Claire Sweeney’s Big Fat Diet

We are what we eat. In England alone nearly a quarter of men and women are obese, with the lack of self discipline thought to be the leading factor.

Claire Sweeney is slender and super fit. It’s a body that comes at a price – regular exercise, wide food choices and years of discipline.

This documentary shows what happens when she relaxes all of her long held rules and throws self control to the wind.

Over a six week period, Claire gives up her usual healthy eating and regular fitness regime for a much more relaxed approach to food. Instead of watching what she eats and exercising, Claire will eat what she wants when she wants.

Claire will have “complete freedom” with her food choices to find out what changes her body and mind will go through and whether she will end up feeling like a “human dustbin”. But as well as measuring the impact on her dress size, the experiment will monitor the effects on her overall health.

Claire usually eats a balanced, healthy diet and exercises three times a week with a personal trainer. Claire doesn’t like exercise but sees it as a “necessary evil” that keeps her looking and feeling how she wants. She’d love to be someone who can eat whatever they want without putting on any weight but has to maintain her healthy lifestyle to avoid putting on any unwanted pounds. Whilst undertaking the new “diet” Claire will do no exercise.

Her personal trainer and a doctor monitor Claire throughout her new care free diet, checking the effects on her fitness, weight, percentage body fat and blood pressure. And in a culture where obesity is steadily rising and fatty foods are cheap and easily available, the results serve up a stark warning about the swift effects of giving in to temptation that go way beyond the impact on dress size.

At the start of the trial Claire is in great physical shape. A medical examination confirms her fitness: she has a 27″ waist, weighs 9st 13lbs, her body fat is 22 per cent. The doctor says her blood pressure and pulse rate are those of a very fit person.

Whilst Claire is loosening the reigns, she’s not doing a “super size me”; she won’t binge on food she doesn’t enjoy. Rather she’ll abandon any thoughts that would normally restrict her intake. At the supermarket Claire shops for her favourite foods including cheese, white chocolate, custard slices, crisps and full cream milk.

Most people relax their lifestyles on summer holiday and Claire does the same. Whereas she would normally watch her weight to keep looking good in her bikini, she indulges whilst on holiday in Majorca. Although she’s still eating relatively healthy food, she’s having a lot more of it. However, only a couple of weeks into the experiment, both Claire and her friends start to notice the difference in her body. The first tell tale sign? Claire can no longer fit into her favourite dress. By week three, Claire has already put on a stone and her body fat has gone up by five per cent.

Claire works in an industry where image is of the utmost importance. When working Claire stays fit so that she looks good for photo shoots and her acting roles. Claire flies to Los Angeles, a city where if you want to be famous you need the right “look”. When Claire visits a top Hollywood plastic surgeon the procedures suggested to her range from liposuction to liposculpture. To make it in LA Claire is told she would have to drop three dress sizes and is shocked to discover that even at her original size 12, she would be considered too big for Hollywood.

Whilst state-side Claire continues her “anything I feel like” approach to food and indulges herself with a triple burger. Far from finding the football sized burger too much to handle she exclaims, “Who needs men,” as she takes another jaw breaking bite.

By this stage Claire is beginning to feel that her self indulgence is having a negative effect on her health.

“I was definitely a bit more tired and lethargic. I hate exercise. I find exercise a necessary evil in my life, but at certain times I was craving it. It’s hard to describe but at times I felt like a human dustbin.”

Back in London and Claire faces up to her weight gain. She no longer feels comfortable in her own skin and is “fed up of eating”. After six weeks, she’s gained two stone, put 10″ on her waist and is now officially overweight. Her blood pressure has rocketed and at her medical check-up she is warned about the increased risk of heart failure or a stroke she would now face, if she was to continue.

“It was the thing that made me stop. Not the fact that I couldn’t get into my clothes anymore and that my energy levels were shot. It wasn’t those things at all; it was the medical aspect.
She says: “Weight isn’t just about vanity and fitting in your clothes. There are more serious issues, why you need to watch what you eat.

“When I thought about gaining weight, I thought about becoming less attractive and not fitting into my clothes and would men still fancy me and how will it affect my work. But the biggest revelation of it all was the medical side of it, which I hadn’t even considered. That was the part that alarmed me most at the end. ”

Claire returns to her previously healthy lifestyle and after a week is already on the way back to fitness. Although shocked by her quick weight gain, her busy schedule and healthy eating will ensure she is back to her fit self soon. Claire’s message: how you look and feel is “not about vanity or ego, it’s about health”.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009, 9:00PM – 10:00PM