March 11, 2013 at 7:31 PM ET
There’s nothing about a beautifully prepared meal by a celebrity chef at an exclusive restaurant to make you want to do pushups till you puke (unless, of course, you’re a compulsive exerciser, a purger, or both). Nonetheless, that’s the idea behind a swanky “calorie-neutral” pop-up restaurant in London.
The restaurant, Steam, promises to deliver a zero-calorie dining experience not by feeding you flavored air, thank God—yes, that's a real thing—but by making you work for your supper. You sweat out each course before you get the next.
The restaurant will be serving up a mouth-watering menu of scallop and chorizo brochettes with cucumber and ginger dressing, beef fillet with bean sprout salad, quail egg cocotte with mushroom and leek fondue, prawn-stuffed lemon sole with herb butter sauce and banana cake with pineapple confit and crème chantilly for dessert.
Not exactly a meal that you can burn off with just a couple of leg lifts between courses. But not to worry: Miele—the vacuum company sponsoring the event—ill offer stretching classes “to better metabolize the meal,” vibrating seat pads to increase one’s burn (not sure if they’re talking about heartburn here…), and bona fide workouts to torch the remaining calories. The entire event lasts 90 minutes.
According to Jessica Smith, certified personal trainer and co-author of the Thin in 10 Weight Loss Plan, dinner-sized meals at home are around 600 calories or more. “And in most restaurants, waaaay more! That's an awful lot of exercise to burn that much off!,” she says. “And [working out] is definitely not something I'd recommend doing so close to eating a full meal.” Though the whole experience sounds painfully heartburn-inducing to me (here’s hoping they have Pepto-Bismol cocktails as their digestif), I admit: I would do it in a heartbeat and I'm sure I'd be the first one to puke up my meal.
Gimmicks aside, wouldn’t dinner be a lot more enjoyable if we just worked out before eating at the restaurant? I’ve got enough sodium in my diet without having my neighbor’s sweat land on my dinner plate. And I do not need my personal eating space invaded by a stranger’s B.O. Though, upon consideration, I suppose these are ways to ruin one’s appetite and thus consume fewer calories, which, it seems, is the name of the game here.
Still, the whole idea sends terribly mixed messages about food. “While I appreciate the idea of bringing awareness to calorie counts at restaurants (and goodness knows, it’s needed), this concept just doesn't sound like a good idea. Encouraging people to burn off the calories they just ate for a zero-calorie meal sounds like a recipe for an eating disorder!” says Smith.
My thoughts exactly. Besides, says Smith, when you focus on savoring the flavors of your meal, instead of on how many calories you’ve burned, that also will help you eat less overall—no vibrating seat pads or gym stench required.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.