In the second part of our series on Lancashire’s eating habits, CATHERINE MUSGROVE and SARAH FIELDEN speak to a physician and a nutritionist helping people to break harmful cycles with food.
The largest client Dr Sindy Newman treated was so overweight, her size could not be measured on the scales.
The desperate woman arrived at Dr Newman’s Diet UK clinic, begging for help, telling her, ‘If you don’t see me today, I will die.’
Weight loss expert Dr Newman, who has a clinic in Preston city centre, recalls: “This lady was by the door and she couldn’t get her breath.
“This woman was having to sit on two seats at the cinema, she couldn’t get in a car, and I couldn’t weight her on the clinic scales for nine months because she exceeded them.
“We ended up working out that she had been 54 stone, and we got her down to 11 with just minimal doses of appetite suppressant and support.
“Her problem then was all the excess skin, so I referred her to a plastic surgeon.”
Although obesity is a problem that affects men and women equally, Dr Newman says 80 per cent of her clients are women. She puts this down to women being more likely to ask for help, and many have other issues in the background which have led to their weight problems. One group of women she deals with are all over 20 stone and have been sexually abused.
She said: “We get them down to a size 12 or 14 but typically they will put the weight back on, because they don’t want to be sexy and attract male attention.”
Other patients are subject to controlling behaviour and their partners don’t want them to be physically attractive to other people.
Dr Newman said: “First of all, being overweight affects their self-esteem and confidence. A lot of people who are overweight are perceived as being a certain type of person, but it’s not about greed.
“When people are a couple of stone overweight, they go on a diet and when they can’t control their appetite, they fail and become disheartened.
“People comfort eat and they actually stop looking at themselves in the mirror and so the feedback messages to themselves goes missing.”
Dr Newman often sees patients who have had drastic gastric bands or balloons in a bid to solve their weight problem – but it doesn’t always fix the issue.
She said: “People go and spend something like £10,000 on a gastric band and then still put the weight back on, because nobody has dealt with their appetite.
“With an eating programme and medication, I break that pattern and give people back control of their eating.”
She added: “I don’t know anybody overweight and happy. All the evidence points to obesity getting worse. I’m seeing more obese people and bigger weights coming through my doors. There’s a lot of unhappiness, people are struggling to do everyday things like get up the stairs, they are very conscious of their appearance, and so they comfort eat and it becomes a vicious cycle.”
Fellow nutrition expert Helen Barklam says going ‘back to basics’ is often what is needed when it comes to changing our eating habits for the sake of our health.
Unhealthy eating habits affect the health of both people who are over and underweight.
Helen said: “A lot of the people I have coming into clinic don’t have the basics right.
“It is quite scary and without getting the basics right it can lead, even in people who aren’t overweight, to really quite serious health conditions further down the line.
“It can start with low energy, poor sleep patterns, the gradual gaining of weight.
“Also if you are not eating the right types of foods it can also cause things like IBS.”
Kirkham-based Helen said a major mistake people made was eating too much fruit, because of the amount of sugar it contains.
She said: “The very basics, the things you should be eating, are at least five portions of vegetables a day and maybe two of fruit.
“That is a major mistake people make – they tend to eat too much fruit.
“Fruit is quite high in sugar, and sugar is the real baddy not fat, which is the big misconception. We’ve got two glands on top of the kidneys called adrenal glands, and they deal with stress that our body is under.
“It could be an argument, the kids could be playing havoc, it could be stress at work, it could be an exercise, but it could also be the food that we eat.
“The adrenal glands can’t differentiate between these different stresses. They tell the body to dump sugar into the blood stream.
“It gives us a sugar high, which gives us energy, but we might not necessarily need the sugar.
“What happens is, when you get that sugar high, the body sends insulin away and the sugar goes into storage which is usually around our middles.
“That’s the most dangerous place, because that’s where most of our key organs are.”
Helen says adjusting what we eat – and when – is key.
She said: “If you want to start the day not on a sugar high, we are looking at something like porridge with chopped nuts and fresh fruit in.
“So you’ve got the fruit in there, but you’ve also got the protein that helps stabilise that sugar high.
“Then maybe a piece of fruit and a hand full of nuts for a mid morning snack.
“For lunch maybe if you are going to have soup, make sure it has got protein in it and not just a vegetable soup.
“Or maybe have a wrap with good quality protein like turkey or chicken or feta cheese with lots of salad.”
“As a mid-afternoon snack, maybe that would be something like a couple of rice cakes with some hummus or some cottage cheese.
“The evening meal could be anything, but the important thing is to make sure you’ve got half a plate of vegetables, with the majority of those as green vegetables, and a good quality protein like chicken, turkey or goat’s cheese.”
Helen added this was the way most people should be eating to stabilise their sugars.
She said: “Eating at regular intervals, your body is not being challenged, it’s not being stressed.
“It knows it is going to be fed at regular intervals which means your metabolism is working properly and you will lose weight.”
• Tomorrow, we speak to two young women who battled eating disorders.