Who Knows Best: Fighting the Fat

Last night’s “Who Knows Best – Fighting the Fat”, on channel 4, was so awful I hardly know where to start.

The programme pitches supposed experts against one another like modern day gladiators. Last night’s challenge was about weight loss and pitched Paul the personal trainer (who thinks people are overweight because they are lazy and greedy and who shouted and swore his way through the programme) against Janet (who supposedly took a psychological approach).

Each contestant chose a willing victim for the other person to work with and the challenge was on – who could get their person to lose the most weight over a 6 week period? Paul was allocated Sarah whose favourite food was spam and egg pie, and Janet got Shareema who had a thing about chocolate doughnuts

Surprise, surprise the outcome was that Paul’s victim lost 22lb and Janet’s only 6lb. Hardly surprising since Paul’s approach involved serious exercise bordering on torture, coupled with a strict diet. A perfect strategy for short term dramatic weight loss (and subsequent dramatic weight gain…)

The programme was pointless in the first place because it is not that
hard to lose weight over 6 weeks – you can do this using any
number of diets. The hard thing is to keep it off.

Also, how can you conclude anything from an experiment involving just two people? How silly.

The “psychological approach” was very disappointing. I suspect Janet may do a good job in reality. It may that the programme makers just wanted to make her look silly by concentrating on tapping meridians and associating doughnuts with vomit (techniques which were presented in such a way as to invite ridicule).

But it didn’t seem that Janet’s woman got away from the “diet mentality” of good and bad foods, and “naughty days”, so again it just looked like a diet and I suspect she put the weight back on. She said she was an emotional eater but the only strategy we saw for dealing with this was “tapping the meridians”. This kind of thing can help some people but they also need to work out how to deal with emotions in other ways, without using food. I’m sure Janet will have covered this but we didn’t see it on the programme.

So, a victory for Paul the sadist, but I don’t suppose viewers had any doubt about what will happen to Sarah’s weight when Paul is no longer kicking her arse, as he so charmingly put it!

This post is transferred form another blog, so these comments have just been copied over.

Showing 4 comments

Denis Watkins

Hi Sharrema. I was glad to read your comments and I wish you all success in your diet regime. I am a very enthusiastic follower of lots of exercise. Everything I have ever read about exercise confirms my views. However, if I might just say what works for me.

First, find an exercise you enjoy or at least is not unpleasant. For most of my life it was playing sports, particularly football, and lots of walking/hiking. Now it is mainly walking/hiking. I have found a good electronic but simple pedometer a huge incentive. My aim is a minimum of 10,000 steps a day and as I have a Labrador this is perfect as he walks with me.

Second. There is massive scientific support for load bearing excercise e.g.: weight lifting; these exercise “elastics” – I bought a set of “FLEXCORDS” via Amazon and they provide endless oportunities.

Third. The appropriate diet and Roz knows a lot more about this than myself.

Four. Persevere. The only failure is to give up trying.

You sound to me like a terrific person who has the great virtue of being open minded and ready to change to use new ideas. I wish you lots of luck in your regime.

08/25/2010 04:06 PM

Hi Sharrema, thanks for this update. It’s really useful to know a bit more about what actually went on. I’m glad that Janet’s techniques are helping you. I suspected that she did a lot more than we saw, and that it could be good. It’s a shame it wasn’t portrayed a bit more positively but if the whole idea is to lose weight as fast as possible, you are never going to get a sensible approach winning!
Anyway, it’s great that you are losing weight and I find if it comes off slowly, it seems to stay off! Insulin resistance can certainly make it harder so it’s great that you are making progress. And I’m glad that Emma is getting help from Janet too.
Congratulations on the X-Factor and your album launch – that is really fantastic – well done!

08/23/2010 05:50 PM
Denis Watkins

The programme was not about losing weight; it was about entertainment. Paul, with an attitude so simple minded as to make me cringe, you can throw in his own internal macho needs as “I don’t care if people don’t like me, I’m here to do a job.” Yeh, yeh Paul. You are a really tough guy with desperate overweight women and obese men. Rather sad that you have to work out your own so obvious insecurities on these vulnerable people desperate to lose weight. In my view this is the only approach open to you as you have neither the professional knowledge nor insight to do anything else.

Janet may have offered more and done better. We will never know. The programme was so crass and superficial that she looked lost and, I’m afraid, rather foolish.

