Diet Secrets & How to Lose Weight on Channel 5

Diet Secrets & How to Lose Weight on Channel 5

By Trudi Purdy, wlr team

This series had got a crack team of scientists, doctors and dietitians with the aim of revealing the secrets of dieting for weight loss success.

The premise behind the series was that the dieting industry is a billion-pound minefield for anyone wanting to lose weight. Trying to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to deciding the best way to do it, is confusing.

According to the show, the average woman in the UK spends £25,000 on diets in her lifetime. I'm quite shocked at that, considering you can do wlr for less than a tenner a month and you don't need to buy any special foods. (In fact it doesn't cost you anything to take a free trial.)

The format for this series centered on a celebrity’s experience of going on a selected diet, with different diets and celebrities covered in each episode.

The celebrity testers kept a video diary of how the diet was working for them (or not as the case may be).

Meanwhile, the experts looked at different diet myths and gave their opinions. (See impressive list of experts below.)

I watched the whole series and liked the fact that the myth debunking was being done in a scienctific way. However, some of the diets trialled were a tad faddy.

Review of Episode 1

(First aired 2nd January 2018)

The celebrity for this first episode was Big Brother winner Josie Gibson.

Josie said she had struggled with her weight her whole life. Yo-yoing from as little as a size 8 right up to a size 24. She said,

‘It’s horrific. Constantly battling against yourself!’

After she won Big Brother, photos taken while she was on holiday galvanised her into action and she started losing weight using the Paleo diet.

The tabloids were not kind. She said,

'The realisation that I was big kicked in. But, in a way, I’m so glad that that happened because I think if I didn’t have everyone taking the mick out of me and telling me how big I was, how disgusting I looked, I might not have done anything about it.'

Unfortunately, (as is often the case when you lose weight because of what everyone else thinks) she gained the weight back after becoming 'content' in a relationship.

Josie on the Pescatarian Ketogenic Diet

Ready for another go, Josie agreed to take part in the Diet Secrets show and follow a pescatarian ketogenic diet for 4 weeks.

(Pescatarian because Josie doesn't normally eat meat.) 

In layman’s terms, that’s a low carb, high fat, medium protein diet that substitutes the normal meats for fish.

Before she started, she had her BMI and fat mass measured. She was on the high side for both.

In the first four days, Josie found she really struggled with the diet. She felt lethargic, grumpy and wasn’t enjoying the food.

By the 2nd week, she was suffering with headaches and had started adding chicken into the diet because the some of the dishes just didn’t work with fish. She struggled with temptation and constipation too.

Josie said she had,

'A love, hate relationship with the diet. One minute I love it, the next I absolutely hate it. The diet pretty much takes the fun out of your whole life.'

She said she was ‘really, really angry’ on the diet!

At the end of the four weeks, Josie had her BMI, fat mass and weight measured.

She had lost a disappointing grand total of 1 kilo. Her BMI stayed pretty much the same and, interestingly, her fat mass had increased.

Poor results for such a restrictive diet that made Josie miserable.

Helen Nearly Died on Diet Pills

The programme also took a brief look at diet pills.

Helen was a model and took diet pills for 4 years after a photographer told her she needed to lose weight. She started taking thermogenic dietary supplements that work by artificially inducing a state of thermogenesis by raising body temperature, leading to a higher calorie burn.

She took them for 4-5 weeks and suffered chronic fatigue, headaches, dizziness and anxiety. But they showed results in how her body looked so she carried on taking them.

One day, Helen was out driving with her boyfriend, having taken 3 tablets in the morning alongside some co-codamol. She had a sudden, agonising pain in her chest.

When she got to hospital, her heart rate was 280 bpm!

She didn’t know the ephedrine in the tablets she was taking would react with the painkillers and almost kill her! Helen said that was a turning point, but it only made her look for different kinds of pills.

She was admitted to hospital 9 times over the next 4 years before she stopped, having suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and kidney stones.

The Experts Try Some Low Fat Diets Myth Busting 

The experts delved into low fat diets – advocated by the government for the last 30 years or so.

