I'm not sure why I tuned it to this weight-loss show, I Can Make You Thin, on TLC, but I know why I kept watching. I was hooked when host and British self-help guru Paul McKenna looked straight into the camera and said, "I'm talking to you through your television."
I'm a sucker for that kind of retro hucksterism, and sure miss the days when TV preachers would holler at you to lay your hands on the television screen so they could transmit blessings and healings. (And, not surprisingly, while this show isn't an infomercial, McKenna has plenty to sell at his Web site, where I also learned that the dude is a hypnotist.)
McKenna's bitten off quite possibly a bigger task than eternal salvation: getting Americans to trim down. Not by dieting -- "This is not a diet," he said helpfully, adding "diets don't work," to a cheering studio crowd of folks-for-whom-diets-have-not-worked.
His gimmick is to -- in just FIVE SHORT WEEKS (step right up!) -- retrain us all to think differently about food and eating.
Fair enough -- good eating starts with the mind, for sure -- but I wish Mr. McKenna the best of British luck. He's clearly underestimated Americans' astonishing capacity for selective information.
For instance, one of the Four Golden Rules we learned on episode one was "Eat what you like." Now, that comes in tandem other restrictions like portion control, method of eating, and, in a later episode, exercise. But like the dog that only hears its name in your stream of babble, I'm wagering folks just heard "eat what you like ... and lose weight."
McKenna, who has a smooth delivery further enhanced by his vocal similarity to dreamy Battlestar Galactica villain Gaius Baltar, gave us all "homework." Needless to say, except for the "eating what you like" part, I blew it off.
I was also supposed to empty my cupboards of foods I had bought out of earnest but don't want to really eat (rye crisps, butternut squash); not eat while reading or watching TV (unthinkable: TV is my primary dining companion); and put my fork down after each bite (I'm already eating on the couch while watching TV and have nowhere to realistically lay my dirty silverware).
I'm as self-selecting in my self-improvement as anybody.
But, I'll tune back in, because there's something goofily compelling about this show. (I might have been hypnotized.)
In the coming weeks, through my TV, McKenna is going to help me with cravings (yup), emotional eating (sure), "supercharging" my metabolism (why not?) and most cultishly, a "unique visualization technique to help [me] gain confidence and self-esteem." Bring it on.
Plus, like all weight-loss shows, we get to follow along with selected participants, who, because they are on a TV, tend to do remarkably well. Though, McKenna took the most bizarre "starting weight" -- the total of the studio audience. How meaningless is that!?
Of course, in fine print during the credits we get: "This show is for entertainment purposes only." Or, as I preach in my new plan, I Can Make You Smart -- "watch what you like."