Argh Argh Argh Argh Argh
*smacks head against desk for the rest of forever*
I love Tom Kerridge. He is a phenomenal chef, a watchable broadcaster, he is well-liked and well-respected in the industry, and he generally comes across as a jolly nice fellow. He was also, until quite recently, very fat. No bad thing. Never trust a skinny chef. And as a fat person and notorious chubby chaser (from a long line of chubby chasers) I am more than happy to see more of him on the telly. That said:
THIS PROGRAMME IS EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH OUR ATTITUDES TO DIET, WEIGHT, AND FATNESS.
The clue is in the opening sequence in which Kerridge utters the immortal words which reveal the secret of his weight loss success:
“I cut out carbohydrates, quit booze, and hit the gym. I lost 12 stone. But it’s a strict regime which isn’t right for everyone,”
and here I’m paraphrasing,
“so here’s a totally different way to lose weight that is scientifically proven to have no long term benefit to those trying to lose weight and that you have literally tried and failed at 100 times. It is based on the NHS’s approved cut calories approach which is very, very out of date, but also cheap, uncontroversial, and unlikely to harm anyone.”
The NHS recommends cutting calories as the best way to lose weight is both true and false. Most Primary Care Trusts will have a few different versions of weight loss plans. One will be a based on a plate of food, divvied up like a pie chart except without the pie. It encourages you to eat less crap and more fruit and veg. It will give you a very general and depersonalised calorie goal base on age and sex and nothing else. It is in line with WHO guidance, and is fit-for-purpose in a land where some people are over weight, some are underweight, some overweight and underweight people are malnourished. It assumes you have some choices around food, but doesn’t make too many assumptions.
There is a different version of this that you will be given by the NHS if you are referred to bariatric or eating disorder services. It will usually be based on the latest evidence-based research, be a lot more personalised, and be a lot more supervised. Depending on how overstretched your hospital or PCT is, you may be seen by a specialist doctor or nurse every few weeks. you may be put on medication. You may be put on a very low calorie or meal replacement diet. You may be offered surgery.
Somewhere in between is the shit diet advice that most people get. You go to your GP with an ear infection or a weird mole (or, once, memorably, a leaky belly button). You are weighed and asked about your diet. You wonder what this has to do with your ear/mole/belly button. You are told to lose some weight and that then and only then will your ear/mole/belly button we cured, or be worth curing. They suggest Weight Watchers. You cry, you never go to the GP again, you die prematurely of something that could have been dealt with some modest medical supervision, the first symptom of which was a leaky bellybutton.
Tom Kerridge is taking it upon himself to offer us the sort of shit, anecdotal, tilt-headed diet advice that one would get in the Weight Watchers car park. He has written some decent recipes, all of which would be improved by more butter and less artificial sweetener.
Live Blog as I watch the series on iPlayer
Episode 1: Comfort Eaters
-The first dieters TK meets are Comfort Eaters. He gives them a lavish buffet of low calorie diet treats. They pile their plates high. One baked donut might be diet food. Two is just food. Three donuts, and I say this without judgement, is a lot of food. Literally everybody here has missed the effing point of a low calorie diet.
-The description of the diet and the calculation of personal calorie threshold is ver similar to the weight watchers approach, and also to any BMI-based programme. But he gives his dieters a toolkit that includes a blow-torch and a spice rack, so I’m not hating too hard.
-Note his use of non-caloric sweeteners. This raises alarm bells for a lot of people, but are in fact not inherently evil. One of the other books on my reading lists, Taube’s The Case Against Sugar points out it was Big Sugar that spread the fake news that artificial sweeteners cause cancer, which is not borne out by good science, unless you are personally a small male rat living exclusively on Sweet’n’Low.
- There is repeated use of the word binge which I think we should be careful about. It is used as a pejorative term for over eating and bandied about unscientifically. Avoid.
- Ozi is lovely. I love him and his friend the biscuit barrel cradled under is arm like a weird sidekick.
-Argh! TK literally told Lee not to buy the real cream and to buy the Elmlea Single instead! Now there’s a lot of bollocks in the press at the moment about processed foods, and I don’t want to be a food snob about this - Elmlea has a place around the arteries of my heart too - but compare the ingredients! Compare the prices! Now buy the fucking cream and not the Elmlea, Lee!
- Double Argh! After having walked around an Asda with Lee, TK uses rosewater which is clearly from the Waitrose Love Life range <insert rant about food, class, cost… oh, wait, I already wrote one>
- So far the two comfort snacks he’s made - muffins (190 kcals) and rice pud (290 kcal) are calorifically comparable to any normal size chocolate bar. If you want a sweet treat under 300 kcals, eat a Mars Bar. If you want one under 200 kcals, eat some Maltesers. Utterly bemused by this.