Rosemary Conley really brought low fat diets to the forefront in the late 80s. It was new and innovative and gained her a #1 bestselling book with the Hip and Thigh Diet.

Low fat eating became the big thing. Rosemary described her way as, ‘You don’t need to weigh the jacket potato, just don’t put butter on it. Just put your marmalade straight on your toast, don’t put butter on it.'

People liked the fact that they could eat what they liked but without the fat.

However, research since the late 80s has evolved and more studies have been done. The experts don’t all completely agree, but the fact that low fat diets have been advocated since then, yet the population is getting fatter, make some think that low fat isn’t necessarily the way forward.

Dr Anna Colton said,

‘I think low fat diets are a real problem and there’s evidence coming out more and more that actually it’s the low-fat diets that are contributing to the epidemic of obesity.’

Nathan Rao said,

‘It’s carbohydrates and sugars that are in our diets that are leading to our obesity crisis.’

Ian Marber thinks that the evolution of ‘low fat foods’ are part of the problem. He said,

'We have to remember that fat is satisfying. It gives what they call in the industry ‘Mouth Feel’. So, a piece of cheese is satisfying. A low-fat cheese has higher amounts of sugar in it and may not be quite so satisfying. You’re more likely to eat again or be hungry again in a short period of time.'

So low fat foods, according to some of the experts, don’t satiate you properly.

Dr Rangan said,

'If your diet is asking you to fight hunger, I think it’s destined to fail.'

The general consensus from the program experts was that, there are good fats and bad fats. Avoid the bad fats but make sure you get some of the good fats into your diet to help keep you fuller for longer.

They definitely agreed that a high fat, low carb diet, like the one Josie did, isn’t a long-term solution for the obesity epidemic.


Overall, the programme was really interesting. Seeing Josie’s experience with the low carb diet and Helen's dramatic story had me hooked.

Review of Episode 2

(First aired 9th January 2018)

This episode was all about superfoods.

It seems that every week, there is a new ‘must have’ superfood marketed with claims that it will increase your energy levels, slow down the ageing process, help you lose weight and even cure serious diseases. But does what we’re eating live up to the claims?

This week’s celebrity dieter was Bianca Gascoigne, step-daughter of footballing legend Paul Gascoigne, TV personality and manager of an exclusive gentleman’s club in London.

What makes a food super?

Generally, things like blueberries, goji berries, acai berries, kale etc have the superfood label. These are packed with nutrients and antioxidants and are pretty much good all round. But does that make them a superfood?

According to Dr Rangan Chatterjee,

'It’s very hard to study foods individually. But certain foods, I’d say probably blueberries are the ones that spring to mind, tend to have a huge amount of health benefits. Are they superfoods? Depends what you mean by superfood. They’re healthy foods. Can eating more of them improve our health? Yeah, for most of us probably.'

Ian Mawber, nutritional therapist, said,

'Superfoods, by definition, tend to come from other countries where it’s warm and I suspect that we might think of goji berry or something from Brazil is a superfood and in Brazil they probably think broccoli from Northampton is a superfood!'

Dr Sarah Schenker. dietitian, said,

'It’s a bit like taking the alphabet and saying that the letter Q and the letter T are super, and the rest are not as super. You need the whole of the letters of the alphabet to communicate. Just as you need a wide spectrum of foods to be healthy.'

Nathan Rao, science journalist, said,

'My own opinion? I think it’s marketing. I think we’re all being drawn into a marketing ploy. I think if you can find a new berry and it’s not poisonous and it's colourful and it tastes nice, brilliant. Of course, fruit and vegetables have got antioxidants in them. Some fruit and vegetables have got more in them than others, but we’ve been led to believe that we should be pounding our bodies non-stop with antioxidants otherwise we’re gonna die and we’re gonna put on weight. Absolute rubbish! A balanced diet is all we need, with fruit and vegetables.'

And regarding the claims that some superfoods can sure serious illnesses or prevent you getting them. Dr Anna Colton had this to say,

'Eating one type of food is not necessarily going to prevent heart disease on its own. Eating one type of food is not going to prolong life, on its own. What you need is a complete rainbow, they talk about the rainbow on the plate, make your fruit and veg look like a rainbow. That’s what we need. To have huge variety of colour in our food because if the food is coloured it means it has different properties. So, one superfood or two superfoods? No. But, a rainbow!'

