Calorie counting apps accused of encouraging eating disorders

Eating disorder experts have slammed the developers of calorie counting apps which they say are exacerbating unhealthy food behaviours.

A BBC investigation found evidence that people have been entering harmful comments promoting dangerous eating cycles on apps like MyFitnessPal, Lose It! and Lifesum.

Comments, such as, “I hate myself”, “starved”, “I overate” and “failure, fatty” were found, which eating disorder charity Beat said were concerning.

Tom Quin, of the organisatio, said: “Many people with eating disorders count calories or track weight loss to the point of obsession, and such apps can facilitate or exacerbate such behaviours and make recovery harder.

“The apps should ensure people are directed to discuss their purchase or use with a medical professional if they have a history of an eating disorder.”

Jack Henderson from Newport, Telford told the BBC that using an app to count calories helped his eating disorder to “spiral”.

The 21-year-old said: “I would only pick foods that I could input in to MyFitnessPal. I’d avoid homemade stuff. I would only pick packaged stuff I could input in to the app.

“Even when I had a binge, a big loss of control, I logged it as best I could… it really fed in to this false warped illusion of control that I was in control – but it was controlling me.”

In response, MyFitnessPal said it has now removed any comments deemed to be unhealthy and have pledged to monitor entries more closely in the future.

A spokesperson said: “Users attempting to sign up with a goal weight that will put their BMI under 18.5 are redirected to a weight gain or maintenance goal.”

Lose It! has now closed down several community groups which violated its rules about healthy eating and a Lifesum spokesperson said: “Offering support is more constructive than banning users.”

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