Watching the BBC’s The Restaurant That Burns Off Calories last night, my brain immediately went into overdrive. There was a mixture of fear and anger, then that familiar, anorexic part of my brain kicking in – the one that would thrive off this kind of “information” – how to burn off the food that I put in my body in the most efficient way. It’s a part of my brain that can suck me in to a dark and critical headspace and supposedly help me feel in control and valued, particularly during this time of global turmoil.
I’ve been in recovery for anorexia for more than 11 years, and I now know my triggers well. I was able to shut that thinking down pretty much straight away and reassure myself, reaching out to others for support.
But for the 1.6 million people who are diagnosed with an eating disorder in the UK, and for the millions of others who have disordered relationships with food or exercise, the program would be extremely triggering. And, in fact, I would go so far as to say that for every single person in society, this program’s messaging is completely inappropriate.
What were the producers thinking suggesting that we need to earn our food (and then burn it off!)? Everyone’s bodies are completely different and we all need different amounts of food.
This kind of oversimplified messaging around eating and exercise shouldn’t happen ever but especially not during lockdown – a time when so many are struggling with a need for control, and heightened emotions, and lacking their usual support networks.
The program argues that there is science behind what they are saying, research showing that people eat less if they know how long it will take to burn something off.
This might seem pretty harmless (and probably pretty obvious), but what it fails to do is to educate us how to regulate our eating and exercise in a healthy and balanced way. Instead, it scaremongers, creating…