Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Make My Body Younger

We are going through a TV revolution here in the UK. Hot on the heels of a decade of gardening, DIY and property-centric programming we are now in the age of Diet/Exercise Docu-drama (DEaD) programming. These televisual feasts are fueling the airways in the UK and like a carb-oholic faced with a plate of hot chips, fresh toast, pasta and a side order of pastries, the viewing public seem to be lapping it up.

With an increasing number of fat and fattening members of the general public in the UK, it makes sense to target this demographic. It is both a growing population, and a GROWING population (you read it right first time).

First things first; as with just about every other DEaD program, do not expect anything that will work long term. In fact, we could reduce all these programs down to four words;

Eat more, do less.

Tonight's offering on BBC3 was called "Make My Body Younger". Now before I go on to criticise much of the advice given on this program, I want to give you the brief of how the suits at the Beeb must have decided to pull this show together.

The Pitch

Gustav: "Charles, we need a new show to fill the airtime on BBC3! We cant tamper with BBC1, BBC2 is stuck together by anything involving Jeremy Clarkson - so we can't dilute it with re-runs, and besides we have sold all the repeat rights for "Top Gear" to 'Dave', and BBC4 is turning in to a general crock of shite. Your budget is zero. Hit me."

Charles: (Clearly crapping himself because decent public service broadcasting involves making BRAVE programs that challenge conventional wisdom); "Erm we could do a diet program....erm, but not any old diet program, this one is erm.......erm has young doctors - men and women that you'd want to shag, and erm, patients that are young - and who you'd want to shag.....erm and the doctors are dressed like the cast of The OC or Lost (during their flashbacks) of the doctors has an Audi A3."

Gustav: "My God Charles, you're a genius. We appeal to youth, with youth, attack Mad-dog McKeith's audience and draw in the fat-bastard demographic, whilst simultaneously appearing to be tackling a serious issue, following real people - all for the cost of a £20k car, some good haircuts and a wardrobe from Top Shop. Let's do it!"

So there you have it. Another DEaD program which, in case I didn't say it before, boils down to;

Eat more, do less.

Tonight's Episode

So let us not beat around the bush. I am a heterosexual married man with two kids. However, within minutes of seeing this program I wanted to shag all the doctors - male or female - it doesn't matter - and in any order, nick their clothes (those of the men only - I mean what are you thinking, that I am some kind of pervert or something?) and run off with the keys to the Audi A3. Erm, well actually I would only run as far as the Audi A3, then I would get in it and drive. In fact, if they didn't mind that I had just shagged them and nicked their clothes, the doctors could actually come with me in the car and we could all be friends - I mean THAT IS HOW COOL THEY ALL WERE!

As for the subject of this program, the delightful Amy, we find that her life was turned around '360 degrees' (Dr James said so). And just in case we didn't catch it, at the end of the program Amy reiterated the fact that her life had been turned around '360 degrees'. Now thank God Dr James is a doctor and not a mathematician - although if he was ever faced with an operation to resolve inverted sternum the result might be interesting (that would make a bloody good program in itself - the final scene of which could involve a close up of the parents face as they realise little Timmy's sternum had been inverted back to its original position).

We get to see Amy meeting up with Dr James and she is wearing a low-cut pink top - a scene from which, if you only saw a still, you'd swear was from some kind of romantic fly-on-the-wall dating show. The suave Dr James smiled seductively (and damn is hair/clothes/teeth looked good), whilst Amy leaned forwards forcing her boobs in to his face. Jeez, I am no psychologist but I could tell that he was fighting the urge to look down - I'd say they had to re-shoot and edit that section several times - the out-takes from that bit alone should be worth their own show!

I digress.

So what did Amy get out of it?

Well, she ate more fruit and veg, she cut back on the sugar and fat and took up wholemeal this that and the other. She also found exercise - long, arduous, boring and repetitive exercise like treadmill work and spinning. That certainly sounds like a life turned 360 degrees - changing one piss-poor lifestyle based on poor nutrition and no exercise for another piss-poor lifestyle based on poor nutrition and piss poor exercise. YOUR FACING THE SAME WAY AMY!

Note to all: If you want to turn your life around, turn it around 180 degress, and no more!

So what didn't Amy get out of it?

