BBC Two’s new TV series The Restaurant that Burns Off Calories has sparked a fierce backlash among viewers and from leading eating disorder charity Beat.
Co-presented by First Dates maître d’ Fred Sirieix and This Morning’s Zoe Williams, the show is set in a restaurant with a hidden gym, where “fitness fanatics” must burn off all the calories consumed by 20 unsuspecting diners.
Sirieix and Williams also attempt to debunk the science behind calories, before examining why a large proportion of the UK population is reportedly overweight.
However, many viewers took to social media on Monday during episode one to accuse the programme of triggering disordered eating habits and encouraging an unhealthy attitude towards food.
“For every 99.9% of great, innovative and informative programming the BBC airs across its platforms, there’s 0.01% that shows disgraceful editorial judgement,” said journalist Sophie Morris.
“We recommend you don’t watch BBC2 The Restaurant that Burns Off Calories,” eating disorder charity Beat tweeted on Monday, before posting a series of tweets revealing that their helpline had been inundated with calls from sufferers who had found the programme difficult viewing.
Food writer and former Bake Off contestant Ruby Tandoh self-published an article about the programme, criticising the series as “actively harmful” and stressing that the show’s messaging could prove even more harmful during the country’s current lockdown.
Tweeting last night, she wrote, “This is an appalling show premise at the best of times, let alone right now. people struggle SO much with their relationships with food – this will only worsen that anxiety. reducing food to calories is unhelpful, joyless and leans into disordered eating.”
Presenter Sirieix retweeted her comment, adding that he “[couldn’t] wait” to receive her “apology tweet later on,” to which Tandoh criticised him for framing her “as an angry unreasonable woman”.
The BBC has since issued a statement responding to the criticism, which states the programme “never endorses or suggests” restricting calories below levels recommended by the government:
“The intention of the programme 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. In particular, it looked at recent studies by academics in both the US and the UK, 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.
The voiceover is clear throughout that there are government guidelines for the recommended number of calories needed for the average man or woman to remain healthy (2500 for men and 2000 for women). The programme never endorses or suggests restricting calories below these levels.”
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