia.

"We know it can increase feelings of guilt for anyone with binge eating disorder. And there’s very limited evidence that the legislation will improve our eating habits. On multiple occasions, we called on the government to reconsider the impact this legislation will have on people with eating disorders.

"And we’ve asked them to take an evidence-based approach when creating health policies – which include consulting with eating disorder clinicians and experts by experience."

If you’re struggling to cope with the introduction of calories on menus, you can read Beat's guide on dining out. Or, you can reach out for support 365 days a year from 9am–midnight during the week, and 4pm–midnight on weekends and bank holidays, via its helplines. You can also find support from its online support groups, web chat or by emailing help@beateatingdisorders.org.uk.

If you are in need of urgent help outside of opening hours contact 999 or the Samaritans on 116 123 if you or someone else is in immediate danger.

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