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.
I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic & everything, but The Restaurant That Burns Off Calories is a terrible concept which shouldn’t be on tv. It’s v triggering and essentially could be perceived as encouraging eating disorders. I’m very surprised it got commissioned.
— Bethan Gorman (@Mrs_Gorman) April 20, 2020
“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.
The benefit of leaving the BBC is that I can tweet this. 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. Exhibit A: https://t.co/udOh8nmBPH
— Sophie Morris (@itssophiemorris) April 20, 2020
“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.
We recommend you don’t watch BBC2 The Restaurant that Burns Off Calories
Join our online support group ‘The Sanctuary’ instead – open until 11pm tonight for anyone affected by #eatingdisorders
Join our Ambassador Emily now for support ????
— Beat (@beatED) April 20, 2020
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”.
i absolutely knew that i'd be framed as an angry unreasonable woman for this. i policed my tone soooo carefully when writing this reply and yet! every single time. https://t.co/BpR0PRRuA7
— Ruby Tandoh (@rubytandoh) April 20, 2020
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.”
If you’re looking for more to watch check out our TV Guide.