Wednesday 19 May 2010

Have you seen the calories in that Pret sandwich!?

By Guest Editor Melanie Flower, Nutritional Therapist at Natural Healthcare 

A little while ago I noticed that the sandwich shop Prêt a Manger had started printing calorie information next to the price labels on all of their food.  My first thoughts were that this was a bit naff, and made it feel more like a supermarket than a café, but then I realised something more disturbing.  Giving this information will undoubtedly stop people from eating what they really want to eat.  It even happened to me (briefly) – I noticed that the cheese and pickle baguette I was going to choose was a whopping 779 kcals!  All the others on display were at least 400 kcals less than this.  I was momentarily horrified.  And then I remembered, none of this matters.  I tuned in, checked that I really did want the cheese baguette, and bought it and enjoyed it.
I am a Nutritional Therapist and I should, and do, know better.  I have never chosen my food on the basis of how many calories it contains and yet still, when confronted with this information, it can be very difficult not to question whether you should be eating it or not.
I then started to feel a bit sad for all the people who would stop eating what they usually had in Prêt because it was ‘fattening’, ‘naughty’, ‘bad’ or ‘forbidden’.  What would they do?  They’d most likely feel compelled to choose the food with the lowest numbers on the label, and end up feeling dissatisfied, with their bodies yearning for more later that afternoon.  Or they’d treat themselves, or ‘give in’ and eat the high calorie food they really like, and spend the rest of the day feeling guilty and disappointed in themselves.
My clients often tell me that they used to eat ‘x’ food but have stopped because they found out that it was very calorific or fattening.  And I ask them, ‘when you stopped eating this food did you lose weight?’, the answer is invariably ‘no’.  Cutting out foods you really like usually makes no difference to your weight; well it might do if you were able to cut them out totally forever, but that’s not really possible and restricting your intake can lead to bingeing and overeating so you may end up eating more.  Or sometimes as soon as you start to avoid one kind of ‘bad’ food, another one will come along straight away to fill the void.
So why not eat whatever you like?  And try not to pay attention to the ridiculous nutritional information we are confronted with; choose your food on the basis of what you fancy eating, rather than on what the numbers say.  You can’t cheat your body – if you don’t give it what it wants, it will just ask for more, and more, and more….

My name is Melanie Flower, and I am a Nutritional Therapist and Kinesiologist.  Through my work I help people with health problems to get better by using foods and nutrients that support and heal the body, and kinesiology techniques to unblock energy meridians.  Using the Beyond Chocolate approach means that my clients don’t leave their sessions with long lists of foods they need to cut out, and a strict regime to follow, but rather with a greater awareness of how their eating habits are affecting them, and unique advice that helps them to start feeling healthier. Find out more about Melanie at

Melanie came on the Beyond Chocolate Professional Training course. Read more about the new workbook for professionals: The Professional's Guide to Treating Overeating.

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