That said there are some foods that have been proved to help certain conditions. But that doesn’t make them superfoods.

So, the general consensus from the experts was, superfoods are a bit of a myth and we need a variety of fruit and veg to make sure our diets are healthy. No one food is a magic wand.

The Superfood Diet

Bianca visited the University of Westminster to get her BMI, body fat and blood glucose levels checked before she started on the Superfood Diet that the team wanted her to trial.

Bianca said she was a bit chubby as a kid. Her weight had always been something that had been picked up by the media and used as a stick to poke her. Like most women, feeling that her weight was a problem, she had tried pretty much every diet going. She said she had a bit of an issue with body dysmorphia (where we don’t see the true image when we look in the mirror) and is never happy with how she looks.

All of the tests she had showed she was in the healthy range for everything. So, she didn’t actually need to lose weight. The diet that had been picked for her wasn’t about cutting calories, more about wellbeing. The idea being that by adding more superfoods into her diet, her health would be supercharged too.

When she saw the foods that she would be adding to her diet she said she was really pleased. She said,

'The lifestyle I lead isn’t very healthy so, this is gonna be good. I’m intrigued and looking forward to seeing what the benefits are gonna be.'

She went on to say,

'Because I run a club, my eating pattern is really different to everyone else’s cos I start my work day at 6pm and then it goes on til like 6am. You need to have a bit of energy to boost you through the night. It’s really hard to find good food that time of night because, as you can imagine, it’s kind of only things like pizza, kebabs and things like that so it’s really not a healthy way to live.'

How did Bianca get on adding superfoods to her diet?

At the end of week one, Bianca said she was finding adding in superfoods to her diet quite easy, but she was finding it expensive.

'Obviously, eating stodge is cheap!'

In her 2nd week, Bianca said she was feeling pretty good and that her skin felt smoother. She said there were some of the superfoods on her menu that she wasn’t keen on, so she found alternatives. Like the turmeric powder. She didn’t enjoy that but found a latte mix that had turmeric in it.

On the whole, Bianca enjoyed adding the ‘superfoods’ to her existing diet – she felt that she had more energy and just felt healthier.

She missed some of the foods that she used to eat but she said she would add some of the things she had been eating in with her normal diet and still have ‘naughty foods’ now and again.

Even though she didn’t need to lose weight, she had lost almost 3 kilos, 6.6lbs.

Bianca said,

'I definitely think superfoods is the one – clearly this one works!'


The program looked at smoothies as a way to get our five a day and the recent fad of blending fruits and veg.

Nathan Rao said,

'I think there are loads of fads out there and blended food and smoothies and juices are part of that.'

Priya Tew, nutritional scientist said,

'I tend to say to people, if you’re juicing something or making a smoothie, what does it look like before you juice it? Look at the amount of food there is. If you ate all of that how full would you feel and how full do you feel after drinking the smoothie? And that’s quite a good way of thinking about it. You’re better off eating the whole versions than you are having a juice or a smoothie but it’s fine having one of those now and again.'

Having said that he thought it was part of the fad diet industry, Nathan did say,

'Blended food has been shown to pass more slowly through the digestive tract than solid food so in a study that was done people were given a meal and the other half of people were given the same meal but blended. The people that had taken the meal in the soup form were actually not hungry when the people who had eaten the food were. In terms of losing weight, blending food could actually be a good way of keeping your appetite under control for longer. I don’t think there is anything more to it than that though. It’s not more healthy, not any more beneficial.'

Some experts however, feel that chewing your food helps to satiate you more than drinking your food. And there is the issue that when you blend the food you break up the fibre and sugar in the cells, releasing all the sugar.

While fruit juice is part of your free sugar intake, an apple or a pear wouldn’t be counted. And because you are releasing the sugars from the cells, there is probably less sugar in a coke than in a smoothie.


