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Thread: The obese woman who's made millions from extreme diet blamed for the death of a bride

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    Elite Member Mrs P's Avatar
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    Default The obese woman who's made millions from extreme diet blamed for the death of a bride

    Revealed: The obese woman who's made millions from an extreme diet that was blamed for the death of a bride-to-be



    By Kathryn Knight

    Last updated at 9:45 AM on 12th September 2009
    Perhaps Jackie Cox deliberately ignored the standard advice for larger ladies when she chose her fancy-dress outfit for her company's annual sales jamboree.

    How else to explain the vast, multi-coloured Harlequin costume with cascading ruffles clinging to a figure which, if being kind, you would call portly, and, less generously, grossly overweight?

    Ms Cox seems to be revelling in all her roly-poly flamboyance, despite the fact that as an advert for the dieting company she co-founded 13 years ago, it seems a rather own goal.

    Ironic: Overweight LighterLife founder Jackie Cox has made a fortune from telling other people how to lose weight by following drastic methods

    Unless she was serving as one of the 'before' pictures so beloved of dieting companies keen to illustrate the effectiveness of their methods.

    The trouble is, this snapshot of 57-year-old divorcee Ms Cox is not at all 'before' but categorically 'after', taken in 2004.

    And a photograph taken earlier this summer as she strolled along the beach near her home in the Bahamas shows her carrying an equal amount of timber.

    Moreover, when asked by the Daily Mail if she would care to elaborate on the specifics of her size, she revealed she weighs about 14 stone.

    At 5ft 2in tall, this gives her a body mass index of 35.1 - otherwise known as clinically obese.

    Normally this would be a private matter, as is the ongoing battle of countless women with their weight.

    'A low calorie diet like LighterLife will affect memory and general well-being'




    But as Jackie is the co-founder of LighterLife, the drastic low-calorie weight-loss plan that she pioneered with business partner Bar Hewlett, it is a bitter irony indeed.

    The regime consists of a 530-calorie-a-day plan, one marketed under the banner that it is fast, simple and safe. It is certainly difficult to dispute 'fast and simple'.

    Under the ultra-low calorie regime, dieters routinely lose a stone a month, often much more.

    Whether the methodology is entirely 'safe' - or indeed a long-term solution to weight problems - is rather more open to debate, certainly for a significant number of LighterLife customers.

    For some of them, the LighterLife experience has proved, at best, a quick fix. At worst, it has left a legacy of health issues ranging from depression and heart problems to memory loss.

    Nor is that all: as the Mail revealed this week, it has also been linked to a series of tragic and premature deaths, the latest being that of 34-year-old Samantha Clowe, who collapsed at her home in Leeds from heart failure in June after following the LighterLife diet for 11 weeks.

    Tragic: Samantha Clowe, 34, died after crash dieting

    Samantha weighed 17st 6 lb when she started the diet, and had lost three stone by following the strict plan, desperate to be slender in time for her wedding to fiancé Andrew Smith.

    And while at her inquest this week, Home Office pathologist Dr Alfredo Walker said a post-mortem examination failed to establish a cause of death, he was unwilling to rule out the fact that her diet had played a part.

    'It may,' he said, 'be related to her low-calorie diet and weight loss.'

    Not quite such a shiny advertisement then, but then Samantha's is not the first untimely death to be linked to LighterLife.

    In January 2006, 25-year-old Londoner Matilda Callaghandied after losing ten stone in six months on the plan.

    She slimmed from 33 stone to 23 stone, but died of heart arrhythmia, a condition where the heart fails to recover properly between beats.

    The exact cause of death could not be ascertained, but at her inquest the coroner recorded an open verdict after hearing evidence from a pathologist that rapid weight loss could kill.

    Then, last December, Jacqueline Henson, a mother of five from Leeds, died after drinking four litres of water in less than two hours, one week after starting LighterLife's diet plan, which advocates high fluid intake to prevent constipation.

    A coroner ruled her death an accident, but her family blamed the diet.


    More...


    Dr Dee Dawson, who runs the Rhodes Farm eating disorders treatment centre says: 'I'm not at all surprised that these women suffer health problems after going on such a low-calorie diet. Quite simply, they're not having anywhere near enough to eat.

