Maybe I got too used to the palatable pap I’d been consuming (both TV and food-wise) over the festive period. Maybe I was looking for any excuse not to embark on a January detox. But I found 50 Shocking Facts about Diet and Exercise (9pm, 1 January, Channel 5) pretty entertaining and informative.
For one, there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know. Like the fact (no 48) that mass-produced bread contains a processing aid made from chicken feathers (“clucking hell,” as the narrator aptly put it) or that spinach has just a thirtieth of the iron content it had in 1914 (15) or that, gulp, a side effect of diet pills is “uncontrolled anal oil seepage” (22).
The programme was also surprisingly up to date, citing the recent revelation that you only need to do three minutes of high-intensity training a week to improve your health (42) and research showing that extremely reduced calorie intake can lengthen life (4) if it doesn’t kill you first.
Not that there weren’t plenty of statements of the obvious (like skipping breakfast being bad for you (38)). There was also rather too much focus on gruesome physical ailments caused by exercise (like vaginal and rectal prolapses, yikes). And the top two shocking facts - ‘don’t believe everything you read in the papers’ (2) and ‘fad diets don’t work’ (1) - were not at all shocking (the papers one was also bizarre given the programme’s Daily Mail-esque tone). But for all its trash TV trappings, 50 Shocking Facts made a lot of salient points that anyone contemplating extreme diet or exercise regimes would do well to heed.