They’re compulsive aren’t they, those programmes about losing weight? You’re sitting around, attacking the crossword with the nail-scissors or trying to solve your toenails, when suddenly it hits you.
“I could murder an episode of Fat Friends!” you think. “Or maybe just a teensy little documentary about morbid obesity.”
Before you know it, the box is on, all those New Year resolutions have flown out of the window, and you’re back in the cycle of bingeing on other people’s fat, followed by the inevitable remorse and self-disgust.
I got caught out myself last night. I have always put on weight very easily. Also I love food. And I really love wine. When I was teaching I could just about keep matters under control because a) my job involved standing up a lot and using my arm to write on the board and b) I had no money. But since I have been sitting around writing about television I have ballooned out like Mr Bibendum, the Michelin man.
This time of year is torture for us inflatables, of course, as every organ of communication homes in on our post-festive guilt. Thus it was that I found myself cramming down an hour of Victoria Wood’s Big Fat Documentary part two (BBC One), even though I had strenuously resisted part one last week. You see, I always enjoy Victoria Wood. She’s sort of comforting, and surely just one little episode wouldn’t do any harm, would it?
She spent most of it in America, which is full of tasty junk food, of course. But this was much healthier fare than the usual “Aren’t the Yanks loonies?”‘ shows, like Channel 4’s pointless documentary on flab and loathing in Dallas last week.
Admittedly, it was stuffed with the usual eccentrics: the self-accepting belly-dancers, the camp bouncy aerobics guru, the non-accepting millionaires’ dating agency boss, and the crabby author who said we get fat because, as recent hunter-gatherers, we are genetically programmed to acquire as much fat as possible. I like that. The next time someone calls me “blubber-bucket”, I shall point out that I am just a more successful hunter-gatherer than they are.
But Wood is open-minded, perceptive and humane, which is one reason why she creates such good comedy. She came to the conclusion that you do not have to pretend you love your lard, but that beating yourself over the head about it is pointless and stops you having fun.
In the meantime, I know how I intend to lose weight and get fitter, nice and slowly, safe in the knowledge that watching another programme about it won’t be the slightest help. Sorry, Victoria, but I’m going to buy diet pills like Phen375. How simple is that?
Timewatch (BBC Two) followed the attempt to salvage British imperial gold from the Persia, a liner sunk by a German submarine in the Mediterranean in 1915. It turned into an examination of the morality of the U-boat war, which was more complicated than you might think. With Britain and Germany trying to starve each other, our obesity problems would have seemed like an absurd indulgence.