The programme also looked at BMI as a way to measure whether you are healthy or not. We don’t have a friendly medical researcher with a body pod on hand to tell us whether we are healthy or not. So, the only alternative is to work out our BMI. But is this much talked about equation really the best way to measure our health?

BMI is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if you are at a healthy weight. For most adults, a BMI somewhere 18.5 and 24.9 is within a healthy range. But even people with a healthy BMI may not actually be healthy and the same for people with a high BMI.

It’s more about visceral fat (the fat that we can't see that surrounds our organs). The more visceral fat you have, the unhealthier you are. Even slim people with high visceral fat (skinny fat) could face similar problems in the future to those people considered to be obese. BMI doesn’t necessarily reflect that.

Nathan Rao, science journalist, said,

'I think we’ve struggled over the years to find a way of measuring how fat or how healthy we are. I think it’s useful as a measuring tool.'

Dr Nicola Guess, assistant professor at Kings College London says,

'One of the limitations of BMI is people who have a very large muscle mass. I think there were figures that were a couple of years ago of several rugby players who had a BMI that was obese when they’re obviously not.'

Dr Gavin Sandercock, director of research Essex University

'What we tend to find is that if we just look at a person’s BMI it tells us almost nothing about their health. Someone who is 5’10” and 10 stone, they could be achieving that by smoking 20 cigarettes a day and starving themselves. They could be doing that by having a healthy diet. You can’t tell. One of the big problems with BMI is the way we use it. It was designed as a population measure and it’s useful for measuring millions of people. Giving individual feedback to school children at 5 and 10 years old, telling them that they are overweight or obese based on a measure that was never designed to do that is a blatant misuse of BMI. And that’s a problem because being overweight isn’t necessarily bad for your health.'

Dr Chatterjee is a fan of the waist to hip ratio to see if a person is healthy. He said,

'What I like is what we call our waist to hip ratio. It’s dead easy to do. Basically, you measure your waist, you measure your hips, and you do your waist divided by your hip. You’re looking for your waist to be lower than your hip and we know that that is a pretty good marker.'

In a survey by the program, 50% of experts disagreed that BMI is a good measure of health.

Cutting too many calories too excessively

The program told the story of Gemma. She was 18 stone and a size 24. Gemma had struggled all her life with her weight – getting to the point where she didn’t want to leave the house. Crisps, chocolate and cakes were the staples of her diet and she felt she was a disappointment to everyone that loved her.

She decided to go on a 1200 calorie a day diet. She said it seemed logical that the less calories she ate, the more weight she would lose. And, the weight started flying off.

The calorie allowance and rate of loss was really not healthy for Gemma. She felt tired and started losing her hair. She even shaved off the sides of her hair to hide the fact she was losing it.

After a discussion with her husband, Gemma changed her tactic to one of nutrition rather than a very low-calorie intake. Now she is at a healthier 11 stone.

The consequences of her days of crash dieting are still an issue for her though. She has issues with excessive skin and stretch marks that quite often get infected.

She said she wished she could go back and do it all again but concentrate on nutrition rather than speed for her weight loss.

If only she had come across wlr eh?

Review of Episode 3

(First aired 16th January 2018)

This episode took a look at:

  • Crash diets and whether they work for weight loss in the long term
  • Type 2 Diabetes took centre stage with the discussion as to whether or not a low calorie diet could actually reverse it
  • The team of experts also discussed detoxing and juicing to consider whether or not these can help you become healthier
  • And Frankie Essex took on the 5:2 diet (intermittent fasting)

Can you lose weight quickly on a crash diet?

This was the first question asked. As a nation, we seem to look for instant gratification in most things and our eating habits reflect this – takeaway food, microwaves, ready meals, instant-add-boiling-water snacks. We are ever keen for a quick fix or a short cut.

This has led to a real upsurge in extreme and crazy fad diets.

Ian Mawber, nutritional therapist, said,

‘I think when it comes to slimming, the idea that it’s going to take me six months to lose a certain amount of weight – six months is too long.’

In my experience though, this means that you either jump on the bandwagon of the latest fad diet or you don’t bother and the time passes anyway.

