Katie Hopkins agreed to pile on the pounds for documentary My Fat Diary. But did she bite off more than she could chew asks Jeananne Craig.
Katie Hopkins oozes jolly hockey sticks charm as she enters the room in a pretty floral dress, offering up a platter of posh biscuits and warmly addressing those around her as “babe” and “lovely”.
It’s hard to believe this woman is the same ‘professional troll’ who has made a career out of her controversial views on everything from breastfeeding campaigners (“the mammary militia”) and the obese (“chubbers”), to children named Chardonnay (“someone named after a wine is not coming through our home”).
But then you get her moaning about the “magnolia bland” contestants on the latest I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, or cackling with laughter as she describes herself as “the Jesus of the outspoken”, and it’s clear the This Morning contributor and former Apprentice contestant is just as blunt as ever.
The usually fit and toned Hopkins is looking a little softer around the edges, however, having recently gone from 8st 7lb to 11st 13lb in three months for a new two-part documentary.
Katie Hopkins: My Fat Story shows the 39-year-old (“although people think I’m 52 already”) munching on fast food, ready meals, cakes and chocolate milkshakes to experience being overweight - and to prove her theory that losing weight isn’t really that difficult.
Given her strong views on overeating, it comes as a surprise to learn that Hopkins, who has previously claimed she’d never employ an overweight person, worked in a Wimpy branch and a McDonalds drive-thru in her youth.
“I probably served quite a few fat people in my time. Just as well they didn’t know who I was then,” she says in her slightly plummy tones.
“I did have a gold star [in McDonalds], which I kind of love. What I loved less about the drive-thru was that when they were talking to you on the intercom thing, they don’t realise it’s the same woman that serves it, so if they’re rude to you on the Intercom, yes I’m going to lick your burger.”
Burger-licking Hopkins admits being bigger for the TLC documentary was “hard work” - “it’s horrible going up the stairs, but more than that, it’s horrible how you feel about yourself” - and there’s even the occasional teary moment in the show.
So does Katie Hopkins have a heart after all?
“The place where my heart should be, where there’s just a thorny undergrowth, or an ice cube,” she laughs.
“I think I do have a heart,” she continues. “It took a while to find it. I didn’t cry at my weddings [the mum-of-three has been married twice, first to businessman Damian McKinney and currently to design manager Mark Cross], I didn’t cry at any of my children’s births, I didn’t cry at the things we should cry at in life, because I kind of see those as standard things that happen to you, and you can deal with that, because we’re bigger and tougher than that.
“But this broke me really... Becoming this other person that was 12 and a half stone, 50 per cent more of me than there used to be, not being able to run any more, not being able to leg it around the place any more and solve anything. I just became very weak.”
Things also suffered in the bedroom department as Hopkins became “pyjama woman” during filming, adding: “I don’t think my husband was particularly attracted or excited by my new Jabba the Hutt body.”
While Hopkins may have gained some empathy for people with weight problems during the course of the documentary though, she still wouldn’t give one a job.
“People do have their reasons for being overweight. Sometimes that’s because of upset or just because they’re comfy in their life, or sometimes that’s because they like cheese,” she says.
“But whatever their reason is, you still have to decide one day when you look in the mirror, ‘This is my problem, I’m going to do something about it, and I’m now going to say, ‘I have no excuses’. The day you can do that is the day you can change who you are and change the amount you weigh.”
She hasn’t fully lost the extra weight when we meet (a few months after the weight gain challenge), but is back in some of her old clothes, and “definitely near where I ought to be” – despite having tucked into fish and chops for her lunch.
“You can’t live your life on a diet. It simply has to be about making decisions about what you’ll eat, and moving more,” adds the Devon-born star, who has set up her own ‘Fat Club’ to encourage others trying to lose weight. “It’s not a fancy gym, it’s not a posh trainer, it’s not a personal chef.”
Hopkins insists that, despite what people think, she wasn’t born “with a silver spoon stuck up [my] bum”.
“I suppose I’ve changed quite a bit because of various things that have happened in my life,” she says matter-of-factly. “I was supposed to be in the military [she studied at Sandhurst] but I have epilepsy, I was going to stay in the company I worked for in Manhattan for 10 years but my [first] husband ran off with the secretary, so I went to The Apprentice...”
She hopes her children, aged 10 and under, see how “life can throw strange things at you and you can make your way around those things”.
But won’t she have to reign in her controversial comments when they get older?
“They know what I do, they can see it online if they want to look, I was honest about that.”
Katie Hopkins: My Fat Story airs on TLC on Friday January 2 and Saturday January 3.