PACE Food Labelling
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PACE Food Labelling

Recently a report was published that stated that people would eat on average 200 calories less each day if foods were labelled with Physical Activity Calorie Expenditure (PACE), ie adding information to food labels showing how long it would take to walk or run off!While initially the idea of PACE is an interesting concept there are some issues to address.

This type of food labelling could be extremely problematic for those with disordered eating or diagnosed eating disorders as it gives the idea that food should be earned or burnt off. Even when we do nothing (sleep, sit etc) we’re still burning calories.

We all burn calories at different rates because of our age, gender, size, muscle mass so the information provided wouldn’t necessarily be accurate for the majority of the population. Exercise should be a way to boost your health in the long term and if you find a way to exercise that you find enjoyable, then you’re likely to WANT to do it.

Exercising because you ate some biscuits is giving the wrong message about exercise and turning it into a punishment for eating something ‘bad’.

PACE gives the message that food is simply calories, but we know that 200 calories worth of vegetables provides much more in the way of fibre and nutrients than even 100 calories of biscuits. BUT that’s not to say that you shouldn’t have biscuits occasionally, it’s just we should eat them less often than we eat vegetables.

There are fitness communities that already exist that have adopted a similar ethos to food as PACE and it’s called IIFYM – If If Fits Your Macros or If It Fits Your Mouth as others refer to it. Adding justification to a meal of junk food that they can eat it because they did a run that day (for example) and the reward was a burger and chips.

Not all calories are equal and a diet high in saturated fat and free sugars found in processed/junk foods will not promote the improved benefits to health that exercise can bring. You don’t need to burn off or earn something like a pizza, but if it’s included in a healthy and balanced diet during the rest of the week then why not simply enjoy it?

We all know that you can’t out run a bad diet, but you can’t eat junk food and sugary foods and expect your exercise to ‘handle it’. The body doesn’t work that way. I really dislike the idea of foods being guilt-free, good & bad and now earned as a reward. This does nothing to improve our relationship with food.

There needs to be more education around food and this seems to be the Mary Whitehouse approach – rewarding people with treats and tidbits for going walkies.