Fred Sirieix's new Horizons documentary, The Restaurant That Burns Calories, has sparked intense backlash with a flood of complaints to the BBC and Ofcom.
First Date's star Fred appears alongside This Morning’s Dr Zoe Williams, where diners in the titular restaurant are served a fancy dinner but then required to use the on-site gym to burn all the calories they had just eaten.
The hour-long special was based on latest scientific research, which suggests that we will eat 20% less food when confronted with the amount of exercise required to burn the excess calories.
BEAT, the UK's leading eating disorder charity, warned users against watching the series: "We strongly discourage anyone with an #eatingdisorder to watch the BBC2 programme The Restaurant that Burns Off Calories airing tonight.
"We’re keeping our online support group open 3 hours longer & you can contact us by DM on Twitter if you need support."
Other critics included Bake Off’s Ruby Tandoh, who tweeted: "As many have pointed out, 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."
Ofcom confirmed they had received six complaints but were directing all who contacted them to the BBC.
"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," said a BBC spokesperson.
"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 (2,500 for men and 2,000 for women). The programme never endorses or suggests restricting calories below these levels.”
Viewers found the programme to be insensitive and triggering, with one viewer tweeting: "It's taken nearly 10 years to convince myself that it's okay to eat food and to not punish myself with exercise after eating food.
"TV shows like BBC Two's The Restaurant That Burns Off Calories is out of touch and insensitive."
Another added: "I've spent years of my life trying to burn off every calorie I eat only to end up in hospital – both general and psychiatric.
"We need calories just to survive – you do not need to exercise off every bite you take. #Horizon#TheRestaurantThatBurnsOffCalories."
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