Well, it’s about time a company did something controversial that annoyed people, isn’t it? It’s been a while since I’ve had something OTHER than a pandemic to write about. So, cheers, BBC.
BBC Two recently aired a new TV show, which you might’ve heard of, but probably haven’t because I hadn’t a clue it was a thing, either. It’s called ‘The Restaurant that Burns Off Calories’. How Intriguing! How can a restaurant burn off calories? Gee, I wonder. Let’s watch!
In case you couldn’t be bothered to click the link and watch a minute long video (I have an attention span of like 8 seconds so I wouldn’t blame you), here’s a lil summary:
Basically, people go into this fancy restaurant and order what they want to eat (no, I don’t know if they have to pay). Fred from First Dates is there, too, presumably to make the restaurant seem even fancier and to encourage people to actually watch the show. The diners then eat their food (spoiler alert) and then at some point a big reveal comes that there’s a room full of people behind them working out. No, that doesn’t sound uncomfortable at all. And that the exercisers are burning off every calorie that the diners consume.
So, if someone orders a burger that’s like 2,000 calories, some poor man has to run on a treadmill until he burns 2,000 calories to ‘make a point’. They pretty much want to make the diners (and viewers) more aware of the calorie-cost of food and to make more sensible, healthy eating choices.
So, what’s the problem with it? Apart from the fact that because the diners don’t actually have to exercise or burn the calories themselves, it doesn’t really show them the calorie cost of food, it more shows the exercisers ? Like, why are they being punished because someone ordered an extra portion of chips ?
But no, not that. SHOCKINGLY, people picked up on the fact that it’s basically promoting that for every calorie you consume, you should burn it off. Which isn’t okay, or true. It’s pretty much saying, “if you want a pizza, TOUGH LUCK babe, you’ve to run 5k to compensate”. And that is HELLA dangerous for obvious reasons.
Last December, there was talk of introducing some new labelling thing where food products print how much exercise you’d need to do to burn it off on the packaging. There was, as expected, a lot of backlash from people and eating disorder charities saying that this was a dangerous idea, especially to people who are vulnerable to eating disorders.
Sound familiar? Maybe you read about it in the news. Because BBC WROTE ABOUT IT. They even included quotes from someone at Beat, an eating disorder charity, explaining how and why this could be dangerous for some people. The same charity who have come out and said how ‘The Restaurant that Burns Off Calories’ is problematic for the exact same reason and their services have been in “high demand” ever since it aired. Like ??? Did they even read their own article ??
Now, I get what the BBC was trying to do with this show. Like, everyone knows that obesity is a big problem these days, and people do eat more than they need without really thinking about the health implications or nutritional value. But, they also need to consider the impact it has on other people.
Being realistic, if someone never gave two thoughts to ordering an extra large 4-cheese pizza or the calories in it, printing that they’d need to run to Spain probably wouldn’t make them stop. They mightn’t even take notice. And they mightn’t even watch this show.
On the other hand, someone who has or currently is experiencing an eating disorder or already does monitor every calorie they consume and how much they burn through exercise, would notice. They probably would think twice about buying or eating that food. They might not eat it, or exercise more to compensate. And they’re a lot more likely to watch this TV show.
I know they promoted throughout the official government calorie intake guidelines and said not to consume less than this or restrict your calorie intake, but to be honest, I don’t think that evens it out.
I think that the BBC should’ve weighed up the chances of the people who could really benefit from this awareness and this show watching this show and taking it on board (probably low), versus the chances of people who could be really negatively impacted by watching it and taking it on board (probably a lot higher).
Who needs to and should be watching your show, isn’t necessarily who will be. And I think it’s really important for broadcasters to think about the bigger picture and impact on more than just their ‘target audience’. Especially when you report on why a similar idea is controversial and problematic 4 months before. Just saying.
If anyone has been affected by any of issues raised in “The Restaurant that Burns Off Calories” or this blog post, Beat’s Helpline is available on 0808 801 0677.