Binge Britain

binge britain: diet doctors specials (6/6)

Over 60 per cent of people in the UK are either overweight or obese, with many of us bingeeating ourselves into early graves. In this series, six super-fit athletes have v

binge britain: diet doctors
specials (5/6)

Over 60 per cent of people in the UK are either overweight or obese, with many of us binge-eating ourselves into early graves. In this series, six superfit athletes have volunteered to become human lab rats for two weeks in order to illustrate what effect the nation’s favourite food is having on our bodies. This episode sees boxer Cathy Brown take on a diet with a difference: fast food, three times a day for a fortnight.

European flyweight boxing champion Cathy Brown trains six days a week; running, weightlifting and sparring to keep her prize-fighting physique at the peak of fitness. She says that her life revolves around her training sessions, and her friend Natalie agrees, describing Cathy as “dedicated” and “obsessive”. As well as sticking to an intense exercise regime, Cathy makes sure that she gives her body the right fuel. Her fridge is full of chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables, skimmed milk and supplements – but that is all about to change.

Usually, Binge Britain’s participants are asked to add an unhealthy food type to their daily diet, but Cathy has had a very special diet devised for her. She opens the mystery box to find it crammed with burgers, kebabs, chips, pizza and fried chicken – and is horrified to learn that she must eat fast food for every meal instead of her normal diet. Cathy must also restrict her exercise to the national daily average of 5,000 steps, well below her usual total. “I don’t know what to say,” she gasps.

Cathy is right to be apprehensive: over the course of the fortnight she is likely to consume 960g of fat; 2,058g carbohyrdates; 175g of fibre and a whopping 35,300 calories. The UK is the biggest consumer of fast food in Europe, spending over £2.7 billion on it a year – and it is easy to overdo it on this high-calorie, high-fat and energydense food.

With no time to lose Cathy clears her fridge of its healthy contents to make way for some takeaways. On her first day, she cheerfully puts away two burgers, two portions of chips and a fry-up – but quickly notices the negative effects. “It seemed like quite good fun earlier,” she moans. Her stomach is swollen – caused by her body producing higher levels of gas as it tries to digest the excess fat – and she is feeling nauseous. “Great,” she says. “Really looking forward to the next 13 days. Hurrah.”

On day two, which Cathy started with a burger breakfast, another unwelcome side-effect is manifesting itself in the form of a huge spot on Cathy’s usually clear face. She is also having trouble restricting her exercise to the prescribed 5,000 steps a day – partly due to the nature of her work as a personal trainer – and, as a person who walks everywhere, finds it difficult to adjust to using public transport to travel the shortest of distances.

By day eight, Cathy has consumed the equivalent of 16,364 calories and eating all that fat is starting to take its toll. As well as having a constantly distended stomach, she is also feeling run-down and experiencing digestive problems, flatulence and pain in her lower back. She spends most of the following day in bed throwing up –and by the time the final day arrives, she is feeling unmotivated and lazy.

How will the fat and calorie-packed diet, combined with a drastic reduction in exercise, have affected Cathy’s super-fit body?

binge britain: diet doctors specials (4/6)

Over 60 per cent of people in the UK are either overweight or obese, with many of us binge-eating ourselves into early graves. In this series, six superfit athletes have volunteered to become human lab rats for two weeks in order to illustrate what effect the nation’s favourite food is having on our bodies. This episode sees bodybuilder and powerboat racer Sarah Donohue embark on a carb-packed fortnight. How will eating a whole loaf of bread a day affect Sarah’s muscle-bound body?

Sarah Donohue trains three to five times a week in the gym, lifting heavy weights and working on her endurance. “Her whole life is about training,” says Sarah’s friend Barbara. Dedicated to maintaining the body that has seen the press dub her ‘Britain’s fittest woman’, Sarah also keeps a strict watch on her diet and packs her fridge with protein shakes, energy drinks, tuna steaks, fruit and other lowcarbohydrate, low-fat foods.

