The Alan Titchmarsh Show 16th October 2013

The average UK woman spends 31 years of her life on a diet.

On todays show myself, the resident GP, dietitian Lucy Jones and surgeon Dr Dirk discussed the benefits and drawbacks of going on a diet.

We looked at the merits and downsides of four diets with our health team plus three contributors who had firsthand experiences of these diets.


As obesity escalates, the diet business is booming with Britain’s diet industry now worth £2 billion. In Britain most people are now overweight or obese, this includes 61.3% of adults and 30% of children. The average 45-year-old woman has been on 61 diets, with few of them having had the desired effect. Professionals suggest most fad diets promise rapid weight loss, but there’s usually a catch. Their rigid diet plans tend to be nutritionally unbalanced, impractical, scientifically unsound and doomed to fail as people slip from the unrealistic routine.


Extreme Diets:

We looked at four diets which have hit the press recently due to their novelty or popularity. We discussed the drawbacks and possible benefits of these diets and also met four contributors, who had firsthand experience of dieting.


The Intermittent Fast/5:2 Diet:

The fast or 5:2 diet involves severe calorie restriction for two non-consecutive days a week and normal eating the other five days. The diet first reached the mainstream via a BBC Horizon documentary called Eat, Fast and Live Longer in August 2012. It is a form of intermittent fasting where on two days a week men eat only 600 calories and women eat 500. Sticking to this plan claims dieters should lose around 1lb (0.46kg) a week if you are a woman and slightly more for a man. Success also depends on not over-eating on your normal days. As well as losing weight the diet claims also sees a wide range of health benefits. Studies of intermittent fasting show that not only do people see improvements in blood pressure and their cholesterol levels, but also in their insulin sensitivity. According to the UK National Health Service there is limited evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the diet. Celebrities including Miranda Kerr, Kate Hudson, Philip Schofield, Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstal and Benedict Cumberbatch have tried to diet.


CASE STUDY – Helen (65) has given most of the popular diets a go from Weight Watchers to Neris and India’s Idiot-proof Diet. Helen has been doing the 5:2 diet for the last year and has lost 1 ½ stone. As her husband also does the diet she finds the fast days easier to manage as they eat together. On a fast day Helen skips breakfast, has a feta salad for lunch and chicken stir fry for dinner. Helen find the diet is one of the most sustainable and likes that you can eat normal food without having to buy special products. On her non fast days Helen does not deprive herself and eats what she wants.


THE JUICE DIET: New super drinks include high proportions of raw-pressed vegetables as well as fruit which in turn makes them high in naturally occurring vitamins and minerals and lower in calories. Juicing claims to help lose excess weight and be enormously beneficial for your health. The juice diet supercharges your nutrient intake by providing your body with pure micronutrients, vitamins and enzymes – with none of the bad stuff that constitutes processed food. Experts say there is no scientific evidence that the daily juice products remove toxins in the body – a function already carried out by the liver and kidneys. The weight reduction is very temporary water weight that you’re losing so it’s not going to persist long term.


CASE STUDY – Laura (29) is obsessed with diets and has tried everything from Slimfast to Diet Chef. She fluctuates between a size 8 and 12 as she finds she loses weight on diets but then it creeps back on when she goes back to her normal habits. Laura embarked on the “Juice Master Diet: 7lbs in 7 days” two years ago which she loved. After three days on the diet she felt amazing and really energised because of all the nutrients. However she found the preparation a pain as she had to wake up at 5am to get her juices ready for the day. The diet was also expensive as all the ingredients need to be fresh. Laura believes the diet is good as a quick fix but is unrealistic to continue for a sustained period. Six months ago Laura attempted to do the juice diet again but her juicer blew up after three days.