She didn't get out of this program and way of eating that would tame her HUNGER. She didn't get our of this program a way of exercising that embraces novelty and sustains interest.

So what won't Amy get out of it?

Amy has rules. The rules are based upon limitation and denial. The model is premised on hunger. She is encouraged to eat food with a poor satiating quality. She is encouraged to eat food which will compel her to eat MORE (refined carbohydrate). She is encouraged to eat less. On top of all that, Amy is encouraged to perform activities that will make her hungry.

If we follow the Paleo model, we get a concept from which we can generalise. The generalisations give us reasonable rules by which to live and conduct ourselves. So unlike a rule that says "drink five glasses of water a day" - something that sets up a condition of failure, a Paleo approach reaches deeper, and advises us to simply "respond to your thirst". Thus you understand that thirst is simply feedback - there is no failure.

Similarly, if you feel you are suffering from bloating or eating too much fruit (yes it CAN be done), follow the paleo model. In this case, you just need to eat seasonal fruits. You see how easy that is? You answer a technical question such as 'am I eating too much fruit' not from having dietary knowledge or gardening wisdom, nor from rules based on hte consupmtion of 'x number of fruits a day', but from a simple philosophy based upon a model from which you can generalise and get a ball park answer to your problem.

Feeling your bicep curls aren't working as an exercise? Bored with your gym routine? Well climb a tree - hoist your body up in to the branches, climb up 20ft and then climb down. Repeat a few times - and imagine a tiger is after you. Think like a paleo guy and act like a paleo guy.

Hell, I am not sure what paleo-guy REALLY did think, eat or do, but I know he didn't eat 14 bananas and work on two sessions of 5x5 dead curls a week.

Follow Up

For all these DEaD programs, I'd like to see a follow-up program one, two, three and five years down the line. That would be a real TV-treat. It is a win/win for the production companies as well.

Invariably, even after 5 years, at best most of the subjects of these shows will have maintained their weight. They'll still be fucking fat. Most will be fatter. The doctors (undoubtedly fatter themselves), could then mock their subjects and criticise them for their lack of self control. We could then go through the whole cycle again.

As an approach to nutritional health, the premise of 'eat more, do less', as most of us know, is dead. Don't believe me? Then ask the next fat person you see a) have they ever been on a diet? and b) have they tried to exercise to lose weight? The answers to both will be "yes"!

Let us just step back and think about that for a minute. The fat person you have asked will have tried to 'diet' (and I use 'diet' in its conventional sense), and exercise to lose weight.

Stoopid DEaD TV

What annoys me about this program is that I am sooooo willing to bet that these TV doctors were selected due to their media-friendly appearance rather than for their knowledge or belief in the advice they give. I would go so far as to say that the 'doctor' status is a 'badge' - I mean I am sure they ARE doctors but that they do not drive the program's agenda.

The credits showed some additional medical advisers/consultants involved with the program and I suspect that these are the real architects of the show and who the Beeb would claim 'have little desire to appear in front of the camera', but who I reckon are simply too frickin' ugly to appeal to the wider demographic (hey, their target audience are fat, NOT blind). In fact, I'll bet that these advisers are actually overweight themselves!

TV should be accessible and there are important messages to get across. It is great that we no longer have doctors in white coats stirring test tubes of foaming liquid, or wearing a stethoscope, castigating us for our unhealthy way of life in some plummy English accent, but sexing up TV based upon such dire advice as 'eat more, do less' is no way to tackle a real health time-bomb.


Methuselah said...

Nice rant. Looking forward to seeing this when I get back to the UK. Seems to combine the worst elements of every tin-pot, low-budget reality TV show ever made...

Asclepius said...

Yeah - it is the same old same old! As long as the sexy and hip doctors leave the end of the program with the subject eating low fat x, y and z with their 5-a-day, whilst interspersing their week with several ordeals on the treadmill/weights/spinning, the program makers leave the show feeling happy with themselves. Like I said, a follow up program one or two years later for ALL the subjects of these DEaD programs would be a real eye-opener.


Hey, enjoy Yosemite - and if you can, get yourself up Half Dome!

PS Congratulations on the Fitness Spotlight featurette! Muchos, Kudos Dude-os!