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   Inside Out - South East: Monday 10th February, 2003


Rik Waller and  Paul Ross
BACK TO BASICS | Pop Idol's Rik Waller goes to food school

Obesity - it costs the nation £2.5 billion a year to treat, it is set to overtake lung cancer as the biggest preventable killer and over one in five suffer from the condition.

As the government prepare to launch a 40 million pound healthy eating campaign, Inside Out investigates how we can take responsibility for our own health by going back to school - food school that is.

Rik Waller is the big man, with the even bigger voice and at the age of 21, Rik weighs around 30 stone.

Diagnosed as morbidly obese, Rik knows all too well how being overweight can effect your health.

After leaving ITV’s Pop Idol through illness, Rik struggled on the weight loss reality TV show, Celebrity Fit Club. Although he initially lost weight, his resolve faltered and Rik was controversially thrown off the show.

Health risks


Over 30,000 deaths a year are caused by obesity in England

People are classed as obese if they have a body mass index over 30

Adult obesity rates have tripled since 1982

19% of Britons are obese and 39% are overweight

The number of obese children has doubled since 1982

10% of six year olds are obese

Obesity can lead to health problems, including arthritis, heart disease and diabetes

Rik may be a high profile example of obesity, but it effects a large number of the population.

In 2002, 17% of men and 20% of women were diagnosed as clinically obese and that is not taking into account the number who are classed as overweight.

Along with the prejudices many overweight people face in a society obsessed with self image, comes the far more serious health risks.

People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease and arthritis and life expectancy is shortened by up to three times that of a leaner counterpart.

With such a stark wake-up call, Rik is eager to try a new approach to eating, minus the torture of Celebrity Fit Club and Inside Out knows just the place.

Cutting Edge Food and Wine School

The sleepy countryside of Robertsbridge is home to Cutting Edge, the South East’s only major food and wine school.

Founder, Ruth Sands Edwards, employs six top chefs from London and is confident that they can help Rik to rustle up a sumptuous but healthy meal to get his new eating regime off to a great start.

Fresh local ingredients taste so much better than processed alternatives

"Eating well needn’t be boring. You can enjoy eating healthily and you will be eating yourself thinner," says Ruth.

The course is designed to re-educate peoples’ approach to healthy eating, using fresh, local ingredients wherever possible.

Tom Kime, Jamie Oliver’s former boss, stresses that variety is the key.

"When you’re trying to set up a programme of healthy eating, it is important there’s no repetition. You don’t want the same thing over and over again because then you’ll get bored with it and break the programme," says Tom.

Top tips

Rik prepares to cook up a storm in the kitchen bearing in mind three important lessons:

1. Where possible use local, unprocessed produce.

"Local food to me is traceable," says Toby Peters, a local produce seller in Battle. "You can see the farm… you can see that the product is natural, not processed. You get the raw ingredient from the farm five miles away."

Pan of food on the stove
Preparing and smelling the food is half the pleasure of cooking

2. Prepare and cook your own food. Feeling and smelling the food extends the pleasure of the meal which in turn helps you eat less.

3. Everything in moderation - even the odd glass or wine.

"Wine can be good for you," assures Henri Chappon and as Britain’s number one sommelier, he should know! "There are lots of components in wine… vitamins, acids… too much is dangerous, a good level seems to have been set at 2-3 glasses per day."

Here's one I made earlier...

So with this in mind, Rik sets about preparing a main course of sea bass with tomatoes, caper berries & olives and a desert of mango, papaya & watermelon salad with mint & ginger.

The result? Delicious. And if you want to try it for yourself, Inside Out has turned cookery guru - with a little help from Cutting Edge!

With obesity on the increase and a large percentage of the nation overweight, there is no better time to make a change for the better.

The message is clear. Fresh healthy ingredients and good old fashioned home cooking will not only improve our waistlines, but our health as well.

"There are so few things we control in our lives these days," says Christine, the chief dietician at Pembury Hospital. "Being able to have an influence on your own health is so much more beneficial to human beings than to leave their health in somebody else’s hands."

See also ...

Kent -Rik Waller
Healthy Eating
Science - Obesity

On the rest of the web
Cutting Edge Food and Wine School
Cookery courses in the UK
The obesity awareness and solutions trust

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Sara Clark
I found this programme interesting and heart warming, as an 'organic' fan I am keen to give my family the very best produce. Although a working mum, I buy all my meat from the local butcher but am still searching for really good quality organic locally produced fruit and veg, I will be contacting Go Green in Battle.

I've tried the soil association web site, but this has proved pretty fruitless.

My other major concern is, all the good I'm doing at home is being completetly undone at school. My eldest son recently started secondary school and the choice of food is unimaginative and very unhealthy. Combine this with banks of fizzy drink and sweet machines, his diet has deteriorated considerably.

If the government want to reduce obesity in our children, they could do worse than look at what is being served up in our schools and bearing in mind this is often the only decent meal alot of these children will get during the term.

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