08/21/2010 05:27 PM

Sharrema Collapse

Hey guys, I’m Sharrema from “Who knows best” just to give you a quick update, I was very sceptical at the start about the things I did with Janet, something’s have worked for me others haven’t and so some of the tapping techniques I have carried on using as well as the pain and pleasure antidote but I’m using a mix of Janet’s methods and exercise because I actually am enjoying going to the gym and there were a lot of things that were filmed that you guys didn’t see. My weight loss maybe slow moving but it is moving and no matter what you have seen the one thing I hope you all realise is that I totally love me no matter what. Just to give you a progress report the reason why my weight loss was slow is that I found out during filming that I have insulin resistance which slows down your weight loss but is in no way an excuse. I have been attending the gym, yoga and classes at least twice a week my motivation is my album lunch in September which is giving me a well earned kick up the butt and also X-factor in which you will see me hold down a dance routine by the pussycats dolls choreographer Brian. Update on Emma is that since filming the show she has declined any assistants from Paul and is not continuing with any of his regime but you know what I don’t blame her instead will now be working with Janet. As for me myself and Janet our still in contact and I’m attending future seminars with her.

Horse training, rats and over-eating

I have two horses and I like them to be well behaved but also really enthusiastic about what we do together (which is not always the case with horses!) I use clicker training (positive reinforcement) where the horse gets a reward (usually food) if it does the right thing. In clicker training, you pair the food reward with a “click” sound so the horse learns that the click means “Yes, that’s right!” This gives you an extremely powerful way to communicate very precisely with your horse.

Here’s my young horse Oto.

(Yes, this is relevant to overeating… read on!)

One of the concerns about training horses using positive reinforcement is that they are very big animals and sometimes they just have to do as they are told, even if they don’t want to, to avoid hurting someone. So, the obvious question is: “Why would a half ton horse do something it doesn’t want to do, for just a piece of carrot or a few oats?” It seems to stand to reason that if the horse wants to do its own thing more than it wants a piece of carrot, you’ll have a problem.

Oto bridge March 2010 00m 10sHowever, surprisingly, it doesn’t work like this. Once the horse is properly trained to do a behaviour, it becomes a habit to do it when you ask for it (i.e. when you give a “cue”), even if the horse has a strong motivation to do something else. So, I have trained Oto to stay with me on a loose lead rope, and the other day he did this even though a motorbike went past at about a hundred miles an hour and scared him. It’s become a habit. He keeps the rope slack without consciously thinking about it.

So, what’s this got to do with overeating? Well, in researching how animals respond to “cues”, scientists at John Hopkins University in Maryland have found that if you consistently show a blue light when feeding a hungry rat, say, pizza, and a red light when feeding the rat ice cream, eventually when you flash a blue light, the rat will eat pizza EVEN IF IT IS ABSOLUTELY FULL. And if you flash a red light, it will eat ice cream. The lights become “cues” to eat and they are followed automatically even if the rat doesn’t really want to eat. Similar responses have been found in humans.

Do you think maybe the food and advertising companies could have taken a special interest in this research?

So, the challenge is that we are bombarded with “eating cues” and we have been “trained” to perform certain behaviours (e.g. finish what’s on your plate). We can end up eating or finishing our plates even when it makes no sense, just as my horse didn’t run away when a big, scary motorbike was coming right at him! We end up eating and we might not even know why. We may not even consciously notice the “eating cue” – perhaps we walk past an advert or we smell something and then we find ourselves eating before we even know what happened. These cues go to the instinctual, emotional part of the brain, which acts very fast and at an unconscious level.

So, are we just helpless victims in all this? I think not. If we make a conscious effort to pause before carrying out “trained” behaviours, we can over-ride them. You are trained to stop at red lights but you can override this if the lights are broken. You are trained to use a toilet but sometimes you have to over-ride this on long walks in the hills!

Eat consciously and avoid going into autopilot whenever you can. Make a conscious effort to leave a little bit on your plate. Train yourself to get into helpful habits, like stopping when you are satisfied, so that this habit is strong enough to over-ride any external cues. And bear in mind that the food companies will be happy to train you to over-eat whenever they can!

Showing 7 comments


This is interesting Roz. Do you think the rats and lights researh could be used to STOP eating? if it could i get find myself with a nice little sidline of changing the colour of the light in peoples fridges! or even putting a light in the cupboad where i store crisps and bread! i guess that a colored cloth draped in the cupboard might also work. your thoughts would be interesting.