DUKAN DIET: The Dukan diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. There’s no limit to how much you can eat during the plan’s four phases. During phase one, you’re on a strict lean protein diet. This is based on a list of 72 reasonably low-fat protein-rich foods, such as chicken, turkey, eggs, fish and fat-free dairy. This is for an average of five days to achieve quick weight loss. Carbs are off limits except for a small amount of oat bran. Unlike the Atkins diet, Dukan’s phase one bans vegetables and seriously restricts fat. The next three phases of the plan see the gradual introduction of some fruit, veg and carbs and eventually all foods. The aim is gradual weight loss of up to 2lb a week and to promote long-term weight management. There’s no time limit to the final phase, which involves having a protein-only day once a week and taking regular exercise. Celebrities such as Penelope Cruz, Carole Middleton, J-Lo, Katherine Jenkins, Linda Bellingham and Louise Redknapp have all followed the diet.

CASE STUDY  – Sophie (40) has tried many diets over the years in efforts to lose weight. She has done a few low carb diets and three years ago went for the Dukan diet which she found to me more friendly than the traditional Atkins diet. Sophie found it was a great way to lose weight as you can eat as much as you want but of the right foods. One side effect was bad breathe which meant she kept mints on her at all times. As a quick fix to drop some weight in 7-10 days Sophie recommends the Dukan, however as soon as you introduce carbs again the weight comes back.



THE CORSET DIET: In America some doctors are recommending the corset diet to their patients who want to lose weight but others are sceptical that such a method is merely a trend that could in fact cause health problems later on. Beverly Hills-based Dr Alexander Sinclair claims that a number of his patients follow the ‘corset diet’, which consists of wearing a tightly laced corset forseveral hours a day. He says some of his patients have lost six inches from their waistline by wearing the garment for three to five hours a day, before working their way up to 12 hours. The tight corset moves the ribs, makes you sweat more and the discomfort caused by a tight corset compressing the bottom ribs can also apparently make the wearer eat less. When corsets were commonly worn in the 16th and 17th centuries, they were so tight that they caused some women’s internal organs to be rearranged. Other medical experts have spoken out about the health risks of wearing a corset, such as that it can constrict the lungs and cause joint pain. Burlesque star Dita Von Teese owes her tiny 22in waist to wearing corsets since the age of 18.


What is my Medical Opinion ?

Approximately 61 % of adults and 30% of children are clinically overweight or obese in Britain
So it’s no surprise to hear that the diet industry is booming being worth over 2 billion pounds

People often look to the celebrities and want to copy them people look for quick fixes but I usually say if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is !
Extreme diets may give you some rapid weight loss but most of these diets are nutritionally unbalanced and impractical long term. Not only are most people likely to pile back on the pounds when they start eating normally again but there can be more serious risks to our health

So let’s look at these diets in more detail…

5:2 /Intermittent fasting
One of the most popular diets amongst my patients
I have seen many lose weight but we don’t have enough evidence about the long term effects of this type of diet.

If the non fasting days are healthy then this diet is probably ok for most people. Not for pregnant women or diabetics though.
Juice cleanse

This is one of the latest crazes to sweep through the uk
The idea is that people drink juices consisting of blended fruit and vegetables with promises of detoxifying the body . Filling it with vitamins minerals and antioxidants and helping us to lose weight
Juicing as part of your 6 a day is fine but we are concerned about the juice fasts, where only juice is consumed for days, sometimes  even weeks
This leaves people severely lacking in important nutrients like calcium iron protein and essential fats
and can result in poor skin, hair loss, weakened immune systems and the high sugar content can rot teeth and upset our stomachs

Probably the craziest diet today is the corset diet
This involves wearing a tightly lace corset up to 12 hours a day promising up to 6 inches of weight lost around the waist . Burlesque star dita Von tease says she owes her tiny 22 in waist to wearing a corset since she was 18
How would this help us get skinnier?

The tight garment moves the ribs, shrinking the waist
Wearing a corset can make us sweat more, so we burn calories

The corsets are so uncomfortable they can put us off wanting to eat.


The corset can injure internal organs, it can upset our breathing, cause joint pain in our ribs and cut off the circulation

What is my overall opinion of extreme diets ?
There appears to be no quick fixes to sustained weight loss. A healthy balanced diet and plenty of exercise will help to keep you healthy and happy.