• Hala El-Shafie, Dr Xand Van Tulleken and Stacie Stewart from 'The Diet Testers'. (SBS)Source: SBS
Let 'The Diet Testers' do all the heavy lifting.
Alice Fraser

1 Mar 2018 - 10:32 AM  UPDATED 1 Mar 2018 - 10:32 AM

Who has the time or emotional energy for a diet? What’s the right one to do? Is it no meat or all-meat? No grains or grains-only?

What about feminism? Are you letting down the team if you refuse to eat a muffin?

Or is that muffin you’re defiantly eating proof that you’re a victim of consumer capitalism and it’s perversion of most political positions, including body positivity, into incentives for reckless purchase as a mode of self-expression through externalised display.

It’s all very fraught. Thank goodness for The Diet Testers, which is a show about what it says it’s about.

Dr Xand van Tulleken is back with dietician Hala El-Shafie for a third season of making members of the public miserable or happy in their dietary lives by wrangling them into road testing the most hyped, pop, fad and sciencey diets available. Café cook Stacie Stewart helps the volunteers to turn their diets into delicious dishes, and we follow their successes and failures. Unlike some other science-adjacent television I could mention, it’s actually got a faint ghost of being legit in its methodology and sense of purpose, while being very watchable, and therein lies its charm.  

It’s like a Vulcan soulbond between a proper science documentary and a fun reality TV show where you meet actual human beings living their real lives, and it’s fascinating and informative and relatable.

Most of us have tried a diet that didn’t work at some point. Whether it’s personal idiosyncrasies or snake oil salesmen, your average consumer of the possibility of there being less of themselves wants to know what really actually works.

For a while, when I was doing a lot of athletics, I tried intermittent fasting, of the variety where you don’t eat after midday. Eventually I failed when I realised that clock faces are round for a reason. Everything is simultaneously before and after midday, time means nothing, sandwich is always now and thanks, yes, I’ll have that food, please.

I’ve also tried the scientifically proven (by Germans!) “increasing your fibre intake”, which resulted in better body composition, but also a lot of sudden poo.

In the show, dieters are sorted into groups like Harry Potter houses or enemy gangs that will fight to the death/compare results over three timeframes. It’s like Mad Max, but instead of whether you live in BulletTown, it’s about what you get to eat for breakfast. The three groups are Crashers on short term diets, Shape Shifters on six-week programmes and Life Changers on four-month dieting plans. (This is also a good way to classify Tinder date potential.)

In the first episode of this season, Hala helps Becky and Sheena from Devon reach their goals in time for a hot tub party (sound like Crashers to me. Let’s get 'em, lads!). The good doctor Xand tests some of the most extreme dieting methods available and does the hard yards on finding out whether diet pills work. He self guinea-pigs by trying the uber-trendy raspberry ketones and finds out if radio frequency fat removal can melt his tummy fat away.

To find out what works and what doesn't, watch The Diet Testers on Thursday 1 March at 8:35pm on SBS.

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