All this is about to change. For the next two weeks, Sarah has to put away a whole loaf of bread a day and restrict her exercise to the national daily average of just 5,000 steps – a quarter of what she usually clocks up. Her doctor has given her the goahead to undertake this challenge, and her measurements and vital statistics have been recorded. At the moment, she has a metabolic age of 13 and weighs nine stone six – but for how long?

When Sarah opens the box containing the bread, she realises that this is not going to be an easy task. “I’m going to feel unpleasant,” she predicts. On the first day, she is delighted with the pile of toast she is having for breakfast, but is sure that the love affair will not last long. “It’s so nice,” she sighs. “But will it be this nice after 14 days?”

By the evening of the first day, Sarah is already feeling bloated – a common side-effect of eating too much bread, as digesting complex carbohydrates produces gas. “Is there such a thing as bread poisoning?” she asks. While her question is light-hearted, there is actually a serious point behind it: one in 300 Britons has a diagnosed wheat intolerance, with many more reporting the negative consequences of a wheat-heavy diet.

Surprisingly, Sarah’s bread-eating marathon leaves her extremely hungry when she wakes up on day three. A few hours and lots of bread later, she is feeling over-full again: “It’s only been three days and I’m feeling like a fat bloater,” she complains.

After six days, Sarah is feeling the full effects of eating 120 slices of bread. She is tired, her muscles are losing their definition and she has noticed water retention around her waist. Her friend Barbara comes round to make her a bread-roll packed brunch, and remarks on how the dietary change has also had a dramatic effect on Sarah’s mood – she has been grumpy and often loses concentration. She has also been experiencing lethargy, aggression and insomnia.

When the challenge is finally over, Sarah has consumed a total of 3,849g of carbohydrates and 18,648 calories. “I’m sick of eating bread,” she declares, unsurprisingly. “I’m back to fresh fruit, tuna fish and training!” However, getting off the bread and back to her usual healthy lifestyle is not as easy as she had hoped. A couple of days after the end of the challenge, she gets so sick that she thinks she may need to go to hospital –but fortunately this drastic step is not necessary.

After recovering from the alarming withdrawallike symptoms, Sarah is finally ready to go and find out about the bread’s other effects. In what kind of shape will her once super-fit body be now?

binge britain: diet doctors specials (3/6)

Over 60 per cent of people in the UK are either overweight or obese, with many of us binge-eating ourselves into early graves. In this series, six superfit athletes have volunteered to become human lab rats for two weeks in order to illustrate what effect the nation’s favourite food is having on our bodies. This episode sees Olympic sprinter Iwan Thomas spending two weeks indulging in one of Britain’s worst habits: eating too much red meat.

Iwan Thomas is a record-breaking sprinter who was ranked number two in the world in 1997. Recently he has been plagued by injury, but still trains “like an animal” to keep his super-fit body at its peak. Iwan’s fridge is filled with sport drinks and fruit, and protein-packed foods like white meat and eggs to help his muscles. He has a fitness test before he begins the trial, and is cleared by his GP to take part. He has a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute, weighs 83kg and has a metabolic age of 19 years – a result which pleases 32-year-old Iwan greatly!

Iwan is about to get a nasty surprise. He has no idea what food he will be eating for the next fortnight – and is shocked when he opens the box to discover a glistening pile of raw, red meat – 600g of which he must consume per day. This is way above the medically recommended daily average of 80g – about the size of a regular burger. Our nation’s ‘meat and two veg’ mentality means that many of us regularly exceed this amount, putting ourselves at increased risk of heart disease, weight gain and stroke.

As someone more accustomed to eating chicken and fish, Iwan quickly notices the effects of eating large amounts of red meat. He finds himself more tired than usual, which is caused by his body having to work extra hard to digest the high-meat diet. By the third day, Iwan is experiencing “havoc” with his digestive system, enduring bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. “My body is probably going, ‘What on earth are you doing?’” he groans. With this much discomfort after only a few days, he starts to wonder what two weeks of this diet is going to do to his body. “I am quite concerned as to what’s going to happen to me,” he admits.

