World’s Best Diet

Tuesday, 30 June 2009, 8:00PM – 9:00PM

In part two of the challenge to find what could be the world’s best diet, presenter Jonathan Maitland and four overweight celebrities – Linda Robson, Cheryl Baker, Darren Gough and Carole Malone – continue their journey to discover why other nations are bucking the obesity trend and how they compare to the UK.

From raw fish in Japan to the low-carb diet in California; from vegetarian curry in India to the Mediterranean diet in Italy – each of the celebrities travels to a different nation, immersing themselves in the local cultural attitude towards healthy living and learning to cook their food.

They are challenged to maintain their regime when they return to the UK for a further five weeks to see who will lose the most weight and emerge the healthiest. At the same time, presenter Jonathan examines, with the help of nutritionist Amanda Ursell and dietician Dr Catherine Collins, what has happened to our eating habits in the UK and why 25 per cent of us are now obese. And he also joins the diet challenge by reverting back to the typical post-war diet that his parents would have followed.

In this episode, Birds of a Feather star Linda Robson lands in Japan, where only 3 per cent of people are obese and they live longer, healthier lives than anyone else in the world. Jonathan attempts to stick to a traditional British diet, eating three healthy meals a day, sensible portions and turning his back on all snacks. And celebrity newspaper columnist Carole Malone jets off to LA, home to Hollywood and the beautiful people and where tough exercise regimes and dieting are a way of life.

At just over 13 stone, Carole is overwhelmed by the perfectly toned bodies of the California beauties surrounding her.

“I want to cover up here,” Carole jokes. “I want to go to a shop now and buy a T-shirt, a big baggy thing and hide because there is not a fat person on this street. There’s a part of me that says, ‘Who cares what they think,’ but of course you do care. When you are overweight, you always care what other people think. If I was living here full time, I’d have to be a lot slimmer than I am.”

In search of her own skinny frame, Carole adopts the popular low carb diet, which means plenty of fruit and vegetables, fish and chicken and absolutely no bread, pasta or other high-carb foods.

She meets up with former Blue Peter presenter Katy Hill, who has been in LA for two years, for some support. “My lifestyle has changed hugely from being here,” says Katy. “I put on five stone when I was pregnant with my daughter and I was still carrying quite a lot of that baby weight when we landed here. That was quite a culture shock because people are tiny here. I remember being in a big hotel in LA having lunch with a British girlfriend and we ordered the bread basket and you could literally hear all the women in the restaurant go, “Uh! They’re eating bread!”

“Everything’s geared much more to fitness here, you can be outdoors so much more because of the weather. In restaurants there’s always a healthy option, in supermarkets the organic produce is amazing. It’s easy to be healthy in LA.”

But it’s not so easy for Carole who is put through a punishing fitness regime by celebrity fitness trainer Michael George – running endlessly up staircases and working out as much as three times a day on the beach.

In Japan, Linda Robson is not finding it any easier. The national diet consists of plenty of noodles, rice and vegetables, with the main protein being soya and fish. The Japanese eat three and a half times the amount of fish that we do in the UK. Low in fat and sugar, these foods ensure obesity levels are the lowest in the developed world.

But Linda is having trouble swallowing one of its main staples – raw fish! Invited for dinner by the Kato family, she can’t keep the specially prepared sashimi down. “I’m really embarrassed now,” she says. “Maybe I should have started with the dumpling and worked my way up.”

She is impressed, however, with the other dishes and how the whole family prepares the food and eats together – something her own family rarely does. Eating with chopsticks also slows things down and reduces the amount of food consumed.

Her guide and food writer Kimiko Barber explains: “There’s a saying in Japanese, ‘Hari hachi abumni,’ means basically tummy 80 per cent. You should never eat up to when you feel full, bloated or stuffed, but you should leave the table as you are thinking, ‘I’d like a bit more.’”

Linda and Carole have learned an incredible amount through their travels but will they be able to apply any of it to their normal routines in the UK?

As the programme continues, Linda finds sticking to a Japanese diet a near impossibility with her busy work schedule and makes the mistake of turning to oriental take-away meals.

A lack of carbohydrates is leaving Carole in a terrible rage and the newspaper columnist is finding giving up wine, which is high in carbohydrates, a real challenge.

