Google Maps Just Food-Shamed Its Users With A Calorie Counter

“For those that suffer from an eating disorder, it can contribute to the obsession associated with counting calories consumed and burned."

Google Maps just took a very wrong turn.

A now-defunct feature on the app calculated the amount of calories a user would burn if they opted to walk instead of drive to their destination. It even went so far as to figure out how many mini cupcakes’ worth of calories they would burn.

It’s unclear how Google could even determine how many calories a given person might burn on a walk without knowing their age, height, weight or speed (HuffPost’s request for comment from the tech giant was not immediately answered).

But regardless of the technical details, the idea of shoving calories in the face of anyone who is simply looking for directions is completely misguided ― especially considering the more than 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States who will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

“Framing exercise as a calorie burner and a way to earn food ‘rewards’ can be triggering for those are risk for eating disorders, as well as those are struggling with these illnesses and trying to recover,” Claire Mysko, CEO of NEDA told HuffPost. “It reinforces the hyper focus on numbers and the dangerous fixation on reward and punishment that can fuel these complex illnesses.”

Google told Buzzfeed on Monday it would remove the feature from its app that evening, citing “strong user feedback.” But for what it’s worth, we still saw it active on an iPhone as of Tuesday at 12:45 p.m.:

Jamie Feldman

And it certainly wasn’t removed before social media had a chance to respond.

Dr. Allison K. Chase, executive director of the Eating Recovery Center in Austin, Texas, echoed the sentiment that the feature ― which The Hill reporter Taylor Lorenz tweeted there was no way to turn off ― can impact both people who currently suffer from an eating disorder and those who are in recovery.

“For those that suffer from an eating disorder, it can contribute to the obsession associated with counting calories consumed and burned,” she said. “This can further the impact of the disorder, as well as negatively impact those that are in treatment and attempting to move towards recovery from this potentially deadly mental disorder.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, there are many resources available to you. Visit NEDA or the Eating Recovery Center’s websites for more information.

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