Secret Eaters - Episode 4

The Meakin family from the Midlands seeks help from the Secret Eaters Team to discover why they are putting on weight – even though they believe that they eat well.

Episode 4: The Meakin family from the Midlands
  Sue Dave Natalie
Age 48 26 30
Height 5' 4" 5' 11" 5' 7"
Weight 17st 5lb 17st 4lb 17st 6lb
BMI 41.7 33.8 38.2

The Problem

Sue believes that she eats healthily, with plenty of fruit and veg.  Having put on her weight since the birth of her children Dave & Natalie, she wants to lose weight with the rest of her family, and realistically is aiming for 12½ st.  Sue believes that sometimes she doesn’t eat enough.

Chef Dave is worried about his health since his dad’s heart attack, and feels repulsed by the way he looks.  Like Sue, he doesn’t think he eats enough.

Natalie has gone from a size 10 to a size 22 over the last 15 years, and is a typical comfort eater who uses food to enhance positive emotions and combat negative ones.   She got a dog to encourage walking, but all that has happened is that Monty the dog is now over weight too.  Because she doesn’t eat sweets or have fizzy drinks, Natalie believes that her diet is fairly healthy.

How they fared

Weekend binge eating, chocolate snacks, large portions and excess alcohol were the family’s worst vices.

First to undergo the investigator’s scrutiny was Sue.  Initially her daily eating seemed to reflect her diary claims of 1900 calories.  The team discovered however that she liked a chocolate bar with her coffee, adding an extra 200 calories a day to her intake. 

By eating regularly Sue can reduce her sweet treat cravings.  Coupled with breaking the snack habit by changing her choice of drink, this could help Sue lose 1½ st in 12 months.

Dave believed that he ate around 1700 calories a day, far below the recommended intake for men to maintain body weight.  Because he works all day with food, he doesn’t want to eat a lot and tends not to eat during the day.

However it turned out that he managed to eat 1000-1200 calories in his evening meal alone.  This was in addition to his lunch time sandwich of 1000 calories – his whole day’s calories gone in just 2 meals.  Added to this was his weekend alcohol consumption of over 3000 calories.

By cutting down his sandwich portion size, Dave could cut 500cals a day, resulting in a loss of nearly, 4st nearly over a year.  By cutting down the booze, he could lose even more.

Natalie’s diary revealed that she ate around 3230 calories a day, with chocolate and crisps featuring throughout the day.  The Secret Eaters team found that she actually ate 4500 calories daily, mainly as a result of takeaways and weekend blowouts where a meal would clock up 2500 to 3500 calories. On a Saturday alone, she ate more than 7000 calories - enough for 3 women.  When walking the dog, Natalie would more often than not stop off for a quick snack of cake.

By identifying triggers and consciously avoiding comfort food, Natalie will be able to address her poor eating decisions.  Her aim is now to eat no more than 1800 calories a day, reduce the takeaways and curb her weekend blowouts.

Takeaway meals were popular with the family, and, like an estimated 1 in 4 of us, they had a takeaway at least once a week.  Chinese was a particular favourite with each plate loaded with carbs and fat, which pass through the stomach quicker, making you hungry sooner.

The show’s tips for coping with takeaways are to choose a protein based dish and avoid batter & chips.

After 10 weeks of a reduced calorie plan:

Natalie lost 12lbs and is on target to lose 4st 6lbs in a year. 

Dave lost 10lbs and is on target to lose 3st 10lbs in a year.

Sue lost 11lbs and is on target to lose a stone every 3 months.

(And Monty the dog has lost 2in from his waist and is losing weight too).

Additionally throughout the show, Dr David Lewis looked at how people shop and the food choices that they make when hungry.  What he found was that the test subjects who were hungry when shopping went for high fat, high sugar snacks.  They ate 300% more than shoppers who weren’t hungry and made choices containing 400% more fat, eating 2500 calories just for lunch.  So if you want to make better food shopping choices, make sure you’re not hungry!

See How Many Calories You Are Eating

Just like the Secret Eaters, you can see how many calories you are actually eating by filling in our easy to use food diary.

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