- Tom Kerridge finally discloses another key part of his own weight story: that he used to down 15 pints of lager a night quite regularly. Now we’re getting somewhere.
- I’m now totally shipping Ozi and Lee. Even more now it turns out that he’s actually gained weight in week 1. Oh Ozi.
Episode 2: Busy People
- Again with the calories and fat-phobia! I mean look, just look at the zero calorie spray vs the olive oil (also with a spray pump) Olive oil is the backbone of the Mediterranean Diet which gives you life. Fats fill you up.
- Kai has autism! Autism is one of the conditions which diet can make a huge difference, and many kids with extreme autism are prescribed a ketogenic diet which is proven to control some of the more extreme
- She is a diabetic. Now we’re talking. Blood sugar. A blood sugar diet should not contain potatoes and pasta, let alone pastry and apricot jam. Not that there is anything wrong with potatoes and pasta and pastry and jam, they are cheap and delicious, and contrary to popular believe one can live on bread alone, but don't try this at home IF YOU ARE DIABETIC.
- I’m actually a big fan of chia seeds so ner ner ner. They taste nice and have a pleasing texture - like poppy seeds when first sprinkled, or like frogspawn IN A GOOD WAY when soaked. They are nicer and easier to to digest the good his than flax seeds, and can similarly be used in your diet to help you poop. Most days I have porridge or yogurt with a tablespoon of mixed chia, flax and sunflower seeds, because left to its own devices my body would hold on to all my shit until I explode like the gluttony guy in Se7en. TMI? Anyway, shut up and eat your chia.
Episode 3 - Fat Foodies
- Good luck y’all finding fresh chervil. I couldn’t get any last summer and I live in Islington and have a frigging herb garden (well, balcony).
-Oh god, we have another Ki. One is an autistic seven year old boy and one works in fashion so is also to all extents and purposes an autistic seven year old boy.
- TK talks about his hedonistic, addictive streak… this is important… this is something it would be good for a relatable mainstream character talking about on the telly at a respectable time of day.
- Exercise… so the advice on this is less clear and whilst exercise is very good for you indeed, it will not make you lose weight… and as a fat girl who has always done a lot of exercise you have to be very careful to avoid injury. But both I and the scientists can recommend weight training in particular as a way to get you and your body to work together, and strong is the new blah blah blah.
Episode 4 - Fake junk food
- I hate everything about this episode.
- Maybe don’t bother making your own doner kebab from scratch. Maybe just order a sheesh kebab?
- I can understand why sometimes one might use low fat yogurt in a sauce (I sometimes use quark which is higher in protein than yogurt) but to add artificial sweetener in a savoury yogurt sauce… there’s just no need. Don’t do it. No one needs a fake kebab served with fake Yop.
- This whole recipe is grim, kill it with fire
- OMG he just killed it with fire - a literal blow torch - and it looks DIS-GUST-ING
- Tom’s take on cheat days is quite sound though, although we need to kill the term “cheat days”. If you eat your week’s excess calories in one delicious cheat day, then don’t be surprised if you don’t lose weight or indeed gradually gain weight. If you are someone for whom cheat days are crucial - foodies, chefs, people in the hospitality industry - consider the Fast Diet or 5:2 so you have enough spare calories to get you through the tasting menu with wine pairings, and gain all the potential benefits of intermittent fasting on your system.
-Nice to see a man bemoaning the clothes he can’t fit in to. Not “nice” but, y’know, good to see on telly, not "just" a women's issue
- Oooh, donuts. He’s making donuts. I like donuts. I am interested.
- Oh, he’s using donut-shaped moulds and a piping bag. I’m literally never going to do this.
- Another super interesting bit which the producers are going to totally skip over. Being seen as a Big Bloke is an identity. It was his identity, and that doesn’t encourage Big Blokes to cut down.
This is one of my issues with this whole fucking Tom Kerridge Diet venture. I listened to him on the wonderful Diane Henry’s podcast. He came across very well, and Henry is both an excellent interviewer and congenial company for this long format show. They have time and space to talk freely and widely. And the most telling part was TK expounding on his larger life. How he could be larger than life. How he achieved success and respect in the food industry as a Big Man. How he found love. How he had a telly career. How no ever gave him a hard time. And when felt the first twinge of negative impact on his health, he quit booze, quit carbs, spent hours every day in the gym… he had money, time, support, minimal stigma. He says he never suffered for his weights. He had the skills and knowledge and budget to totally transform his life. That’s nice for him. But I find it cynical and disingenuous to peddle this totally DIFFERENT utter bullshit low cal sub-prime sub-scientific Buy-My-Book BOLLOCKS, and use this charming cast of single mums, military wives, lonely immigrants, people who are tired and poor and busy and sick and bullied.
Fuck off Tom Kerridge. Take your fake donuts and kebabs and Elmlea Single and fuck off.
(Leave the spice rack and the blow torch though. We like those.)