The Big Fat Lies About Diet & Exercise

The Big Fat Lies About Diet & Exercise

By Trudi Purdy, wlr team

Open as we are to looking after our health and weight at New Year, it's easy to fall victim to tmi. (Especially crappy i.)

A rash of new TV shows appear on our various screens promising healthy recipes, reviews of the newest diets and plenty of myth-busting.

Some of them do a great job.

Channel 5's Contributions

Last New Year, Channel 5 aired Diet Secrets and How to Lose Weight.

They asked celebrities to trial the latest fad diets and had a crack team of experts give their opinions on diet and food myths.

The list of experts was impressive and, although some of their opinions differed, overall the programme was informative and interesting. I ended up following quite a few of the experts on Twitter and Facebook.

So, when a diet show from Channel 5 for this New Year was advertised, I looked forward to watching, learning and reviewing it.

For 2019, the show is called The Big Fat Lies about Diet and Exercise.

The list of experts looked just as impressive as last year and the title sounded like it would be great to review for our members and readers.

I mean, who doesn’t want to know which diets are effective and what exercise is best for weight loss?

How Might This Affect You?

Your resolutions need you to take action if they're going to come to anything. Once you've made them, you'll likely be on the lookout for info that could help you.

The last thing your newborn pledges need is utter confusion - effectively telling you nothing's safe, and don't bother because it's probably not worth it!

That's why I'm calling 5 out on this one.

(Warning: You may end up shouting at the TV just like I did if you watch this. Power to the Tweeters who made their feelings known.)

What Happened?

Well, let’s start with the totally opposing advice given by the experts.

The first subject was exercise. One expert said:

"Exercise is absolutely crucial to losing weight. First of all because of the simple science. You are burning calories so you are using up that energy you’ve taken in."

Basically, more exercise means burning more calories. Yep, totally understand and agree with that.

However, the next expert said:

"Exercising to burn calories is a very bad strategy because it takes a lot of hard work to burn enough calories to warrant you having the cupcake you saw before you walked into the gym."

There's more... yet another expert:

"A 12 stone man would need to run for 30 minutes to burn off just 300 calories. Now 300 calories sounds like a lot. It’s actually not a huge amount. Probably the equivalent to a muffin."

Now I don’t know about you, but I would be chuffed to burn off 300 calories! And surely, if I am burning more than I am eating by exercising more than I used to, that’s the way to lose weight AND get fit??

The experts then went on to discuss Joggers Nipple. Hmmmm, not sure that is one of the big fat lies about diet and exercise but I guess people might not know about it.

Food and Bugs

The next segment covered bugs in our food.

Apparently, our food is contaminated with bugs, bug-eggs and rodent hair and we eat 1lb of bugs a year.

Did I need to know this? Probably not. Again, not something I would have considered a burning question from anyone who wants to know what to do to get slim and healthy.


Again, completely opposing opinions from the experts on High Intensity Interval Training.

One expert extolled the virtues of HIIT:

"It’s basically a good way of getting as much exercise in in a short amount of time. It builds muscle at the same time as burning fat."

Another said:

"It increases your metabolism and because of the intensity that you are using you are going to be burning fat."

And then they go and spoil it all...

"An American study in 2017 showed that taking an hour of exercise and squeezing it into a minute doesn’t bring us pleasure. It becomes a chore or a punishment which makes it much less sustainable and therefore we’re more likely to give up on exercise all together."

I’m fairly certain that advocates of HIIT don’t suggest you attempt (even if it were possible) to squeeze a whole hour of exercise into a minute!

You'll probably find our HIIT Beginners Guide more helpful than Channel 5s messed up messages.


Now, coffee is possibly one of my vices so my ears pricked up when I heard the intro to this section:

"Current research into coffee suggests it may have enormous health benefits."

"Drinking 3-5 cups a day might reduce the risk of heart attack by as much as 21%."

Hallelujah! Something that could be really useful, finally!


They proceeded to nuke the coffee idea. Do you (want to) know your brew could contain faeces and office coffee cups are notorious bacterial breeding grounds?

The writers behind the program seemed to be a little obsessed with bacteria.

Actually coffee drinking has been associated with good health in several recent studies. (Our latest coffee report was on research showing a 25% decreased risk for type 2 diabetes.)


According to the experts, eating bananas is really bad because they contain potassium 40 which is a radioactive substance.

Uhoh! I best throw that bunch of nanas away that I bought on my in to work this morning!

Oh no, hang on, the experts went on to say that you would need to eat 10 million bananas in one sitting to die of radioactive poisoning. Phew!

Really, what was the point of that little discussion? Actually, bananas are just about the healthiest prepacked snack you can get!

Calorie Counting

Now, the NHS recommend controlling calories as the best way to lose and maintain weight in a healthy, sustainable way. And wlr's hundreds of success stories back this up.

However, according to the experts on this programme calorie counting isn’t a sustainable way of losing weight. Wait? What?

"You can’t go around counting the calories at every meal."

Another one:

‘Granny wasn’t counting calories and there was no obesity in their generation.’

Erm, could that have anything to do with the fact that food was pretty basic (you mostly had to cook it yourself) and not available 24/7 almost everywhere?

Granny didn't eat a lot of convenience and fast food packed with fat and sugar, or use an app to get dinner delivered. She probably also had to do more physically demanding stuff day-to day.

The truth is that calorie counting is a proven way to lose weight and, since the process is in itself educational and empowering, you set yourself up for long term success.

Yes, you need to spend a little time tracking stuff - but that doesn't amount to much once you get used to it. In my experience it's totally worth it.

My Poor TV

The comment that made me so very incredulous that I totally shouted at the TV:

"I would say let’s just do away with calories, don’t look at them, don’t think about them. Just eat a balanced diet."

So that's where we're all going wrong. It doesn't matter how much you eat so long as it's balanced - who knew?

I won’t repeat what I actually shouted because wlr has policies about profanity.

You Get the Picture

This will get boring if I cover every bit of pointless pap and, in my opinion irresponsible twaddle.

Other topics covered were:

  • Jock Itch
  • Eating too much fruit and veg will make you fat (Huh??)
  • People die running marathons so don’t bother
  • Exercise causes injuries and can break your back and other bones
  • Fruit juice is really bad for you
  • Farting during exercise
  • Ready meals have no nutrition at all
  • BMI is pants
  • Sports drinks are unnecessary - yep can get behind that one for us non-athletes
  • Detoxes are unnecessary - yep
  • Fasting and 5:2
  • Dieting pills
  • Running gives you Joggers Trots

And so on.


The points put across by the experts were contradictory. That in itself isn’t an issue - I can accept that not all experts will agree. But could they at least back up what they were saying with evidence? Or could we have had a conclusion to what general expert opinion is?

Frankly, this program left me seething.

So I don't recommend it - unless you fancy a rant or maybe a little wallow in the hopelessness of it all.

You should definitely avoid if you're looking for ideas, inspiration and guidance to back up your resolutions.

Thankfully there is helpful stuff on TV, Tom Kerridge's Fresh Start is a good example.

If you're still up for it, or just curious, you can get The Big Fat Lies About Diet & Exercise here

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