The men who made us thin

As a follow-up to The Men Who Made Us Fat, the fairly-predictably-titled The Men Who Made Us Thin was, on the basis of its first episode, a disappointment.

Now, you may feel that as someone who writes about diet approaches and offers weight coaching, I’m biased. And I am. Totally. I’m biased because I believe the central proposition of the programme was faulty. The host, Jacques Peretti, stated that only around 5% of people who try to lose weight keep it off. But he misspeaks. Firstly, the study he cites is limited to WeightWatchers- a weight loss approach I feel is outdated. Secondly, only 5% of people keep all of their weight off. Of course dieters are likely to put a few pounds, a kilo or three, back on once they adjust to a weight maintenance lifestyle. But in Peretti’s argument, they’ve failed.

It’s not to say that the episode made no good points. One aspect that was hammered home repeatedly was that someone on a diet is starving their body and the body responds appropriately – attempting to conserve as much of that energy as possible, slowing down metabolism and increasing food cravings. This is well known; it’s the source of the ‘starvation mode’ urban myth.

It’s telling that many of the facts shared in the original programme were omitted from this. For example, the first study that was referenced was explained to be from Ancel Keysdemonised as the ‘fat maker’ in the last series as he unscientifically identified fat, rather than sugar, as the main cause of obesity. This wasn’t mentioned here. Equally, the mention of Atkins was carefully phrased; something like “his detractors said that his diet caused his heart attack” without clearing up that misconception.

The whole thing was made to sound calculated and distrustful- when in fact, you could sum it up in two sentences.

  1. Every diet works, if you stick to it.
  2. Stop using the diet’s rules and you’ll regain your weight.
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Get running with Couch to 5K

Thinking about exercise can be a bit bewildering, especially if you’ve never even trotted further than the corner shop.

Couch to 5k is designed to get you off your couch, on your feet and out the door with no new equipment – just you, your trainers and your headphones.

Working from just a walk around the block, the programme slowly builds in segments of jogging and then running, minute by minute, until after 9 weeks you are running consistently and eventually for 5 kilometres straight – the ‘5k’ of the title.

If my description sounds unnerving, don’t let it scare you – the three sessions a week are well tailored, increasing almost imperceptibly.

Best of all, it’s cheap or even free. The NHS has funded a podcast, or series of audio files that can be downloaded and used on any media player. It includes instructions and a timed track that bleeps and bloops at you to tell you when to change your pace. There are also smartphone apps that do the same, which have the benefit that you can listen to your own music in the background.

Even if you’ve never attempted any form of exercise since PE at school, Couch to 5K will have you running – properly – in just over 2 months.