Saturday 29 April 2017

'Cigarettes, fried chicken and chocolate' - This Irish family's breakfast raises concerns on 'Doctor in the House'

TV3's 'Doctor in the House'
TV3's 'Doctor in the House'
The McKeevers were forced to drastically change their eating habits on TV3's Doctor in the House
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

TV3’s Doctor in the House returned for a third season tonight, with a personnel tweak to the familiar format. Here are some things we learned from the first episode.

The structure of the show you’ll already know: each week a team of medical experts meets a family in dire straits health-wise, assesses their problem areas, suggests ways they can improve the situation…and tells them what might happen if they don’t. Needless to say, that’s never good.

Returning for Season 3 are doctors Nina Byrnes and Sinead Beirne, and Professor Niall Moyna of DCU. And there’s a new member of the team: nutritionist Daniel Davey, who says “We can’t underestimate the value of eating good food” with regard to our health. He’s young, handsome, very healthy-looking…the complete opposite to most of us, in other words.

Tonight we met the McKeever family from Graiguemanagh in Co Kilkenny: 28-year-old Laura and John (34), and their kids Abi (9), Cillian (6), TJ (2) and 13-month-old Owen. And they have eye-wateringly bad habits. In the very first clip we see Laura putting sugar into a baby’s bottle of milk…which it then turns out isn’t actually for the baby, but the six-year-old.

The McKeevers were forced to drastically change their eating habits on TV3's Doctor in the House
The McKeevers were forced to drastically change their eating habits on TV3's Doctor in the House

Breakfast is: coffee and a few fags for the dad, sugary milk for Cillian, Abi grabs fried chicken from the petrol station deli; TJ is seen munching on a donut. He also gets a full bar of chocolate every day. No fresh food at the shop, only processed stuff and outright junk

John, by the way, rates their diet 1/10 – Laura gives it the full duck-egg.

He, meanwhile, is also a heavy drinker and smoker. John says, “The first thing I do (on getting home from work) is go to the fridge for a can of beer.” His father was an alcoholic; he’s scared of going the same way. Both his and Laura’s mothers are dead; Laura finds it “very hard” to cope, and John says the loss is “what keeps me drinking and drinking and drinking.”

The verdict comes in: Laura at serious risk of heart disease due to high cholesterol. John is “effectively killing himself” through smokes and booze, even though he plays sport (and spending €15000 a year for the privilege). Cillian is anaemic, which causes problems for his heart; Nina says he has the lowest iron levels she’d ever seen in a child.

The key to weight-loss and subsequent health benefits, as far as I can see, seems to be mostly diet, much less so exercise – though that of course is important for heart-healthiness and so on. So the McKeevers are put on a regime of both good diet and increased fitness

By week four, the family is “starting to see the positives” of some pretty drastic changes: they’re eating meals together and not “pushing the kids up to their rooms” every evening.

After eight weeks, fresh tests brought back some good news for John, bad news for Laura…and the medics are happy enough with the children’s progress. They’ve made “significant” improvements in just two months, and it’s a start. As someone once said, even the longest journey begins with a single step.

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