Some of the crash diets that have been popular are:

  • The Sleeping Beauty Diet
  • The Baby Food Diet
  • The Master Cleanse Lemonade Diet
  • The Toothbrush Diet
  • The Bulletproof Diet
  • The Blood Type Diet
  • Eating naked in front of a mirror (could be problematic when you eat out!)

Nathan Rao, science journalist, said,

‘There are so many of them around these days you could be doing anything from cutting out carbohydrates, to cutting out fats, to drinking maple syrup, to drinking lemon juice, all these sorts of things.’

There is one thing all these crash diets have in common.

‘All these claims that we hear today, be it the lemonade diet or the Atkins or the crash diet, they’re all ways of trying to radically cut calories, to cause weight loss.’ said Dr Anna Colton, clinical psychologist.

That’s not really rocket science right? We all know, that if you want to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body needs to burn. But isn't that what crash diets do? The issue is that a crash diet restricts calories too much and too quickly to be sustainable. When you have finished the crash diet, you go back to eating the way you did before and therefore putting everything back on that you’ve just lost and, quite often, even more!

And is the weight you lose ‘real’ weight?

Nathan Rao, said,

‘In the first week of crash dieting, you’re going to lose a lot water purely because your body is looking to the liver to release its glycogen supplies. When it releases its glycogen supplies, it also releases a lot of water.’

And it’s not great for your muscle mass.

Dr Linia Patel, consultant dietitian, said,

‘The quicker you lose weight, the higher your risk of you losing more muscle and less fat.’

So, the general consensus from the experts was that crash dieting may work in the short term but, in the long term, they actually make you put on weight and can be really bad for your health.

Not only that, crash dieting can lead to eating disorders, a really unhealthy relationship with food and they don’t retrain your brain to help you eat more healthily going forward.

Frankie and Fasting

Frankie Essex of Towie fame, took on the 5:2 diet for four weeks. This is where you have no more than 800 calories two days a week (fasting days) and have a Mediterranean style diet on the other days (feast days).

Frankie was tested for her BMI, body fat and visceral fat.

  • BMI was 26 (slightly over the healthy range)
  • Fat Mass 28.4 (should be under 30 for a woman)
  • Visceral Fat 0.4

When Frankie found out what diet she was going to be on, she was very happy to see cheese and red wine on the menu! But when she read that two days a week she would be on 800 calories a day she was a little apprehensive. She said,

‘800 calories a day? That’s hard.’

She would also have to avoid potatoes, white rice and bread, white pasta, fizzy drinks, chocolate, sweets, alcohol, fatty meats processed foods etc. When she read that she said,

‘Oh no! I love potatoes! Love em. It’s gonna be a killer.’

She went on to say,

‘It’s hard as well when you’ve got mates who are like, oh go on, come on, come out.’

She decided that she would go out but that she would drive so she couldn’t drink – that’s one way round it. Still have a social life but put temptation out of the way.

Frankie had suffered with weight fluctuations for most of her life and had tried some extreme diets in the past. The first diet she went on was The Cambridge Diet.

‘I kind of kept the weight off for a while after that but it creeps back on over the years.’

On her first fasting day, Frankie’s meal consisted of poached egg, rocket, salmon and avocado – it looked delicious and around 400 cals. But her friend had stopped by and she had chip shop fish and chips. In comparison, that meal would have been nearly 1000 calories! Frankie did nick a chip though!

One chip would have been about 10 calories – proving just how hard it is to resist temptation while fasting.

What Frankie did discover was that working out on fasting days wasn’t easy – neither was entertaining dinner guests!

She did have a bit of a blow out with a Chinese that came to almost 1500 calories. Proving that it’s not easy to stick to intermittent fasting.

After 4 challenging weeks, Frankie said that she did feel better – she had more energy and her skin looked better. She had lost a total of 1 kilo and 4 centimetres off her waist.

She said she would recommend the 5:2 diet, but that she wouldn’t do the fasting days – kind of means it’s not a fasting diet!

What did the experts think of fasting?

