As the host of TV’s Secret Eaters, Anna Richardson helps overweight people fight the flab by putting them under 24-hour camera surveillance, capturing the true – and often surprising – extent of their eating habits.
But the presenter’s own diet isn’t all carrot sticks and lettuce leaves. In fact, she confesses: “I’m partial to a really grubby backstreet curry, washed down with a load of shandy.”
The Shropshire-born presenter adds: “Me and my partner [TV director Charles Martin] are always saying, ‘God, can you imagine if the cameras were here?’
“Last night, we had friends round for a roast dinner. I thought, ‘I’m going to eat slowly, I’m not going to have all the added extras, no bread for me’. I suddenly found myself two glasses of wine down, having pudding with custard, the Italian chocolates, everything. I know what I’m doing, but I still do it.”
Richardson also recounts how, as a youngster, she and some classmates raided the kitchens of their strict Staffordshire boarding school at midnight to stock up on biscuits and crisps.
“We’re all secret eaters; we all fall into the traps,” says the 43-year-old, whose honesty and humour have made her a hit with viewers on shows like Secret Eaters, The Sex Education Show and Supersize vs Superskinny. She’s also authored a Body Blitz Diet book, promoted as “perfect for anyone who wants to bust their gut in as painless a way as possible”.
“I’ve just been doing the voice-over for Secret Eaters, so I can see myself in the monitor to match the words to the pictures. In this episode, I was looking at myself going, ‘I look awful’,” the brunette presenter admits.
“I’m like any other woman in that I’m very self-critical. I might be the diet guru, but I’m a very ordinary person as well. I think it means people can identify more strongly with me, because I’m not a skinny minnie.
“I’m not Gwyneth [Paltrow] and I’m never going to be Gwyneth,” she adds.
Secret Eaters has a serious message behind its light-hearted approach. In episode one of the new series, we meet Surrey office workers Faye and Laura, who can’t understand why they are overweight.
After volunteering to be tracked by hidden cameras and private detectives, however, it emerges that the pals have been loading their plates with huge portions and munching sugar-laden treats.
Confronted by evidence of their secret scoffing by Richardson - in an incident room piled high with the calorific food they’ve been eating - the blushing pair then embark on a healthy eating plan.
Despite the show being in its third series, Richardson insists participants still haven’t worked out how to hide their habits.
“They know what they’re letting themselves in for and the same rules apply, they always know there are cameras going in their house,” she explains.
“But this year we’ve had to be bigger and cleverer about the cat and mouse games - getting other informants on the go, following them in cleverer ways, getting friends and family to play along, and rigging up offices and workplaces as well.”
So does Richardson get fans of the show snooping on the contents of her supermarket trolley?
“Thankfully no, because they all think I’m [TV presenter] Dawn O’Porter,” she says, laughing. “Whenever I do get stopped and anybody says, ‘What are you doing with that?’, I say, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m Dawn!’ She can be very, very useful sometimes.
“People seem to think that me, Dawn and Claudia Winkleman are exactly the same person.”
O’Porter has clearly encountered the same problem; she took to Twitter a couple of years ago to state: “I am not Anna Richardson.”
Perhaps it’s because, like O’Porter, Richardson has gamely thrown herself into the action on the shows she fronts. She ran naked into the sea to celebrate her body on Supersize vs Superskinny, and had an STI screening on The Sex Education Show.
Secret Eaters, Channel 4 , Wednesday 8pm