Making The Men Who Made Us Thin for BBC Two has profoundly changed how I view my body.

I visited Brazil where gastric surgery is a huge industry. Watching a gastric bypass in the operating suite is somewhat equivalent to those anti-smoking ads of the 70s and 80s when school kids were shown the amount of tar in their lungs.

If you wanted an ad to put you off highly calorific processed food then it should show the fat around your vital organs. It's revolting and changed my attitude to being overweight.

Of course if you're morbidly obese there are serious health consequences, but for most of us who struggle to lose a few extra pounds the lesson I took from making this programme was to stop focusing on the weight and instead on being fit and happy.

Encouraging teenagers to be skinny? Jacques meets diet guru Venice A Fulton

 

In my experience people want to be thin partly for cultural reasons - to fit in to the desirable norm.

But these cultural reasons also start to become biological reasons over time - when being thin becomes equated with being more attractive, and this means attracting a mate, this becomes a biological imperative.

One reinforces the other - it's a vicious circle.

Looking back to the post war period, before we even had an industrialised diet industry as such, one American insurance company reclassified the body mass index (BMI) scale.

The decision labelled at least half the US population as overweight when they had previously been categorised as normal.

Arguably this triggered a sense of panic about weight which stays with us to this day.

The series also made me realise how the overweight are doubly discriminated against.

First they are shamed by society, then they are told that when they don't lose weight long term through commercial diet programmes that it is their fault.

It was interesting meeting the people who had created the diets worth literally billions - Danny Abraham with Slim-Fast and Pierre Dukan and learning about Jean Nidetch of WeightWatchers - what they all share is huge charisma.

This is why they become gurus - people want to believe in someone who says: trust me, I will help you lose weight.

I spoke to a lot of scientists for this series and discovered that around 85% of people put the weight back on after five years.

Personally I think people should stop worrying about their weight and focus on being healthy and happy, at any size.

Exercise is often seen as an important tool of weight loss but I was really interested to speak to Dr Terry Wilkin who is conducting a long-term study at Plymouth Hospital.

He explained to me that 75% of the calories we use we burn just by staying still. These calories fuel the metabolic processes which keep our bodies functioning.

A trip to boot camp proves that you can be fit and fat, but can Jacques hack the workout himself?

 

So no matter how much you exercise your calorie burning effects are limited by your metabolism.

Therefore although exercise is fantastic for getting fit it’s not necessarily great for losing weight.

People who say they lose weight through exercise have actually done so because they already have the right mental attitude towards it.

The psychological battle has already been won before they put on those running shoes.

But exercise is undoubtedly good for you. Fit people live longer. Thin people however do not necessarily live longer.

Being underweight can be as serious a health issue as being obese. Being overly thin - ask any recovering anorexic - is not a good place to be.

In the programme I attended a boot camp with two obese women - both named Katie - who proved they were far fitter than me in spite of their weight.

Being beaten was a real lesson - it proved that being fit is more important than what size you are. And losing so easily was even more humiliating than having to wear the boot camp's pink T-shirt!

Both Katies had found that by focusing on fitness rather than weight loss they had lost weight as a by-product.

They had begun to eat more healthily but with fitness always the goal, weight loss had happened anyway: very small changes on a daily basis make a huge difference.

But the key advice which I picked up again and again throughout the making of this series was that it’s important to change your mental attitude.

The key seemed to be not to focus on the weight but on getting fit and whatever you do, don't crash diet or go on a fad diet.

Jacques Peretti is the presenter of The Men Who Made Us Thin.

The Men Who Made Us Thin starts on Thursday, 8 August at 9pm on BBC Two and BBC Two HD.  For further programme times please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Comments

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  • Comment number 108. Posted by Brian Thomas

    on 27 Sept 2013 13:34

    This comment was removed because it broke the house rules. Explain

  • Comment number 107. Posted by boogaloo

    on 3 Sept 2013 21:20

    This is a very good documentary, it is interesting and very well produced, keeping the points they make punchy and clearly delivered by the presenter. Organic veg for me !!

