The Claim: on average our grandparents and great-grandparents had smaller waists
and weighted significantly less. Could it be that even with all our modern exercise
and nutritional science, we have overlooked something from yesteryear's simple principles
of dieting? The Diets That Time Forgot is a six episode miniseries that originally
aired on British television. It is presented as a little experiment to see what
would happen if you put nine modern day, overweight people on early 20th century
diets and exercise routines.
Sir Roy Strong serves as the host of the show and acts as the director of the Institute
of Physical Culture--a fictitious fat camp of sorts where people go to be immersed
in early 20th century British diet, exercise, and culture. The contestants consist
of three males and six females that range in age from 21 to over 50.
They are divided into groups of three and each group is placed on a different weight
loss plan. The first group is placed on the Victorian diet, which is similar to
the low carb diets of today in that it consists mostly of meat, however many of
their meals come from uncommonly eaten parts such as tongue and kidneys. The next
group is given a low calorie diet from the 1920's. Much to the dismay of this group,
their meals are usually bland, made mostly of vegetables and fruits. The final group
is put on the intriguing and surprisingly effective Edwardian diet. This bizarre
eating plan allows you to eat whatever you want with only one hitch: you must chew
each bite 32 times.
The original Edwardian rule forced the group to not only endlessly chew each bite
into a sloshy froth, but tilt their heads back and let the remains ooze down their
throat. Whatever didn't fall down their throat without swallowing was to be spit
out. After a few meals of this humiliating display, the contestants cried foul to
Sir Roy Strong who relented and altered their plan to allow them to swallow all
the food after the 32 chews. There is no real science behind this diet outside of
common sense. It takes a while for your body to acknowledge that you are full--usually
well after you have devoured a full plate of food. This method of eating allows
your body more time to signal when it's satiated from the meal and stave off overeating.
Plus, chewing each bite 32 times would probably force you to stop eating out of
What makes this miniseries successful is the great cast. Between the quirky group
of contestants and the hilariously proper and fussy cast of institute employees,
there is rarely a dull moment in any episode. Candice, the youngest female contestant,
receives perhaps the most screen time. She is usually scheming some way to cheat
on her Victorian, low calorie diet along with her oft partner-in-crime, the truck
driving tomboy, Nikki. In later episodes, the antics of the middle-aged father,
Dave, who can't help but sneak off to the pub for some beer and pork scratchings,
steal the show. You can almost see an angel and a demon pop up on his shoulders,
arguing their cases, anytime he's faced with the temptation of a splurge. This is
a man who lives for his treats and beer. The expression of pure bliss that spreads
across his jovial face as he's breaking the rules by indulging on a forbidden fruit
is infectious. You laugh and then you, yourself, are faced with the desire to graze
your cupboard for some delicious fare.
The contestants are not only put on early 20th century diets, but they are made
to dress in clothes appropriate for that era and exercise proper manners and posture.
Nikki especially struggles with this portion of the show early on. Her boyish looks,
bad posture, and lack of self confidence are a huge obstacle that she struggles
with and must overcome. They are also put on old time exercise plans. Any exercise
is better than nothing, but this is one area where modern, more efficient exercise
routines of today would have been beneficial. That would ruin the premise of the
series, however, and the results of the "experiment" are impressive nonetheless.
There are a couple of scenes with full nudity--both female and male. It's brief,
but there. There is also an absolutely disgusting scene where one of the aids examines
the contestants' excrement. Contestants who show signs of constipation are sent
out for a colon cleansing, which is shown in full detail. Combined with the frequent
use of swear words by the contestants, this series is not for younger viewers or
those who can't bear the sight of human poo.
Audio: The series is presented in 2.0 stereo sound. As a reality television
show, there are few, if any, scenes where a more robust 5.1 mix would have proven
beneficial. The audio transfer is functional for what it is.
Video: The visual quality of this series is barely above what you would find
on a standard definition cable channel. The picture is 4:3 full frame and there
a lot of issues with pixelization and other compression artifacts. It's watchable.
Final Thoughts: The Diets That Time Forgot, while based on a bizarre premise,
is an entertaining little British reality show. I'm not sure that it's entirely
motivating though. The contestants got so much joy out of cheating on their diets,
that I only fancied a beer and pork scratchings even more while viewing each episode.
Maybe it is the way the contestants lovingly utter the word "delicious" with their
English accents as they devour the beer or junk food that they nicked while the
host wasn't looking. The production qualities of the DVD set are lacking, but if
you enjoy reality shows or get a kick out of British humor, then this series is
worth a go. Recommended.
Bobby is a programmer by trade and a wannabe writer. Check out his other reviews here. You can also check out his blog about harmless nonsense or follow him on Twitter