TLC’s Paul McKenna Can’t Make You Thin
by Lynnea Dally


I was watching TLC the other day when I stumbled upon the show “I Can Make You Thin.” With nothing else on, I resolved to watch it. I enjoy watching others overcome their life difficulties; it gives me hope for my own. I figured it would be a cute, inspirational, tough it out show that would act as a fantastic time-filler before another show I liked was on. How could I have known that it was going to have me gnashing my teeth at the screen? It was all a load of tripe, designed to exploit the

The first thing I noticed was that the host had a British accent. Companies pushing shady products or so-so gurus that don’t quite cut it in Britain wield their intelligent, scientific-sounding accents over us impressionable Americans. I rolled my eyes but did my best to remain impartial; after all, this was supposed to be a program about helping people, right?

The episode I watched was about emotional eating. This is a serious problem as many people turn to food when they are feeling emotionally deficient or unloved. They bury their troubles in the short term solution of calories instead of long term confidence building techniques. Paul McKenna, the host, proposed a simple enough solution to perform: tap yourself slowly and several times over a few different acupuncture areas. I immediately switched from quasi-interested to outraged.

Acupuncture? In my opinion, acupuncture to begin with is a placebo used to take advantage of those who have nowhere else to turn. This man was just expanding on an already known smoke and mirror technique. He backed up his tapping technique with an anecdote or two instead of a scientific or independent study, of course.

The quack recommended this technique whenever you were feeling overemotional or when you were craving overeating. The most annoying thing is that this technique would work, just not for the reasons he used. By taking a minute to tap yourself all over your body in random spots, you are putting a roadblock in between you and food. If you just went straight away to scarfing down food, you could easily tuck away pounds without a second thought. However, by going through the silly tapping routine, you force yourself to stop and think about why you are eating and you’ll realize that you’re not actually hungry and will stop and go do something else. The infuriating thing is that the host never mentioned any of this. I can’t tell if he actually believes that acupuncture points impact eating habits or if he is strategically lying to his audience to try and sell them on his technique. Is he really that delusional or just a manipulative money-grubber?

The disclaimer of the program brought everything together. “Individual results may vary. No results are guaranteed. Consult your doctor.” This is to shield the guru from those for whom the tricks do not work. Of course, it won’t work for the majority of people because it’s just a bogus placebo. Since the title of the show is,”I Can Make You Thin” it’s implied that if it doesn’t work it’s only because you’re so helpless that you can’t be helped. Unfortunately blaming the victim is pretty typical of the weight-loss industry. All the pills, potions, fad diets, books, and programs are based on lies that blame the dieter when they fail, and they fail because they are simply gimmicks. It makes me sick that these people are not treated with the honesty and respect that they deserve.

They deserve solid, healthy techniques that will give them long term results, not some gimmicky short term loss. One of the best TV shows that actually captures this is “You Are What You Eat” on BBC America. In this program, the host makes participants keep a food diary and prescribes them an eight week diet to improve their health, not to make them lose weight. It is implied that they are given some kind of program to continue with after the eight weeks they remain on the show. While not perfect, this is more of what people deserve. This show uses the simplest mental trick of all: relearning poorly learned behavior, and the show does not lie to the audience by invoking some kind of chakra voodoo. It informs them and guides them, offering solutions to something that’s always challenged them. It works because there’s a professional guiding them along the way, and it doesn’t hide that fact.

If you want to lose weight, be honest with yourself and avoid these money draining gimmicks. Don’t buy the pills or the books or the diet regimes. Speak with a dietician and eat healthy for a few weeks. You’ll retrain yourself to enjoy the new foods and feel better when you start eating better. UCSB has well-trained dieticians on staff at the Student Health Services that can help you if you want to change yourself, not some sensationalist lie.