She explains: “I’ve been invited to a few parties, dinner parties, drinks things and they’re all monstrously boring. I get there and we all start off the same and then people have a few glasses a wine and I have my fizzy water and within an hour I am gagging to go home because everyone starts repeating themselves and you think they are terribly interesting and they’re not because I’ve heard it all before 10 minutes ago. And I know that’s what I’m like when I’ve had a few drinks. And it just makes your social life deathly, deathly dull.”

And Jonathan, who is attempting to revert back to a traditional British diet, is struggling to resist his snack addiction forcing his mentor top chef Ed Baines to crack the whip by signing him up for a gruelling military fitness session.

As their challenge ends, the three of them rejoin Darren Gough and Cheryl Baker, who have adopted Mediterranean and Indian vegetarian diets respectively, to find out if their new eating regimes have left them any fitter and healthier.

Each is weighed and measured and their cholesterol levels are tested. Who will have lost the most weight and will that necessarily mean they are the healthiest? Will any of the participants continue on with their new eating habits? And which nation will emerge as having what could very well be the world’s best diet?

Tuesday, 23 June 2009, 8:00PM – 9:00PM

The average British diet is making us fat and unhealthy, with nearly one in four of us in the UK diagnosed clinically obese. In contrast, people in some other countries stay slimmer and live longer, healthier lives. So what’s their secret?

In the new two-part factual series World’s Best Diet, presenter Jonathan Maitland and four celebrities — Linda Robson, Cheryl Baker, Darren Gough and Carole Malone – set out on a journey to discover why these other cultures are bucking the obesity trend and how they compare to the UK.

From raw fish in Japan to the low-carb diet in California; from vegetarian curry in India to the Mediterranean diet in Italy – each of the celebrities travel to a different nation, immersing themselves in the local cultural attitude towards healthy living and learning to cook their food. They are then challenged to maintain their regime when they return to the UK for a further five weeks.

At the same time, presenter Jonathan examines what has happened to our eating habits in the UK by reverting back to the typical post-war diet that his parents would have followed.

Which one of our contestants will lose the most weight and emerge the healthiest? And which one of the diets could turn out to be a new way of life?

In part one of the series, we meet our participants who are all desperate to shed the pounds.

Former cricketer and champion dancer Darren Gough may not look overweight at first glance, but his measurements put him in the obese category.

“I’ve suddenly retired and I need to nip it in the bud now before it gets out of hand,” he says. “I like my drink…I like my food…It’s the snacking for me and when I have a lump of cheese it’s a proper lump not just a thin slice.”

Buck’s Fizz singer Cheryl Baker has always felt fat. “I’ve always been the big girl in Bucks Fizz. There was this advert years ago “can you pinch an inch?” I can pinch loads. I can pinch yards and I hate it.” Dietician Dr Catherine Collins reveals that Cheryl would be in the healthier range if she lost 10 centimetres off her waist.

Celebrity columnist Carole Malone says she’s been on “every diet known to man” but still measures in a borderline obese. “I can’t be hurtling towards retirement eating donuts or I won’t make it.”

Birds of A Feather star Linda Robson, who is classified as obese at 13 stone 11 pounds, explains her attitude towards food. “I wake up in the morning and I’m worried about what I’m having for a lunch and then as I am having lunch I’m worried about dinner that night.”

“I feel heavy…I feel sluggish. I just want to feel a bit lighter and feel a bit healthier.

And finally presenter Jonathan Maitland, who admits to a big dessert and cake problem, is weighed and measured. Catherine gives him the bad news. “This shows that you have 50 per cent more body fat than you should have and it’s concentrated around your middle. You’re about 16 stone 2 and you’re technically obese and because you’re obese you’re at risk of heart disease and stroke and some cancers and definitely increased risk of diabetes.”

Gathered at a last supper of their favourite foods, each celebrity is handed an envelope revealing their mystery destination.

Linda likes her traditional British roast dinner so how will she cope with eating raw fish in Japan? Carole will be flying to LA to put the rigorous low carb diet to the test. Cheryl Baker, an enthusiastic carnivore, will follow a vegetarian diet from Kerala, in southern India. Darren, who hates pasta and coffee, picks Abruzzo, Italy, the birthplace of the Mediterranean diet. And Jonathan will hark back to more traditional fare from post-war Britain, cutting out the snacks and processed foods and slashing his portion sizes.

In this first episode, we follow Darren and Cheryl as they travel to Italy and India respectively.

Authentic Italian cuisine is very different from the frozen pizzas and bottled pasta sauces eaten in the UK. Italians eat 50 per cent more fresh fruit and vegetables than we do.

