Across the country people are being good. This is not a mass breakout of philanthropy or moral restraint, merely that they have stopped eating Quality Street for breakfast as the Christmas excesses are a fading memory. We are now in the diet month. To help us along our TV schedules are awash with programmes designed to help us all fight the flab.

ITV’s offering is Sugar Free Farm. The ITV way of dieting is to take a bunch of celebrities, put them on an extreme diet and put them in an extreme situation. How this is meant to inspire Tracy in accounts or Jim in marketing to stick to the diet I’m not sure, but it’s entertaining. The farm is a mixed arable farm in Hampshire where our seven celebrities have to endure three weeks with no sugar and also work on a farm. I get the first bit of this idea, as we’ll see all the programs involve putting somebody on a diet; but I haven’t fully grasped why they are on a farm and suddenly have to learn how to milk cows, clean out chicken sheds, and catch fish. Perhaps this is an elaborate audition for The Archers.

The program is narrated by Helen Baxendale, who I have too admit I thought had died, but then realised I was getting her character in Cold Feet and real-life confused.  I often do this. It featured former Tory MP and Strictly star Anne Widdecombe; comedian Joe Pasquale; Doctor Who; those two  dancing blokes off BGT;  Amanda Hammond from Big Brother 2: and someone called Gemma.

The diet was dictated by nutritionist Hala el-Shafie and the whole program was really a low rent I’m a Celebrity. These celebs also had to do tasks to earn food but the tasks were growing the food, hunting for the food and cooking the food. When they eventually sourced the no sugar food they all sat around the kitchen table and ate together. For some reason at least one person had to wear a hat at the table.   I’m not sure if this aided weight loss, was a fashion statement, or if there was just no heating on. The shocking revelation in this week’s episode was that Gemma put on 4 pounds in weight while all the others lost.   (Admittedly the 4 pounds could have been her fake tan.)  Also someone was eating more food than all the others. You may be surprised to find out that the culprit was Gemma.  It would appear that she had common sense removed from her diet along with the sugar.

Meanwhile on Channel 4 How to Lose WeightWwell took the radical idea of taking a group of people and putting them on a diet. However, the twist in this case is that none of them were celebrities. There were no reality stars, no ex-politicians, no comedians. Just good old-fashioned overweight British people he wanted to be on the telly. Oh and they wanted to lose weight for a special occasion. The show was  presented Dr Xand Van Tulleken (Xand is an abbreviation of Xanadu apparently) who looked a bit like Derren Brown but had a voice like chocolate (which is a bit unfortunate on a diet programme) and nutritionist Hala el-Shafie.   Hold on, is there only one nutritionist in all of the UK? Anyway this time she was bossing ordinary folk by putting them on crazy diets such as low sugar… hold on (again),  this really is just the same program as Sugar Free Farm minus the celebs (and hats) and with more ad breaks. But they were on more than just one diet. There was a low-fat diet; a Five Factors diet; a warrior diet; and my personal favourite the Sleeping Beauty diet which consisted of sleeping for at least 8 to 9 hours a night oh and eating healthily. Most people would just call that living, not particularly a diet.

Each trial begins in a café which is a bit like the First Dates restaurant but without the Frenchman. They have chirpy Geordie chef Stacey Stewart, (who seems to be channelling Vicky Pattison), who would prepare a meal from the diet which had just been inflicted  on the guinea pig.   When the dish was served both presenters and contributors tucked into the food, even though only one of them was going on that diet. I’m not sure if this was to show solidarity in a sort of “Hmm, this is lovely.  You will be fine” kind of away, whether they just wanted to taste it so they could be thankful they were eating it, or whether they were just a bit peckish.

As well is the guinea pigs, the programme also had some proper science in it reminiscent of Trust Me I’m a Doctor.  We went to Exeter University (nice building looks like it was furnished by IKEA) to discover why we do, or don’t, have willpower; and then we learnt about a new technique for sewing up your stomach so that you eat less. Presumably they haven’t got much confidence that people would succeed with the willpower exercise and therefore offered a more dramatic alternative.

The result of the trials was that everybody seemed to lose about the same amount i.e. between one and 2 pounds a week so pretty much what you would expect to lose on any diet really.
Someone else who went on a fad diet was Jamie Owen (no idea. In all fairness this was made by BBC Wales and I picked up on iPlayer. I think Jamie might be a big deal in Wales but alas nowhere else) in Fats vs Carbs with Jamie Owen. He went on a high fat, low carb diet. With this being a BBC programme everything was done by the book. So we saw Jamie consulting his doctor before he began the diet  (incidentally he seems to shake the hand of his doctor every time he sees her. Personally I don’t this with my GP as I have an idea where her hands have been); for balance we saw Jamie talking to fans of the high fat diet, to people who were cynical about it and he stood outside a government building reading a statement about health in Wales. I always feel someone stood outside a non-descript government building reading a statement because a civil servant or politician refuses to take part adds gravitas to a programme. Perhaps if on Sugar Free Farm instead of Joe Pasquale talking about his bowel movements he read a statement issued by the Department of Health we may take the whole affair a little more seriously.

Along the way Jamie did a lot of eating very fatty food. I don’t think he had a single meal without butter. He even went to a fish chef at the seaside to have some fish cooked in butter in a tiny, tiny Pan. This prompted that awful cliché about “good honest food” which some of you will know from this blog is one of my pet hates.   Unsurprisingly at the end of the trial Jamie lost weight.   So the moral of these stories is that it doesn’t really matter what you eat you will lose weight. Fantastic. Pass the Quality Street.

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