Monday 20 May 2013

Secret Eaters…

Channel 4’s Secret Eaters has me fascinated. Those who know me will know I’m not much of a tv watcher and particularly not into ‘reality’ or ‘junk’ tv. But after hearing about this at work I gave this series a go and quickly became addicted to the gob smacked experience that is watching an episode. For the peoplewatchers of the world (myself definitely included) this is a joyous snippet of human life.

The premise, roughly, is that members of the general public who are struggling with weight loss go on the show and endure a week’s scrutiny, involving hidden cameras, private investigators and undercover agents, to work out why they are not losing weight. The answer is always very simple – they are eating too much; generally at least twice as much as they need in a day and twice as much as they think they are.

The format of the show has become pretty dull after watching a few episodes, but still I watch. What scares me the most is that the people on the show (for argument’s sake I am pretending it is all real and there are no actors or scripts, nor is there any editing or sensationalising going on) have no perception of what they are eating. The programme uncovers the ‘secret calories’ they consume, and there have been some shocking examples. My favourites include the ‘healthy eaters’ that used an entire block of cheddar cheese in a cheese sauce, the most humongous roast dinner I’ve ever seen followed swiftly by a bowl of double cream with a token slice of apple pie in it for good measure, and the numerous fizzy drink and alcohol guzzlers and takeaway scoffers.

I’m not professing to be all righteous and healthy, but when I go out drinking or eat a big meal, when I pick at crisps and snack foods, when I indulge in chocolate or pile a salad high in mayonnaise I know that I am not, in that moment, being healthy. But then I was raised by people who understand food and always provided healthy home-cooked meals. Is food education in general so bad that it has spawned these generations of processed food lovers who think they eat healthily? Quite possible, I concede, when I think back to my cookery lessons at school – the sandwich was a highlight(!), along with the ‘decorate a yule log’ session.

Anyway, I digress. There is so much I could discuss from the show but I think the main lesson to learn is that ‘diet’ products are generally not doing their consumers much good. The perception seems to be that because something is ‘diet’, or ‘reduced fat’, or low in sugar/salt/anything then there is licence to consume as much of it as you want, because it is ‘good for you’. What a terrible misconception to have. It amazes me that people can consume food and drink all day long and think that they are eating healthily and only taking in the recommended daily amount of calories. Frightening.

I have to stop watching it now because I’m becoming too disturbed by the world around me, as usual. But here are my lessons children:

1) If you eat all day you are eating too much.
2) If a product is billed as being a diet product it does not mean it contains nothing bad or no calories.
3) If you think that fizzy drinks, alcohol, crisps, chocolate bars, six meals a day and constant snacking is the healthy way to live, then there’s no hope for you, but watch the show anyway because it’s funny.

Elloise Hopkins.

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