A new reality show in the U.K. is facing backlash over its “triggering” fitness-focused premise.
The BBC program, called “The Restaurant that Burns Off Calories,” debuted on April 20 and instantly received criticism from personal trainers and eating disorder awareness organizations, which took issue with the show’s approach to weight loss.
Centered around what the channel calls a “restaurant with a difference,” the show features 20 unsuspecting diners who are invited to a free lunch at a seemingly “normal” restaurant. However, after the contestants start eating, it’s revealed that there’s actually a gym in the back of the restaurant where a “group of fitness fanatics” are working to burn off every calorie the diners consume.
“Will the knowledge [of the gym] change [the diners’] behavior, as the research suggests, or leave a nasty taste in the mouth?” the show’s description reads.
“We know that the myth that all calories eaten must be canceled out through exercise has the potential to be devastating to those suffering from or vulnerable to eating disorders,” Caroline Price, Beat’s director of services, told Insider in a statement. “Being told how much activity it would take to burn off particular foods risks triggering the illness further.”
Meanwhile, the personal trainer and fitness author told Insider that she believes the show promotes “disordered eating,” specifically criticizing the participation of a medical expert, Dr. Zoe Williams.
“It can be extremely triggering for those people who’ve had strong disordered eating thoughts, if not eating disorders,” Price said. “And when you have a doctor adding their name to a show and validating what are harmful practices, I think it goes against the oath that doctors make of doing no harm.”
The BBC has also issued a statement responding to the controversy, standing by the program, which it says “never endorses or suggests” consuming less than doctor-recommended calorie intakes.
“The intention of the program was to give viewers information about the latest research into the science of calories, about why our bodies need them and how our bodies use them,” the statement reads.
“In particular, it looked at recent studies by academics in both the U.S. and the U.K., which suggest that diners may make healthier choices when presented with information about how much activity is required to burn off the calorie content of dishes.”
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