Prue Leith, one of the judges of The Great British Bake Off, came under fire this week for her frequent comments about the calorie amounts of the deserts and pastries she eats on the U.K. cooking competition series.
According to The New York Post, some fans of the show online argue that her descriptions of deserts being “worth every calorie” promote the idea that women should be counting the calories of their meals. Many viewers have commented on Prue Leith’s frequent use of the term online, accusing the star of “triggering” eating disorders by making them feel bad about eating desserts.
“Trying to resist the temptation to scream at my TV screen every time Prue Leith says a bake is ‘worth every calorie.’ Ughhhh.” one Twitter user wrote.
“Prue Leith needs to learn that hot girls don’t count calories,” another said.
One commenter alleged that Prue also has said that “this is about as fattening a mouthful as you can get” when eating the contestants’ desserts. Hello!, a UK publication, backed the claim, stating that she once called a German biscuit “the most fattening bite you can imagine.”
While the comments from Prue Leith are most likely all in good fun–Great British Bake Off isn’t the type of show to promote any kind of negativity–apparently the rhetoric has hit home for a lot of viewers with eating disorders.
“Mentions of calories can be triggering to people with or vulnerable to an eating disorder” said Tom Quinn, director of external affairs for Beat, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness of eating disorders. “We know from the people we support that equating food with ‘good’ or ‘bad’ moral connotations can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and can even encourage eating disorder behaviors. So, talk of food being ‘worth the calories’ is very unhelpful.”
“We estimate that 1.25 million people in the UK currently have an eating disorder, but due to the stigma that still surrounds these serious mental illnesses, this number may be even higher,” he continued. “We would strongly encourage Channel 4 [the producers of Great British Bake Off] to be conscious about the way food and exercise is discussed, for instance not mentioning calories or specific weights, in order to protect their audience.”
According to Rachel Relkin, a licensed health counselor, “counting calories can be a healthy eating pattern depending on the individual and their needs and intentions,” so “it really depends on the individual.”
Prue Leigh has yet to comment on how her catchphrases have affected certain viewers.
The Bake Off host was in the news last week for another kind of comment about donuts, but her remarks brought more tears of laughter than of anger.
The NSFW joke came when Prue was judging baker George Aristidou’s method for filling donuts, when she said that “quite often I need two holes so that I can squirt.”
The camera quickly panned over to co-host Paul Hollywood, who was seen struggling to contain himself.
“You squeeze the bag and when you meet that little bit of resistance, it usually means it is full,” she continued, before Paul Hollywood and George Aristidou finally burst out laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” Prue innocently asked.
The comments were especially shocking since the British series is known for being so wholesome, with co-host Paul Lucas saying that they were “just children” with their reaction.
The Great British Bake Off is currently in its 12th season. Giuseppe Dell’Anno, a 45-year-old chief engineer from Bristol, has been one of the judges’ favorites, along with Jürgen Krauss, a 56-year-old physicist, and Crystelle Pereira, a 26-year-old client relationship manager from London.