    'If you cut down on your calories, yes, you will lose fat, but continue on such a low-cal diet and your body starts to eat its own muscle in order to gather enough nutrition to function properly - including the heart.

    'It happens to the anorexic girls we treat - they can have arrhythmias and I suspect that's what happened to the poor girl who died. Similarly, a low calorie diet like LighterLife will affect memory and general well-being.

    'If the heart isn't pumping properly, it's likely that not enough blood is being pumped to the brain for it to function fully, and as I know from treating young women with anorexia, lack of food can lead to depression.'

    'It felt like my body was out of control, like I was on some kind of drug. I didn't let it worry me because I was so elated at having lost weight'


    These are extreme examples. But they underline cause for concern about the methods recommended by the company and its millionaire founders, who have accumulated vast fortunes from the thousands of overweight Britons who have used their system.

    LighterLife was established in 1996 by Jackie Cox and Bar Hewlett, who met in the Eighties while taking part in research for another diet plan.

    Lifelong dieters, they developed their own slimming programme which, they claimed, worked so well for them it made sense to turn it into a business. Via their methods, dieters are taught to survive on just over 500 calories a day - a quarter of an adult's recommended intake.

    LighterLife dieters are encouraged to follow the core programme, a 14-week marathon of specially provided shakes, bars and soups which replace food and cost £66 a week (almost £1,000 overall), interlaced with weekly group meetings with 'counsellors' (in reality, franchisees of the business whose main qualification seems to be they have undergone the programme).

    Not practising what she preaches: Jackie Cox has a BMI of 35.1, making her clinically obese

    And a lucrative business it has certainly proved: in just 13 years it has become a multi-million-pound company, with accounts from 2007 showing turnover had doubled in the previous two years, from £10,164,123 in 2005 to £21,344,748.

    The rewards are obvious for Ms Hewlett, 61, and Ms Cox, who along with their co-director Rachel Hunter enjoyed total salary payments of £1,656,434 that year (certainly enough to fund Ms Cox's leafy retreat in the Bahamas, from where she commutes to Britain for one week a month, as well as her luxury Jaguar car).

    A clutch of celebrity endorsers, meanwhile, among them chef Antony Worrall Thompson, presenter Coleen Nolan and Jackie Llewelyn-Bowen, wife of designer Laurence, appear to highlight the message that this is the 'go-to' diet for determined slimmers.

    So far so glamorous and successful. And it must be said that many of LighterLife's estimated 15,000 annual dieters profess themselves delighted with a system which has given them dramatic results after years of trying other methods.

    But for a few, this glossy facade is only one side of the story. The other side is rather less glamorous.

    Take Sarah Barker, a 39-year-old science teacher and mother of three from Fadmoor, North Yorkshire, who reads the stories of women like Samantha Clowe with a shudder.

    A lifelong binge eater who had ballooned to 24-stone when she started the plan in January 2006, she believes the diet has ruined her health.

    'At first I was thrilled. I lost one stone in the first week and then four to five pounds every week after that,' she recalls. 'By June I was down to 17 stone and then hit my target of 13 stone, the top of my BMI range, in September. I'd lost 11 stone in just nine months.

    'I was thrilled and had gone down eight dress sizes from a 30 to a 14. I had bags more energy and started going to the gym. It was a completely new me.'

    Looking back, however, Sarah acknowledges there were other, less welcome physical changes taking place.

    'It's hard to describe but it felt like my body was out of control, a kind of buzzy feeling like I was on some kind of drug. I didn't let it worry me because I was so elated at having lost the weight.'

    But in October, she woke up and found her vision was blurred. 'I looked at my husband, James, and could see two of him,' she recalls.

    Referred to a doctor, she was told that because she had lost so much weight, she had lost fat from behind her eyes which supported the muscles.


    'I have memory loss, tiredness, muscle aches and vision problems. Until I started the diet I never had a medical problem in my life'


    'He said they needed to strengthen again and he gave me an eyepatch.'

    Worse was to come. Later that month Sarah suffered a serious gallstone attack and was rushed into hospital.

