There are already far enough problems in our world, enough problems within our countries, and enough problems within our own lives. Without us being under the constant constraint of feeling the need to “eat clean”, to have the “perfect body image” or to take up the “smallest amount of space” in which our bodies are capable of “health-wise”. From the point of view of someone reading this who has not been so exposed to this… unhealthy culture, what I am writing would seem absolutely trivial. However, I suppose partly due to the “health conscious” society I have grown up in, “diet culture” especially aimed at young people, plus I guess the influence of some people whom I’ve been surrounded by in the past- this is actually quite significant and worryingly easy to be misinterpreted, thus potentially dangerous.
So I have been intending to write about this topic for a while, being far too aware on what dirty “trends” are circulating; from these dangerous “fads”, these rather unappetising “detox” drinks which allegedly clear your skin, to the idea that you can get “lean” by consuming nothing but bananas all day. Yeah, it is crazy. Partially at least in my opinion, this explains why so many far too young people are adopting such unhealthy attitudes towards diet, without even realising. Yeah, it is a danger.
Yet if this is not enough for you, now a TV series called “the restaurant that burns calories” has been launched. Right in the mist off lockdown…
While with no intention of watching this, the hearing of the title sparked off many potential problems which could arise from this show- at least from my mind. Yet I am sure that I am not the only one…
As to me, this implies that it may be necessary to burn off each calorie consumed after attending a restaurant.
Then having then taken reluctant steps to watch the trailer, it is exactly as it sounds. So a group of healthy looking men and women attended this restaurant, and within the dining area, everything appeared to be how it should be. Surrounded by decent looking seating, nicely set tables and the sort of menu you would expect, you wouldn’t expect there to be anything to be suspicious about. Nevertheless around the back, there lurks a filthy secret…
The establishment is also home to a gym, where the patrons are expected to burn off each and every calorie they have consumed.
Now hearing of this, as someone who opposes “diet culture” and “fads” and instead favours a largely healthy attitude regarding eating and exercise, this has made me pretty angry. And while a minority of us may be disillusioned to the fact that it’s not just exercise which uses up energy, but just breathing, our brains and the other vital activities our body is constantly engaging in to keep ourselves alive, I think that the launch of this has the potential capacity to brainwash many more of us. Thus in the future, there will be young children holding this warped view that the only use of this fuel we consume is in order to move our bodies. As opposed to keeping us alive.
but there again, it is just some entertainment. Anybody with a basic level of education (hopefully) realises the vital functions of food, irrespective of your activity level. Hence back at primary school, when we learned about “wants and needs”, food was one of the 5 basic needs! Therefore surely the programme is just a bit of entertainment for us all- whilst possibly being a means of reminding us about the dangers of eating “too much”, when many of us don’t live active lives. Especially during lockdown, where gyms are shut, legally we are allowed ONE form of outdoor exercise daily and the kitchen is in constant view! This way it is perfect timing, it will remind us that we should not eat too much and re-emphasises the “importance of exercising at home”.
This launch of the program has had an enourmous impact on many people struggling with or recovering from eating disorders! According to a surce from “Unilad”, it has caused a “30x surge to eating disorder helpline”. By getting the patrions to burn off ever calorie consumed, it would trigger people who can, or have in the past have had an unhealthy relationship with food. Especially relating to disordered relationships between food and exercise, where exercise is carried out as an inflicted punishment for eating amounts of food; or simply where a specific amount of food is regarded as being a “reward” for a specific amount of exercise. Hopefully you can see how this mindset is distinctly unhealthy…and dangerous! So surely a programme which has been proven to trigger this mindset- should not be allowed to air!
Caroline Price, director of “Beat” eating disorder charity told Unilad that this “Myth” that calories we consume need to be “cancelled” out by exercise can be “devastating” for those “suffering from or vulnerable to eating disorders”. She also stressed that “We” (the charity Beat) “Strongly advise against anyone at risk to avoid these sources of information” and that they “urge television commissioners” to consider the impact their programmes may be on vulnerable people. Meanwhile, Hope Virgo, a mental health campaigner and someone who has been in recovery from anorexia recovery for 11 years, gave her reasons for why this is so dangerous, in a HuffPost article. Stating that her “brain immediately went into overdrive” knowing she used to “thrive off this sort of information”, that the program gives out about how to burn calories, and how much it takes to burn off certain foods. She also emphasises that this sort of “oversimplified” message is inappropriate during the best of times, but during this period of lockdown, as many people are lacking their usual support networks”- therefore could be extra triggering… Personally I am inclined to agree with both “sources” advocating against this programme. As there is a fundamental difference between providing usual information to viewers about genuinely “healthy eating” and about how to make rational choices and misleading viewers by almost painting this picture that food needs to be “earned” as it were, and kind of implying that “the less you eat the better”. Therefore this surly is not making good use of the space available for new TV programmes during the “progressive” 21st century?
If anything this is worse than all of these “Plasticly programs” which still exist now but were more common a couple of decades ago. Being exposed to TV including “the Victoria secret fashion show”, from too young age, I have seen the glamorisation of very small girls wearing very little, showcasing to the world their incredibly lean bodies. And despite lacking an interest in these sorts of programs, I was still too aware that these girls were under immense pressure. Having to stick to hugely strict diets meanwhile exercising excessively to ensure their bodies are up to the programmes standards. Was this the ultimate goal for us? You only have to google the “Victoria secret legs workout” to realise the extent of people who aspire to look this way. Nonetheless, notwithstanding the flaws of these shows- at least previously (as far as I know), no program has gone to the extent of explicitly showcasing this toxicity which is truly a life-threatening trait that unfortunately so many people adopt…
I know that some may differ with this view, and may feel that the intention off the launch of these sorts of programmes, to remind people about the importance of healthy eating, and to raise awareness of the number of “hidden calories” in many popular foods thus to reduce obesity in the long run, outweighs the risks inevitably attached. However 1. I strongly don’t think that this is the case and 2. There is no logic in it, when a series can inform people on the same issue, without giving seemingly asymmetric information, and without triggering those who are vulnerable. And it can still be made engaging, funny, catchy or whatever to persuade people to watch. There are ample ways to go about this, without causing unnecessary harm!
So I will repeat again, I have not watched this. And wioll also stress I’ve no intention of doing so… I am foortunatee enough to have enough things to do to keep myself relatively busy, but if I didn’t I would willingly sit in front of a wall for an hour or however long this thing lasts, and watch that instead!