However, by day six Iwan’s opinion of meat seems to be changing: he actually finds himself becoming addicted to it, and on day eight wakes up and has a steak sandwich for breakfast! Cravings are to be expected, as it has been found that some foods, like meat and cheese, release morphine-like opiates during digestion – giving them an addictive characteristic.

Iwan starts getting concerned when he notices that he is putting on weight, but wonders if it could be down to increased muscle mass. Then, on day ten, he notices a more worrying side effect: sudden pains in his side, which could be down to stomach cramps or digestive problems. He also finds that he is experiencing mood swings and has excess energy. However, on day 14 – after eating double his meat allowance the day before – Iwan wakes up with “excruciating pains” in his stomach.

By the end of the fortnight, Iwan has eaten 9.6kg of meat, containing 2,794g protein, 1,354g fat and 23,558 calories. Relieved that the challenge is finally over, Iwan meets up with his GP to hear the results of his final fitness test. How will his body have responded to two weeks of red meat? The results are both alarming and surprising.

binge britain: diet doctors specials (2/6)

Over 60 per cent of people in the UK are either overweight or obese, with many of us binge eating ourselves into early graves. In this series, six super-fit athletes have volunteered to become human lab rats for two weeks in order to illustrate what effect the nation’s favourite food is having on our bodies. This episode sees ex-Olympic swimmer Karen Pickering eat eight chocolate bars a day, whilst reducing her exercise regime to the national average.

Karen Pickering is a born competitor with a string of honours to her name. In a career that spanned almost 20 years, she was a world champion four times and won a staggering 13 Commonwealth and 13 European Championship medals, as well as acquiring two world records and an MBE.

Karen’s training regime used to involve 20 hours a week of pool practice and four weekly sessions in the gym. As her friend Jamie explains: “Nothing would come between her and her training… She would get in at one o’clock in the morning after clubbing, and get up at five to go training.” Karen confesses that she is always 100 per cent focused on her goals. “I’ve always been incredibly competitive, incredibly determined,” she says. With her body so well trained, she knows exactly what food she needs to eat to keep herself in top shape. And although she may no longer be competing, Karen is still in excellent health. “Karen is probably significantly fitter than your average person in the street,” says her trainer, Dave Champion.

After undergoing an assessment of her vital statistics and getting the all-clear from her GP, Karen is presented with her Diet Doctors challenge in a silver box. Inside, she discovers a mountain of chocolate bars, representing some of Britain’s most popular brands. Her mission is to eat eight bars a day, while restricting her vigorous exercise routine to the national average of only 5,000 steps a day. “You’ve got to be joking!” is Karen’s initial reaction. “Just the thought of putting that inside me is making me feel sick.”

Chocolate is an apt choice for Karen’s diet experiment, as it is one of binge Britain’s most popular indulgences. The nation eats around half a million tonnes every year, making us the fifthlargest consumer of chocolate in the world. Yet one bar can contain over 200 calories and 11 grammes of fat. Karen gets to work on her daunting challenge, but after only four bars she admits that she is already bored of chocolate. “I feel quite sick after I’ve eaten them,” she says. “They just don’t sustain you.”

Side effects of high chocolate consumption can include diarrhoea, bloating, mood swings and stomach cramps, all of which begin to assail Karen as the week progresses. If she were to continue this intake long-term, she would put herself at increased risk of coronary disease and type 2 diabetes.

By the time Karen takes a weekend trip to Palma de Mallorca, halfway through the challenge, she is suffering from vomiting and severe cramps. By day seven, she cannot keep her food down and her skin shows signs of her decline, with a sallow complexion, spots and dark circles under the eyes. “I want to be my normal, fun, happy self again and have some energy,” Karen says.

After consulting with her doctor, on the eighth day Karen abandons the challenge. “There’s no point in making myself more and more ill,” she says. Yet her competitive nature means that she feels like a failure for not completing the task. All that remains is for Karen to undertake a second fitness test to see how her body has coped with this onslaught of chocolate. The staggering findings will give even the most hardened chocoholic pause for thought.

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