04/24/2010 10:54 AM
Roz Watkins

Interesting idea, Paul! I can imagine them doing something horrible with electric shocks… Or you could associate a particular colour light with feeling sick – that could be done with NLP. Or, I wonder what would happen if they flashed a green light every time they fed the rats some nice salad or vegetables… You could go around installing green lights in people’s fridges! Joking aside, this would quite likely work. Stranger things have happened on the Derren Brown show 🙂

04/24/2010 12:50 PM
in reply to Paul

the problem i have with leaving a little on my plate is what if i’m really enjoying my food?!

04/23/2010 10:41 PM
Roz Watkins

Hi, yes, this can make it hard to leave some! It’s really just about breaking the habit of ALWAYS eating everything on your plate (if that is a habit for you). If it’s not, and you don’t eat beyond hunger because you are good at not putting too much on your plate, then there’s no need to do this.

But some people never leave anything. If you ever let someone else serve you, this means you are letting someone else decide how much you eat. Research with “bottomless” soup bowls (which fill up from underneath) has shown that some people will just keep on eating pretty much forever if the bowl never empties! If you have this habit, you are inevitably going to over-eat on a regular basis.

If the food is really nice but you are full and there is still some left, why not save it for later when you are hungry again? Often, the need to eat it all in one go stems from dieting in the past because there is a thought in the back of your mind that if you don’t eat it now, you might not be “allowed” it later!

04/24/2010 07:44 AM
in reply to kateab

What about that bread smell in supermarkets? I’m told it isn’t even real bread but a chemical they waft a chemical scent of baking bread. Once you sniff it you can almost feel yourself rushing to the bread counter. Pause and walk on. I bought a bread machine.

04/23/2010 06:05 PM

Roz Watkins

Funny – trains do it to me too! They trigger sleeping and eating…

04/23/2010 11:45 AM

Yes I know this effect – there is something about train journeys that cues ‘eat grab-bag pack of Quavers and a kitkat’ to me …..no matter how long the journey is! Still at least I recognise this now and sometimes (shock horror) I go on a train and don’t eat anything!


High Fructose Corn Syrup

Researchers at Princeton University have found that rats fed high fructose corn syrup gain significantly more weight than rats fed table sugar. They also gain weight around the middle and develop the known risk factors for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cancer and diabetes.

Often in this kind of research the poor rats are stuffed with vast quantities of the product under investigation. However in this case, the concentration of HFCS was HALF that in typical fizzy drinks.

See http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/

Manufacturers have long said that HFCS is basically the same as table sugar. However, it does have some differences. Both are made up of glucose and fructose, but in HFCS there is a slightly higher proportion of fructose, and the fructose is more readily available to the body.

Which brings us to the next question – is fructose the problem? Fructose often gets a good press compared to glucose because it has a relatively low GI and less effect on insulin response. Plus, it’s found in fruit so surely must be healthy?

Recent research suggests that fructose (originating mainly from table sugar and HFCS) can cause insulin resistance and obesity. This book explains the research:

Link to “Fat Chance” by Robert Lustig

Although fuctose occurs naturally in fruit, we would only have consumed small quantities of this in the past and it would have made sense to fatten up for the long winter period when little food was available. However, now we consume fructose in huge quantities all year round and I haven’t noticed any winter famines recently round here.

HFCS is in virtually all processed foods, including many “diet” and “low fat” products. You may know my opinion about these. I suspect future generations will be absolutely horrified at the way the food companies have got away with pushing “low fat” products as “healthy” – when in reality they are often full of sugar, HFCS and artificial sweeteners and are causing huge problems. I wonder how many deaths have been caused by the government’s wrong advice to cut down fat, when they should have been advising us to cut down sugar and HFCS? Cartoon - low fat diet gave you heart disease

The good news is that if fructose is the cuplrit, starches are not – because they break down to glucose rather then fructose. So, bread, pasta, rice, etc would be OK.