    'They didn't diagnose gallstones at first but they thought that because I was eating solid food again after the diet, my stomach couldn't cope and it was indigestion. But by the third attack, in February 2007, they told me my gallbladder would have to be removed.'

    By May that year, Sarah's weight had gone back up to 15 stone. Dismayed, she telephoned LighterLife to ask if she could still do the diet with gallstones.

    'They said yes, as long as my liver function was normal, which it was. So I tried it again, and that is when the problems really started.

    'After being back on it for three weeks, the double-vision was back with a vengeance. I also had severe pains in my eyes. The doctor referred me to an opthamologist who then referred me to a neurologist.

    'I had three MRI scans, two lumber punctures and blood test after blood test while they tried to get to the root of the problem.'
    Sarah was told her brain had suffered eight areas of damage, and that multiple sclerosis could not be ruled out. 'I was horrified, like the life had drained out of me.'

    Thankfully, further tests ruled out MS. But, a year on, Sarah is still suffering the after-effects of her time on the diet.

    Going hungry: The low calorie diet recommended by Lighterlife means followers are practically starving themselves

    'I have memory loss, tiredness, muscle aches and vision problems. Until I started the diet I never had a medical problem in my life. I spoke to Lighter-Life and they just told me to keep them informed of all the results.'

    Dr Dawson, from the Rhodes Clinic, says: 'Again, it's hardly surprising that someone might suffer blurred vision on a low calorie diet. As I said before, if you don't eat enough calories, your body will start eating its own muscle - which would account for the general muscle aches and tiredness.

    'If the heart muscle is affected, it may not be pumping enough blood to the brain, resulting in blurred vision and memory loss.'

    Like Sarah, Nikki Symes, a mother of three from Crewkerne, in Somerset, was also initially delighted with LighterLife after embarking on the programme at the end of 2007.

    After years of battling her weight, and tipping the scales at more than 14 stone, she was desperate.
    'At first the weight dropped off - I was out buying new clothes after just two weeks,' she recalls. 'But there were side-effects. I had no energy at all, I was a nightmare to work with and had constant migraines.'

    Even so, she continued with the diet until the recommended 14-week period, losing three stone.

    Two years on, she has put half of the weight back on, and now feels that her metabolism has changed.

    'I now weigh 12 st 10 lb, but only because I exercise almost every day and don't eat until evening. If any of my friends ever asked me about LighterLife, I'd tell them to steer well clear.'

    Nikki is just one of many women - and men - that the Mail has spoken to who have expressed the same sentiment.

    All of them, too, spoke of the psychological after-effects of a diet which removes normality from eating.

    Laura is one such disillusioned LighterLife dieter who lost two-and-a-half stone in ten weeks after starting the diet last year. She abandoned it when she developed heart palpitations.

    'As much as I loved the inch loss, being on LighterLife was a lonely journey,' she says. 'Not being able to eat food with my family made me feel so down and I would never put myself through it ever again.'

    'If any of my friends ever asked me about LighterLife, I'd tell them to steer well clear'




    Perhaps Laura's symptoms were caused by something else, however she believes that the rapid weight-loss diet was behind her problems.
    'The cost is very expensive and in my experience the counselling sessions consist of a chat and a 15-minute DVD. I would be wary of spending that money again,' she adds.

    As we have seen, there appears to be no question that the diet works - at first. Yet even some of the plan's most enthusiastic converts would struggle to deny that while the LighterLife plan facilitates speedy weight loss, maintaining it is quite another.

    There is no greater testimony to this than the rotund form of Ms Cox herself. At her Kent-based clinical hypnotherapy practice, Emma Hutt has seen at least ten LighterLife dieters since April alone, all of whom put on weight after finishing the plan and who were struggling to cope with their oscillating size.

    Dying to be thin: Many women are risking their health by following the LighterLife crash diet

    'What LighterLife does is take away the responsibility for food, which can be beneficial short-term as it breaks habits,' she says, 'but how can you address your relationship with food and the choices you make if you are not eating real food and dealing with those choices on a day to day basis?

    'Many of the people I see from LighterLife struggle to adapt to the reality of eating "normally". Because they've been on a starvation diet they put on weight, which can stress them out.

