Super size me?

I WATCHED a horror movie this week. Not a stalk-and-slash thriller, though there were some disturbing scenes, including one in which a man's grossly distended belly was cut open.

I WATCHED a horror movie this week.

Not a stalk-and-slash thriller, though there were some disturbing scenes, including one in which a man's grossly distended belly was cut open.

This was a REAL horror movie, one to keep you awake at night. One that provided a great deal of food for thought - and you know how having a lot on your mind can banish sleep just as thoroughly as having too much on your stomach.

You may have seen, or heard about, Super Size Me when it was first shown on TV a couple of months ago. I caught the repeat, and it was certainly the best thing I've seen on the box for quite some time.

This was reality TV with a difference. It actually dealt with reality.

For those who don't already know, it's the story of an experiment. The story of what happened to film-maker Morgan Spurling when he decided to eat and drink for a month only what he could buy at McDonald's. He's now planning a host of more 30-day challenges from living on the US minimum wage to binge drinking.

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In the first film, rigorous (I mean very rigorous) health checks before he began showed him to be an unusually healthy young man.

Two weeks in, the doctors were shocked at his deterioration and advising him to give up the experiment.

By the month's end, he had gained almost two stone in weight. The once-fit Spurling had difficulty climbing the stairs to his own flat.

The medical experts were worried about the possible life-threatening effects on his heart and liver (“it's basically turned to paté”) and he was showing all the symptoms of classical addiction.

Along the way, there were investigations of such issues as school lunches (worse in the US than here, even before Jamie Oliver stepped in) and fast-food advertising.

There was a glutton's feast of facts and figures, of which just a few remain with me.

Like, 37 per cent of American children and two-thirds of American adults are seriously overweight or obese. Having visited the States recently, those figures don't surprise me - but they should still shock.

Like the fact that Americans gorged and swollen on junk food spend more on quick-fix slimming “remedies” than they do on exercise.

Like the fact that kids who drink cola or lemonade in American quantities can consume a pound of refined sugar a week in that form alone. And the fact that a McDonald's salad can contain more calories than a Big Mac.

And there was this question from one of the many nutrition experts interviewed:

Why do we feel it's OK to harangue a smoker about the damage they're doing to themselves, but not to tell someone they're too fat?

That instantly struck me as a very interesting point.

A couple of times this column has considered fat people - recently when reporting on my trip to the States, and earlier when pondering my experiences when working in south Essex.

Both times I have felt constrained about expressing my real feelings.

I didn't want to tell how I had watched immensely fat people waddling slowly by and wondered how they poured themselves in and out of their clothes. Or what they would look like without their clothes (a grim imagining not to be pondered on too closely).

I didn't want to share my curiosity (which I hope never to satisfy) about what it must be like to lug vast quantities of unnecessary blubber around with you everywhere you go.

I didn't want to share these things because I didn't want to offend anyone.

But, hang it, I didn't stint from offending smokers when I wrote about that. And I didn't hold back from upsetting drinkers when I wrote about drunkenness.

So why should I spare fat folk?

You may say defensively, if you're tubby yourself, that it's not your fault. You may kid yourself that being on the round side is your “natural” shape.

It wasn't natural a generation ago for Americans to be tubs of lard, and it isn't natural now that two out of three of them are that way now.

Face it. If you're too fat it's because you don't exercise enough and you eat too much - or badly.

So if you're laying off the cancer-sticks, try giving up the obesity-burgers too. And quit the diabetes-cola while you're at it.

There. I've said it.

I don't think my worst enemy would ever have accused me of being fat. But my best friend might point out that there's a little more of me around the middle than there used to be.

When I had to take back my last pair of new trousers and exchange them for the next size up, I knew it was time to take action. I've never succumbed to the supposed “attraction” of fast food, so it's a question of serving smaller portions, cutting out the extras like the odd square of chocolate, and putting myself on a regular course of work at the gym.

The hardest part for me has been reducing my intake of cheese.

A month in to this not-exactly-crash diet and do you know what? I think I'm feeling a little better already. Well, maybe.

I WAS about 12 when I visited the Planetarium in London, and it was brilliant.

The stiff waxwork dummies next door at Madame Tussaud's couldn't compare with the light show revealing the stars. The real stars, that is, not a bunch of mere entertainers.

Now the astronomy show is to close, making way for yet another exhibition about “celebrity” - as if we didn't already get more than enough of that rubbish from our papers, magazines and TV.

If we go on dumbing down at this rate, it'll soon be time to head back to the primordial swamp.


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