And natural fats are fine of course! So, why not go and enjoy a nice piece of butttered toast? (Check your bread for HFCS though! I bought a bread maker…)

(By the way, if you’re still not convinced about fats, have a look at this article which appeared in Scientific American recently: Article on carbs

Showing 1-10 of 13 comments

Lynda Robson

Thank you for a very informative site.
05/11/2010 05:51 PM

Thanks Lynda, I’m really glad you find it interesting,
05/12/2010 08:10 AM
in reply to Lynda Robson
Maria Laben

Hi Roz many thanks for the info – will pass this onto other people
05/10/2010 01:26 PM

Thanks Maria, I appreciate you passing it on.
05/10/2010 09:30 PM
in reply to Maria Laben
Lidia Becci

Thanks Roz for the info. I no longer bother with low fat option although reading the labels is interestig! I also heard on radio that 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day isnt really making much difference to helping prevent cancer. I since starting your programme lost 5inches off my waist and nearly 2 stones in weight and I know I am not going to gain the weight again so thankyou Roz. I am enjoying my butter again on toast. People ask me how I am doing it and I tell them but they still beleive in dieting and low fat. I used to teach health promotion and after years in nursing and teaching it is extremely difficult to change people thinking.
05/09/2010 11:02 AM

Hi Lidia, thank you for commenting. I’m delighted to hear about your progress – that is really wonderful – well done!

It’s such a shame people find it so hard to abandon the low fat approach even though it doesn’t work. You are right that it is very hard to change people’s thinking. Thanks for doing your best to spread the word though!

05/09/2010 12:01 PM
in reply to Lidia Becci

Thanks for the helpful comments. I avoid fizzy drinks and diet food and since doing your enlighten programme have no problem with knowing when I am hungry and full. Sounds simple doesn’t it but such a simple reflex (if that is the right word) had become very blurred from years of dieting. I am getting there and eating like a ‘normal’ person and enjoying it. I am losing an average of a pound a week. It took 25 years to gain the weight and I another 12 months of not dieting should see it all off. Thanks for all your help.
05/09/2010 09:41 AM

Thank you so much for commenting. I’m really glad you are doing well and losing weight eating “normally” and not dieting. That is fantastic!
05/09/2010 11:57 AM
in reply to seekerphil

Hi Roz,
well done for finding out yet more about what food companies are trying to hide, and about what the Governbment won’t admit, namely that sugar is dangerous, not fat, and as it seems, fructose is worse than glucose. The government say we should eat lots of fruit and low fat. Their advice very nearly made me diabetic, which I would be now, hadn’t it been for Roz’s wonderful advice in her course!
Well done Roz, and keep up the good work!
Regards, Katherine
05/08/2010 11:33 PM
Roz Collapse

Thank you Katherine, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and hopefully it will help others avoid that dangerous low fat, high sugar diet.

Does dieting really make you eat more?

Various research suggests that going on a diet can actually make you eat more.

When you’re happy with your weight and have never dieted, you rely on your body to tell you when to eat and (crucially) when to stop.

But when you diet, this simple process goes very wrong. My clients often say: “As soon as I decide to go on a diet, I get this desperate urge to eat!”

And, whilst they are “good” for a while and stick to the diet, if they ever break the diet and start eating, then they REALLY eat, wolfing food down like young Labrador retrievers.

The ice cream experiment

Psychologists have investigated the effect of dieting on food intake, using dieting and non dieting students. The students were invited to eat as much ice cream as they liked after being given one of three different “pre loads”: one milk shake, two milk shakes or nothing at all.

The non dieters behaved as expected, eating less ice cream after one milk shake than none, and even less ice cream after two. But the dieters actually ate the most ice cream when they’d had the two milk shake, super sized “pre load”!

According to the psychologists, the effect of the milk shake preload was to undermine the dieters’ resolve, so they temporarily gave up their dieting abstinence. After the two milk shake pre load, the dieters decided the diet had been blown out of the water anyway, so they may as well make the most of the situation, and enjoy the ice cream!

This is a feeling which all dieters must recognise. After succumbing to one biscuit you think: “Oh, sod it, I’ve broken the diet anyway. May as well eat the whole packet, and the diet starts again tomorrow!”

The stressful film experiment

By denying themselves, dieters also make food much more important and give it emotional significance that it does not have for non dieters. For instance, dieters are more likely than non dieters to turn to food when they are anxious or depressed.

At a recent study carried out in London, female volunteers were divided into three groups: the first went on a strict diet, the second underwent a rigorous exercise programme and the third neither dieted nor exercised.

After five weeks, the researchers measured the women’s food intake while they watched a stressful film. Bowls of sweets and nuts were left beside the women and they were told to eat as they liked. Even though none of the women were hungry, those in the diet group ate far more than the others.