Green Light for Fat-Shaming

[Content note: fat hatred, food policing, mention of ED and disordered eating.]

Welp, this sounds like a wonderful idea not at all likely to promote fat-shaming! Via CBC: "Traffic light food labels promote healthy, lasting choices: Putting red, yellow and green labels on foods could help reduce obesity, U.S. researchers say."

Traffic light food labels! How awesome is that? Well, according to the researchers, it is somehow totes awesome! (I am less sure of that!)

The labels modelled after a traffic light break down the choices this way:

Green: fruits, Vegetables and lean sources of protein.

Yellow: Less nutritious foods.

Red: Foods with little or no nutritive value, and high fat or caloric content.

...In Tuesday's issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers in Boston say they found the proportion of sales of red items decreased from 24 per cent at the start of the study to 20 per cent after 24 months.

What's more, green sales increased from 41 per cent to 46 per cent after two years.

"These results suggest that simple food environment interventions can play a major role in public health policies to reduce obesity," Dr. Anne Thorndike of Massachusetts General Hospital and her co-authors said.

Hmmm. 4% and 5% over two years don't sound all that dramatic to me. I'm also wondering about their control groups. Were there any? What happened in cafeterias that didn't use the labeling? And more importantly: what evidence is there that these changes in sales actually helped anybody's health?

Maybe next time they need to hire a Food Traffic Police Officer for their nifty study! "STOP right there, fatty! You'd better GO over to the GREEN labels!" *whistle* "Come on forward, thin person, you can probably handle the complexities of YELLOW!"

Or maybe they can just rely on the fat shaming, both internal and external, that goes on when one is Eating While Fat. Because that shit is super, duper, HEALTHY. And we definitely need more of it! Maybe by using big, obvious, glaring food labels! Sure.

Look, I appreciate having lots of information about foods. I would like to see more informative labels, especially in cafeterias! Better designed! Non-judgemental! Easy to read! But I don't appreciate the pre-packaged assumptions about what is healthy or unhealthy, based on the food's alleged connection to fatness alone.

For example, dietary fibre information is apparently not addressed in this study (although aren't fatties supposed to eat lots of it? Tsk.) But it's a nutrient for some people, a health hazard for others. Normally, I try to eat 5 or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day; I also seek out higher-fibre grain choices. But sometimes IBS and endometriosis pair up to turn my "innards" into "outards," ahem. At those times, fibre is definitely not a healthy choice for me, so I avoid it. And I might need more calorie-dense foods at that time than I usually eat, since it's hard for my body to absorb any nutrition at all.

None of that, not a bit, is covered in a study that apparently frames acceptable vs. non-acceptable foods solely in terms of their alleged links to my body's weight. Nor the concerns of people with food allergies, who may be forced to pick pre-packaged "red" items because of contamination concerns.

And certainly, in the case of those recovering from eating disorders or disorderd eating, the red light/green light dichotomy can be actively harmful. Labeling food "good" or "bad" based on calories is not exactly conducive to promoting healthier thought patterns about eating.

And the list could go on.

But it's all about health, right? Which means ignoring everything that could possibly go wrong with this approach, and the active harm it engenders. Because that sounds completely and totally healthy. Sure.

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