Dr Gavin Sandercock, director of research Essex University said,

‘Fasting seems to be effective probably because that’s part of our evolutionary biology. We are made to go long periods without food. Be able to walk a long way and do a lot of things before we get something to eat and to eat intermittently.’

Fasting also plays an important cultural role in our lives. Judy Swift, associate professor of behavioural nutrition, said,

‘Fasting has a long history in our society. It’s deeply embedded in many religious practices.’

But an issue with intermittent fasting is the temptation to overeat on the days that you are not fasting. And along with the temptation to overeat, there is the problem of what people eat – junk food as opposed to good, healthy, nutritious food.

‘It doesn’t mean you can be really strict on two days and then go crazy on the other five.’ said Sian Porter, dietitian.

Dr Linia Patel said,

‘It’s important that the other five days aren’t, cake!’

When they polled the experts on the team, 75% believed that intermittent fasting was an effective way to lose weight – but only if it’s done properly with a good balance of high quality food – it’s not just a case of having your cake and eating it!

Can you cure Type 2 Diabetes by dieting?

90% of cases of Diabetes in the UK are Type 2. Where the body has become resistant to or has problems producing enough insulin, the crucial hormone that regulates our blood sugar levels. There are a number of risk factors for developing Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Weight

The sharp rise in obesity is acknowledged as a contributing factor to the sharp rise in Type 2 Diabetes. Figures have doubled in the last 20 years.

Dr Ian Mawber said,

'There has been quite a lot of research into whether you can reverse Type 2 Diabetes in the early stages by having a very low calorie diet.'

Dr Nicola Guess, assistant professor Kings College London said,

'If people lose a large amount of weight – around 10kg – so it’s a lot of weight, they can actually normalise all of the functions that underlie Type 2 Diabetes.'

Nathan Rao said,

‘Certainly, if you are cutting down the amount of calories you take in your diet then you’re probably cutting down the amount of sugar in your diet, and people who are Type 2 Diabetic are sensitive to sugar. So, therefore, if a diabetic cuts down the amount of sugar in their diet, then yes, I do think that will have a beneficial effect in managing your diabetes.'

However, he did go on to say that he would be hesitant to say it can ‘reverse’ Type 2 Diabetes until he had seen some more concrete evidence.

Recent research form the British Medical Journal suggests that Type 2 Diabetes can be reversed. According to the experts on the show, the jury is still out though. However, they did all agree that losing weight would help with the symptoms.

The Detox

I’m not going to labour the point with detoxing. Basically, the experts said that eating the whole fruit is far better for you than removing all the fibre and releasing all the sugars by blending. The body does a good enough job of removing toxins so the need to detox is just not there.

Pixie Turner, dietian and food blogger said it best,

‘Detoxing is a huge marketing scam! The only thing you need to detox is a liver and kidneys and I would say pretty much every human being has those.’

The other experts pretty much agreed with her. She went on to say,

‘People think they have to drink lemon water in the morning to ‘wake up their liver’. If you had to wake up your liver, you would be dead because your liver is supposed to be running 24/7. If your liver went to sleep when you did you would not wake up!’

The one good thing that seems to go hand in hand with detoxing, especially around this time of year, is that people will quite often cut out booze, give up smoking and not eat junk. But this creates the ‘Halo Effect’ where people cut out all the things that are bad for them for a short period of time and feel better, hence citing the detox as the reason they feel good.


The experts agreed that crash dieting wasn’t sustainable long term. However, a diet that involved fasting wasn’t a totally bad idea as long as the rest of the time a healthy balance was met food wise. That said, if you fast on 800 calories two days a week and stick to a more normal calorie allowance on the other five days, overall, you would still be restricting the calories so why bother fasting on two? Why not spread the weekly calorie allowance across the whole week and not leave yourself feeling deprived two days of the week? Just like wlr suggests funnily enough!

What they did say was that going back to your ‘normal eating pattern’ after a crash diet would result in gaining the weight lost and, quite often more. So, therefore, crash diets lead to weight gain, not loss.

Nathan Rao and Dr Anna Colton sum it up perfectly,

‘If you go on a crash diet, by the end of it you may have lost the stone you wanted to lose. But you’ll be so fed up you’ll go back to the old eating habits and the weight will go back on again.’ said Rao.

