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The Dangers of Change4Life's 100-Calorie Snack Campaign

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I was incredibly shocked when I saw the Change4Life campaign advertising children to only have two 100-calorie snacks a day. I never thought a healthcare campaign would promoting children restricting their diet.

I was a child when I developed a voice in my head telling me I was too fat or underserving of food. I was a child when I became fixated on calories. My childhood and my entire adolescence was taken from me as I developed anorexia, an eating disorder.

I was the target audience for this advert. I was the child who ate chocolate and snacked after school, but most importantly I was free when I was little. However as I grew older I developed anorexia while society focused on cutting certain foods out of your diet, just like this advert recommends. My eating disorder went unnoticed until it was too late and I was left in a hospital bed dying.

Why doesn’t the government focus on helping children listen to hunger queues and learn to take care and be comfortable in their bodies and their emotions. Some bananas are more than 100 calories, so is my little cousin not allowed to eat bananas now? Children are growing and need extra fuel to grow, flourish and succeed. It is often the case that children gain a bit of extra weight and then have a growth spurt where it balances out. Children need fuel so they can run around the playground and study well in school.

If my child told me they were hungry but had already had their “two 100-calorie snacks,” I would give them food. Because promoting dietary restriction is something I would never encourage for a child. I hope I never find my child reading the back of calorie packets or telling me they can’t eat their birthday cake because it’s too high in calorie content.

I lost my childhood to anorexia, an illness that almost killed me. Children are susceptible to developing eating disorders, and these advertisements are only influencing that. Children are filled with curiosity, and after seeing this advert many children will be asking their parents what a calorie is and they may start feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. Why don’t we try teaching children to love themselves and treat their bodies well rather than to count calories?

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Originally published: January 13, 2018
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