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  • Comment number 106. Posted by Ayz

    on 2 Sept 2013 14:18

    I know from experience ,if I eat a lot of processed food ,I will gain weight .I am not a scientist ,so I do not know why I gain weight if I eat a lot of processed food , I can only imagine it must have something to do with the amount of salt ,sugar and additives .I also believe that processed foods must lack in vitamins and minerals .I tend to stick to homemade meals so I know exactly what I am eating .I find it very easy to maintain a healthy weight , despite being unable to do a lot of formal exercise , although I do work and go for short walks when I can .
    I find if I eat the same amount of calories from processed foods I gain weight rapidly , but if I eat fresh I lose weight and inches easily .
    The programme was confusing ,with "facts" about exercise not being an effective way of losing weight , but I know that diet and exercise do work . I would say that if you have a lot of weight to lose , there is no quick fix to fast weight loss . You put on weight slowly over years and you should try to lose weight in the same way , slowly . Small changes , small losses .
    If you are overweight then you need to look first to your diet . Try eating fresh home cooked food for a couple of months and see how you get on .
    Don't try to be stick thin , that is just unobtainable , unless you are naturally meant to be a stick!
    Please be realistic , if you eat a lot of sugar and saturated fats , it is going to show on your body , no matter how much exercise you do !

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  • Comment number 105. Posted by DOS

    on 1 Sept 2013 23:07

    This whole series seems to suggest that its basically pointless to try and loose weight- yet its obviously possible to do so. Lots of people manage to loose weight all the time, and taking a celebrity example Christian Bale went from the Machinist to a Batman in a few months, so it obviously IS possible for people to change their weight VERY quickly.

    Why is the information about how to do so not public knowledge, and why are programmes like this trying to promote the idea that loosing weight is basically a hopeless impossible battle that we cannot possibly win?

    This programme seems to be suggesting that basically nothing you do will actually make you loose weight so there is basically no point bothering. The only thing you can do is try and be more healthy. But you may still end up healthy and disgustingly fat- and there is nothing you can do about it..

    But that is obviously rubbish. Unfortunately I am not talking from experience. I am finding that shedding even a few pounds requires an absolutely extraordinary amount of effort, literally hours and hours a day most days a week, it seems like massive, massive amounts of effort, like its taking over my entire life, just to loose a few pounds.

    But as is commented on in this show, celebs do it all the time for money? I don't really care if it lasts I'd just like something that freaking happened at all...

    So how do they do it? Is loosing weight literally a full time job- is that the only way to do it? I am doing two hours a day, five days a week, and eating virtually nothing, what more is required!!!

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  • Comment number 104. Posted by MikeC

    on 1 Sept 2013 17:27

    Although Jaques spoke about the possible plans to tax high sugar drinks, he did not mention the current paradox which already taxes healthy foods with VAT by categorizing them as "luxury". For example, a bar comprised of dried fruit & nuts has VAT added. Ironically, if these items are bought separately they are not taxed!

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  • Comment number 103. Posted by Fed up

    on 30 Aug 2013 12:24

    Dear Jacques Peretti,
    With great interest I was watching your programs. It confirmed what I was thinking about diet scum but it’s good that finally it was officially said on TV.
    I one of those who deal with weight problem, my BMI is 31 sometimes is 29 - it’s a hopeless fight especially if you are eating for comfort. But I love exercises! It helps my depression as well.
    I got some question to you as you went deep inside this field. Unfortunately I cannot afford the gym – sport club any more – I on the low income. I started to do some jogging - I am living in very nice area - Worthing West Sussex. And here you are the second time “unfortunately” happened – I fell ill with my heels – Plantar fasciosis – unable you to walk, or at least I have to cut down with exposing my heels to any this kind of situation. So the only exercise for me is swimming or cycling on the gym.
    I found the scheme “prescription for gym” founded by the Ministry of Health. I went to my GP and unfortunately the only option in Worthing for people is discount £4 per session while the membership costs £40! What else was interesting is that the only gym supplier in Worthing is local council who was supposed to help to fight with obesity.
    I just wonder how this “prescription for gym” scheme works because it is for sure not helping people - it looks like another scum.
    In my opinion, facing huge problem with overweight and obesity local sport clubs or leisure centres should be free for people with weight problem to encourage them to working out. But of course it will never happen.
    If someone got some information regarding “prescription for gym” scheme [Personal details removed by Moderator]
    Regards,
    Matti

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  • Comment number 102. Posted by James Thomas

    on 30 Aug 2013 05:22

    The blog posting here suggests that many of the viewers didn't read the title of the series.

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  • Comment number 101. Posted by James Thomas

    on 30 Aug 2013 05:11

    Have I just watched four substantial episodes on obesity without a single mention of alcohol, let alone a serious analysis?

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  • Comment number 100. Posted by Brian Thomas

    on 29 Aug 2013 15:00

    This comment was removed because it broke the house rules. Explain

  • Comment number 99. Posted by Brian Thomas

    on 29 Aug 2013 14:24

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