‘One of the real classics – I’m going on a crash diet. I want to get into a dress for a wedding. When you look six months after the wedding is someone still able to get into that dress? Rarely. Because it doesn’t retrain the brain! You don’t learn to eat differently.’ pointed out Colton.

Review of Episode 4

(First aired 23rd January 2018)

This week, the program took a look at carbs – often portrayed as the baddie of the diet world. But why does white bread taste so good?

Is there such a thing as sugar addiction? The experts gave their views.

And Tina Malone from Shameless went sugar free for 30 days.

Tina goes sugar free

Tina Malone is a self-confessed chocoholic, eating chocolate every day. Tina found fame as larger than life Mimi in Shameless. She said,

‘My major vice is chocolate.’ She went on to say,

‘I’ve been a fat bird for 18 years. I wasn’t chubby or overweight or plump or large, I was a fat bird. I looked like an egg with legs. ‘

In 2010, Tina opted for gastric surgery. She lost 12 stone. At the time the show aired she weighed 7 stone 12lbs. But her weight had been creeping up. So she agreed to put one of the most popular low carb diets to the test.

Tina attended the University of Westminster to get her BMI, body fat and blood glucose levels checked before she started the diet.

Tina’s results

  • BMI – 23
  • Body fat mass – 32.2, this should be below 30 for a woman
  • Visceral fat – minimum

When Tina read what diet she was going to be doing she said,

‘That’s like a Hammer House of Horror film for me!’

She was going to be avoiding foods that have sugar, added sugar and hidden sugar. She said,

‘The one thing I’m terrified about is the chocolate and the cakes. Am I addicted to sugar? Most definitely. I could eat three family packs of chocolate in one sitting, I’m that bad. I’ve been known to get up at 3am in the morning and make a lemon drizzle cake or to bake some cupcakes.’

Tina really struggled without sugar to start with. She felt tired and run down.

‘I’ve found it really quite difficult in the last couple of days, I have to be honest. I’ve had some sleepless nights.’

Three weeks into the sugar free diet, Tina had a bit of a hiccup. It was always going to be difficult for a self-confessed chocoholic.

‘I’m just gonna dead honest. Saturday night I had a relapse. It wasn’t white bread and it wasn’t Cheesy Moments that all have sugar in, as I am now a master of what’s got sugar in! I had Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, a whole bag of them and a bag of Matchmakers. So a little bit disappointed in me self because I very rarely struggle with something, when I’m in the right mindset I have to go for it, and obviously, I’ve let me self down.’

Tina also said,

‘I can’t really say if it’s made me bad tempered and moody because I am bad tempered and moody! My husband calls me mood swing dot com.’

Tina attended the University of Westminster at the end of the experiment to see how going sugar free had affected her body. She had lost just under 2 kilos of weight, so that meant that her BMI had also dropped. She'd lost half a kilo of subcutaneous fat. She was very happy, but surprised with her results and was going to try and continue with a lower sugar intake.

What are carbs?

Carbs can be starches, sugars or fibre and are often described as simple or complex.

Complex Carbs examples:

  • Green vegetables
  • Wholegrains and foods made from them like wholemeal bread and wholemeal pasta
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and pumpkin
  • Beans, lentils, peas

Simple Carb examples:

  • Sugar
  • White bread, pasta and rice
  • Biscuits
  • Cereal
  • Baked goods like pastries

Complex carbs take longer to digest and release energy and have more fibre. Simple carbs give you an instant energy boost but then your energy crashes again quite quickly. They are broken down from food to glucose quite quickly. Pixie Turner, dietitian and food blogger explained,

‘The way I like to think of is that simple carbohydrates are like beads, whereas complex carbohydrates are like beads on a string. So it’s much easier for your body to get energy from the individual beads because it can just take them really quickly. Whereas the beads on a string, your body then has to take off the beads one at a time in order to get the energy from them.’

Great explanation!

It’s the simple carbs, in the form of refined sugar that often get the blame for weight gain.

