Published: Fri, October 20, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Google Maps ditches calorie counter because it 'triggered,' 'shamed' people

The California-based company has removed an experimental feature which estimated how many calories its users would burn while walking a route.

Google has ditched a feature from its hugely-popular navigation app on iOS, thanks to "strong user feedback". Not only that, but the feature also revealed how many pink "mini cupcakes" in equivalent calories they would burn. It first appeared in the iOS version of Google Maps beneath walking directions.

The app tallied calories in confectionary units: one mini cupcake equalling 110 calories.

According to Google Maps, "the average person burns 90 calories by walking one mile". The calories were communicated in equivalence to the amount of "mini cupcakes". While some welcomed it as motivation to walk rather than take a auto or public transit, others accused it of being potentially harmful to those with an eating disorder, pointing out that an obsession with calorie-counting can be a warning sign. People burn calories at differing rates depending on a number of factors, such as weight and speed at which they're walking, as Harvard Medical School notes. Wegmans grocery offers mini-cupcakes that are 97.5 calories each, while Canada's Prairie Girl Bakery, for example, sells mini-cupcakes that each contain 200 calories.

"We've gotten into this habit of thinking about our bodies and the foods we take in and how much activity we do as this mathematical equation, and it's really not", Stephanie Zerwas, the clinical director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina, told the New York Times. And it could be very a negative (or even triggering) experience for people who have an eating disorder.

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