The lousy reality of fat-porn TV programmes

New-year schedules are sagging under the sheer density of unwanted flesh that we seem to have accumulated over the festive season

 

I watched a weight-loss programme the other night while I was taking down the Christmas-tree decorations. There was nothing else on the box. (Well, there was actually: there were scores of comedians, lined up, stubbled jaw to twinkled toe, on a variety of panel shows. To a man and token broadcast-equality-standards woman, they were attempting to appear blithely sardonic and mordantly satirical about the coming year, rather than dead grateful for the cheque and as rattled as the rest of us about the pending annus.)

New-year television schedules are sagging under the sheer density of unwanted flesh that we seem to have accumulated over the festive season. My screen runneth over with oleaginous matter, with wall-to-wall bulge, with heft and chunk, with corpulence and swell, with jelly-bellied fun and games.

I’ve watched more pierced tongues biting into soon-to-be-banished batter burgers and more resignedly glum faces surveying spinach smoothies than I’ve had low-carb gin-’n’-slims this turgid year.

Anyway, mid-tree-denuding, I watched, on one of these fat-porn shows (sorry, I mean scientifically unimpeachable health programmes), a grown man inserting a thermometer into his rectum before sitting in an ice bath, wearing his football shorts, with a monitor wrapped around his abdomen.

He was doing this in order to ascertain whether sitting in an ice bath in his football shorts, with a thermometer firmly inserted where the sun don’t shine, might just compel the body to speed up weight loss. (And if that’s not going to get those lipids jumping, what will?)

The rather vapid-looking pale-pink plaster Santa with the coy little boots and limp beard, whom I’d just wrenched from a branch and was trying to wrap up in yesterday’s newspaper, was fairly killing himself to keep his head above the editorial and find out just what happened next.

What happened next was nothing happened. The bloke turned blue and got out of the bath again, his monitor registering some mild discomfort as he toddled off to have a cup of tea. The programme predictably cut back to a close-up of a decorative tongue massaging a batter burger and the low moan of protest from some wannabe-skinny thang being dragged out of her fried chicken box and herded towards a trough of kale.

Are we any fitter as a nation just because we have celebrity doctors in open-necked shirts measuring our bat wings with an implement that looks like a set of fireside tongs? Are we happier and healthier for standing our callused feet on the studio scales and publicly weeping over lost and found kilos while our midriffs buckle and sway like collapsing drunks? I think not.

I think we just like looking at other people’s roly-poly bits while we eat stale chocolate reindeers straight from the wilting boughs of farmed fir trees. And yes, I am speaking for myself. How many cheap chocolate baubles can you masticate while you’re untangling the fairy lights, mate? Eh?

Bottom line is that as you get older, you spend more time looking for the car keys than pogoing around sweaty dancefloors. Your metabolism slows. You stop living on diet yogurts, vaulting ambition and your flatmate’s greenish sausages. Truth be told, these days it’s going to take more than half a grapefruit and a soured romance to ditch five pounds.

Everyone I know is trying to lose weight, to get fit, to lower their cholesterol, to kick-start their metabolisms, to pearl-dive through a sea of pulsed celery in search of a long-lost sylph-like silhouette.

I was in the supermarket the other day (God, my life is riddled with incident), looking for broccoli. There was none, no broccoli, just a bunch of women who wanted to eliminate their toxins and finally close their jeans standing around an empty box looking bewildered.

“There is no broccoli,” a woman whispered to me, as if she’d just recently discovered that God was a concept and angels were merely tinselled dollies that you stuck on top of a tree.

I picked up a half-price Christmas pudding, went to the checkout, queued among shoppers with baskets of asparagus.

My friend was on the till, unaware of the pending broccoli wars. She’s a straightforward woman, her voice clear as a bell.

“You need to detox, Hilary,” she said to me at considerable volume, frowning at the ageing pudding. “Water every day, water water water, until your pee runs clear.”

The asparagus carriers nodded in silent agreement.

Wait a second, I thought. Is this really reality? Or more truly lousy reality TV?

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