Tuesday 16 July 2019

Losing weight and saving face

Yo-yo dieter: Oprah Winfrey
Yo-yo dieter: Oprah Winfrey
Scarlett Moffatt
JP McMahon
Chaka Khan
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

You cut out the complex carbs. You exercised three times a week. You even took the time to weigh 30g of nuts for your mid-morning snack. But now, months after embarking on the latest fad diet, you've noticed that the weight you lost is slowly, but surely, creeping back on.

It's a disappointing truth that fad diets simply don't work. However, those who have noticed that their belly is back over their belt should probably just be grateful that their tail isn't between their legs…

Scarlett Moffatt, the reality TV star who released a fitness DVD after she went from a size 18 to 8, was recently accused of lying about her weight-loss method.

SuperSlim Me Plan, her fitness DVD, has sold 60,000 copies since its release in December 2016, but it has been alleged that Moffatt didn't follow the diet that she advocated and in fact attended a militant fitness bootcamp where she subsisted on 700 calories per day.

It gets worse. Moffatt has since regained weight after slimming down to a size eight and it has been suggested that she may have to return £100,000 to the producers, due to a clause that stipulates she has to stay slim for a year after the DVD's release.

Like the dozens of D-listers who have promoted get-thin-quick plans, Moffatt probably thought the DVD was a wonderful idea at the time. All she had to do was follow the tried-and-tested formula: showcase her weight gain in an ill-fitting bikini, transform the bloated 'before' into a considerably svelter 'after' and cash in her chips just in time for the January sales.

It's almost too good to be true. Almost. Like many of the celebrity weight-loss crusaders that have gone before her, Moffatt didn't realise that any weight she gained would be as closely observed as the weight she lost.

When you become the 'drop five dress sizes' poster woman, you can't fall off the weight-loss wagon or eat with impunity over Christmas. Order a burger and you're letting yourself go; order dessert and you've lost the run of yourself entirely.

The unsolicited advice of well-meaning fans makes matters worse, as comedienne Katherine Lynch revealed when she admitted that she regrets taking part in Celebrity Operation Transformation.

Apparently people now look in her shopping basket when she's at the supermarket, and say, "Oh, should you really have that?"

Oprah, who was the Ascended Master of yo-yo dieters before she became the Instagram generation's spiritual leader, has her own regrets about losing weight in the public eye.

She especially regrets the famous 1988 'wagon of fat' episode when she proudly wheeled out a wagon containing 67 pounds of animal fat to demonstrate how much weight she lost on a liquid-only diet. "When I look at that show," she said recently, "I think it was one of the biggest ego trips of my life."

Radical weight loss is always inspiring. The problem is that it's not always sustainable, as many a celebrity has learned the hard way. For every Davina McCall, there's a dozen D-listers whose weight has fluctuated wildly since they released a fitness DVD.

And those in the public eye aren't the only slimmers at risk of hubris. We all know someone who became an overnight weight-loss guru when they managed to shift the pounds.

They evangelised about sweet potatoes, scolded colleagues for eating white bread and told anyone who would listen that it's "80 per cent diet". They had less to say when the weight crept back on.

Moffatt's fall from grace is a salutary lesson for those who have derived their identity from extreme weight loss. Weight goes up and down, but egos swell and burst.

Two chefs improve the broth at Galway's Aniar

JP McMahon.jpg
JP McMahon

Too many chefs spoil the broth, but what if it's two chefs, from two different restaurants?

That was the question JP McMahon (above) of the Michelin-starred Aniar restaurant in Galway asked when he started Chef Swap last January.

The culinary exchange programme invites celebrated chefs, both national and international, to the Galway restaurant where they discover local produce, collaborate with the staff and cook for guests over two nights.

"It brings renewed energy not only to the restaurant but to the team," explained McMahon when we caught up with him earlier this week. "There is always something left over after they go. It could just be a tiny thing like the way something is seasoned."

The visiting chefs learn, too. "What they realise is that all restaurants have the same difficulties," said McMahon, who is also the culinary director of Cava Bodega and Eat Gastropub. "Benoit Dewitte was really impressed with our reservation system. Adam Reid of The French in Manchester loved that we only have 24 seats."

Next up are Gunnar Karl Gíslason of the Michelin star Agern (March 23-24) and Amanda Cohen of cult vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy (April 6-7). Both restaurants are based in New York and, incidentally, the chefs at their helm will be showing McMahon around their neck of the woods this weekend.

The Galway chef is in the Big Apple to cook for 3,000 LinkedIn employees in the Empire State Building, and Gíslason and Cohen have been invited along for a panel discussion on Irish food.

"The menu is inspired by Ireland," said McMahon, a few hours before he embarked. "It isn't kitschy or stereotypical, but it's still identifiable. It's just to broaden people's palates.

"It's nice that it coincides with Paddy's Day," he added. "It's the only day that you get a free pass to talk about Ireland."


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