But there are times when simple carbs are good. They give a quick burst of energy and that is needed sometimes. Dr Richard Mackenzie, physiologist – Insulin resistance & metabolism, said,

‘There’s no such thing as a bad food there’s only a bad diet. The odd bit of simple, refined sugar is not harmful at all.’

So, we are talking moderation then? But are carbs really making us fat? Ian Marber, nutritional therapist, said,

‘We love a pantomime baddie and if we can find a baddie, and if we can find a baddie and we can avoid it, we feel superior, we feel we’re doing the right thing.’

Dr Linia Patel, consultant dietitian, said,

‘Carbohydrates are considered a villain at the moment but fat was considered a villain before so it’s just the food group we’re choosing to focus on at the moment.’

Dr Nicola Guess, assistant professor Kings College London, said,

‘One of the things about certain types of carbohydrate, particularly when they’re combined with fat, they’re really, really delicious.’

According to the experts on the show, simple carbs give you an energy rush. If that energy isn’t being used, it will get stored in the body as fat. So it’s not the carbs on their own, it’s the carbs and lots of other factors in our lifestyles that are making us fat, carbs are just one of the pieces of the puzzle.

Is sugar addiction a real thing?

While most experts agree that some of us eat too much sugar, the jury seemed to be out as to whether or not sugar addiction is a real thing.

Nathan Rao, science journalist, said,

‘It’s probably the most interesting question people can ask in the diet industry today. Absolutely, 100%, yes sugar is addictive.'

Dr Patel said,

‘What’s interesting is that studies have shown that when somebody eats sugar the same areas of reward that light up in the brain when you eat sugar are the same areas of reward that up when you take drugs like cocaine.’

But as you can imagine, with such a controversial subject, not everyone agreed. Ian Marber said,

‘It’s quite pleasing, almost, to think that someone’s addicted to a certain food, because that means it’s not my fault. But, no, it is a choice, however much people might feel it’s not in their control.’

Pixie Turner said,

‘The biggest myth that I have come across in regards to carbohydrates is that sugar is addictive. That sugar is an addictive substance. That’s absolutely not true.’

Dr Rangan Chatterjee said,

‘Control the environment you can control. Our house should be a safe zone, because if you come back, you’ve had a stressful day at work, you’re knackered and you come and you crash on the sofa and there’s a pack of chocolate biscuits in the cupboard or there’s sweets or some doughnuts, you’re gonna crumble. If you want that treat, have it when you’re out. If you bring that stuff into your house, I think, you are destined for failure on long term lifestyle change, because it is too hard to resist.’

Really great way of putting it, I thought!

Weight loss surgery

Of all the options available, surgery is often a last resort. Kim Walsh shed 16 stone with surgery. But the surgery had devastating consequences. Kim said,

‘All my friends say I lost my personality with the weight.’

In 2006, Kim weighed 24 stone. But after becoming a mother, decided it was time to ditch her unhealthy lifestyle and lose weight. She’d tried all sorts of diets before she made the decision to go for a gastric bypass. She had her op in 2008. For the first couple of months after that kind of surgery, you have to eat pureed food that slides down easily. But after that, you’re supposed to be able to eat little bits. Kim couldn’t.

Unfortunately, her body never adapted to the surgery. She became one of around 15% of patients who experience lasting side effects. She said,

‘I can’t enjoy food anymore because if I eat, I just feel sick and if I don’t throw up I just feel sick, or it comes the other end. I’m sick every day, it’s horrible. I thought it was a quick fix to a better life it didn’t work out that way for me.’

The Experts

  • Dr Rangan Chatterjee
  • GP Priya Tew, Nutritional Scientist
  • Dr Linia Patel, Consultant Dietitian
  • Pixie Turner, Dietitian and Food Blogger
  • Dr Gavin Sandercock, Director of Research, Essex University
  • Dr Anna Colton, Clinical Psychologist
  • Dr David Unwin ,GP
  • Nathan Rao, Science Journalist
  • Dr David Nunan, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford University
  • Dr Aseem Mahotra, GP
  • Ian Marber, Nutritional Therapist
  • Dr Nicola Guess, Assistant Professor, Kings College London


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