“Not only that but you’re using healthy oils like the monounsaturated olive oil or rape seed oil, you’ve got herbs and spices. But particularly, you are including oily fish. And that’s particularly important because the oils in oily fish are good to help stabilise heart rhythm, help protect you against heart disease,” says dietician Dr Catherine Collins.

Darren has never been to Italy before and as someone who never cooks, knows very little about ingredients. But he’s going to get some expert instruction from Aldo Zilli, one of Britain’s best-known Italian chefs who also runs a cookery school in Abruzzo. Darren gets a lesson in pasta-making and later must do the shopping on his own at a local market.

“Everything is healthy, you only have to look at their shopping list, what their weekly shop is, consists of lean meat, and fish, lots of vegetables. I’ve never seen so many vegetables on a weekly shop,” he marvels.

Darren is convinced that he will easily be able to stick to the Mediterranean diet for next five weeks when he returns to the UK.

But will Cheryl be as confident? The singer arrives in Kerala to sweltering temperatures and the supreme challenge of identifying and cooking with a completely new array of vegetables and spices.

In the UK, Cheryl’s default setting curry-wise, is chicken Tikka Masala but here food is done very differently. Eating involves a variety of tastes, small portions, a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, starches and vegetables.

Nutritionist Amanda Ursell says: “They only have 2 per cent obesity rates in Kerala which is extraordinarily low. This way of eating, because it’s low in fat and low in calories, is probably why they are so much healthier than we are in Britain. In Kerala, some of the spices like tumeric for example have been linked with their compounds actually helping to reduce the risk of cancer.”

The food is all cooked in coconut oil, which is cholesterol-free and boosts metabolism. The dishes are served on plantain leaves and as Cheryl soon finds out at a meal with Indian nutritionist Dr Smitha, eaten with the hands.

“I’m not getting the hang of it at all,” she laughs, trying to scoop up rice and curry with her fingers. “Oh, give me a fork; I’m struggling without a fork.”

On the table is a glass of hot vegetable soup – made from lentil and plenty of garlic. Dr Smitha says that it improves digestion and appetite and has the added bonus of relieving flatulence.

“You have obviously heard of my condition,” says a blushing Cheryl.

The singer explains her “condition” in a video diary entry back at the hotel. “When I arrived, I unpacked my case. This was hidden in my case,” she says holding up a picture of her family. “If you look at the message it says, ‘leave the gas in India.’ So from that you can gather that I have a bit of a problem and I do. And eating curry for a week probably isn’t going to help. But I’ll give it my best shot and see what the outcome is.”

Meanwhile back in the UK, presenter Jonathan Maitland is getting his head around how he can possibly lose weight by eating fish and chips or toad in the hole.

Top chef Ed Baines, who will be shepherding Jonny through his six-week test, explains: “The key to this diet is you must not snack because your body after about two weeks is going to get used to having three meals a day.”

Post-war, Britons limited their eating to three meals a day. Very little was processed, even less contained salt or sugar. Now it’s estimated that in the UK we eat more than half of all the crisps, crackers and nuts consumed throughout Europe each year.

Over the week, Ed gives Jonny a lesson on how to make a Lancashire hotpot using lamb and lamb kidneys and cuts Jonny’s “gluttonous” portions down to size.

Jonny also joins the butchers of Hampshire on the hunt for his rabbit dinner – a healthy white meat that has few calories than chicken…and is lower in fat and cholesterol.

“I can’t believe it. This morning, what I’m eating was running around with a fur coat and gloves on. Cor, it don’t get more British than this, does it? There’s a whole new world of cuisine that I’m discovering and the irony is, it’s under my nose.”

All three of our dieters are really enjoying their “exotic” food experiences.

And Cheryl has fallen in love with the vibrant colours and relaxed lifestyle of Kerala.

She says: “This has been quite an eye-opener India and I love their way of life, their frame of mind I think we rush about too much in the UK and here they eat slower, have time for each other, — and we should take a leaf out of their book and just sit back and enjoy our life a bit more rather than rushing and tearing around all the time.”

But perseverance is key in a six-week challenge. Can they incorporate these new diets and cultural attitudes into their everyday lives for five weeks when they return in the UK? The programme follows Cheryl, Darren and Jonathan as they try to replicate their new cooking skills for friends and family, avoid the temptation of alcohol and junk food at the various work functions, personal appearances and parties that are part of their celebrity lifestyle.

How much weight will they lose and will their new diets have any impact on their overall health?

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