    'It offers them an unrealistic relationship with food and for many of the people I see in my clinic it simply escalates the fear of real food and makes the yo-yo dieting cycle more extreme.'

    A spokesman for LighterLife said it was a clinically monitored programme which had helped 150,000 people lose weight effectively and safely during the past 12 years.

    'We were very sad to hear the news about Samantha,' he said. 'The coroner said Samantha was clinically obese which increased the risk of cardiac death. It had been suggested that there was a possible link to the diet but the coroner said it was very difficult to make such a connection.
    'Many clients on the LighterLife programme are obese prior to starting, or morbidly obese. As a result, many have been carrying around the weight of an extra person (or, in some cases, two people) for many years, which can take its toll on the body, and in particular the heart.


    'Many of the people I see from LighterLife struggle to adapt to the reality of eating "normally". Because they've been on a starvation diet they put on weight again'



    'LighterLife can help them escape the obesity danger zone.'

    He went on: 'Prior to starting the programme, clients are screened with a healthcare professional to confirm their suitability. Once on the programme, they are monitored on a monthly basis by a clinician. By abstaining from conventional food, clients have 'space' to explore the issues behind their overeating.
    'After reaching their personal healthy weight, they are slowly reintroduced to a full range of conventional food and continue with their weekly support meetings, to help them implement and sustain further healthy lifestyle changes.'

    Back in North Yorkshire, Sarah Barker can only ruminate on that sentiment. She now weighs 18 stone despite, she maintains, following a healthy diet.

    'I can't seen to lose weight at all, even following a healthy diet plan.' Her story has its own ironic postscript, too.

    'A few months after I last spoke to LighterLife they asked me to be a success story for them in a magazine or newspaper. Of course I said no.'

    Samantha Clowe's mother, Barbara, and fiancé Andrew, meanwhile, were too upset to comment further. They are still recovering from attending the inquest of a young woman who should have been preparing for her wedding.

    One thing is certain. That colourful picture of Jackie Cox will make bitter viewing for them indeed.

    Read more: Revealed: The obese woman who's made millions from an extreme diet that was blamed for the death of a bride-to-be | Mail Online

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    Gold Member 00Kimmi00's Avatar
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    Fuck right off. This is such bullshit, surely these women understand what they're getting themselves into. They've no doubt been on plenty of diets, and it's nearly impossible not to learn the basic principals of nutrition whilst doing them! Anyone dumb enough to try it deserves what they get.

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    Bronze Member Mousey Housewife's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 00Kimmi00 View Post
    Fuck right off. This is such bullshit, surely these women understand what they're getting themselves into. They've no doubt been on plenty of diets, and it's nearly impossible not to learn the basic principals of nutrition whilst doing them! Anyone dumb enough to try it deserves what they get.
    I agree. The only safe way to lose weight is to eat a balanced and healthy diet (and control your portion size) and good old exercise. I know, I've tried the quick fixes before and they never fucking work. You need to retrain your brain into knowing when it's had enough food. I'm currently on the Scottish Slimmers plan, which doesn't label cakes etc... as bad, as they know if a food is off limits you will crave it more (a little bit now and then doesn't hurt). I've been going since march this year and have just lost my 1st stone, and I eat better now too.
    Trapped in a box by a cockney nut job, Ave a cuppa tea, Ave a cuppa tea...

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    Silver Member Queen Mab's Avatar
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    Oh well. One less dumb ass to get rid of to extract some weight off for the rest of the world. These desperate pinheads should know better than to follow a stupid and dangerous diet like that.
    A woman has the age she deserves.
    -Coco Chanel

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    Silver Member sparklehead's Avatar
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    I agree that the women know what they're getting into, but I don't agree that they are "dumb asses" etc. Food is drug and for many obese people, likely those in this article as well as myself, overeating is just as much an addiction as other severly destructive habits like drugs or alcohol.

    I have had points in my life where I've lost large amounts of weight through diet, however, not until very recently was I able to actually stick to any healthy eating plan prescribed to me. I didn't have the ability for moderation, it was all or nothing. I found it hugely easier to either over-eat or under-eat than to face a meal three times a day and eat the right things or stop at a normal portion.

    It also becomes easier to justify risky dieting when you're so overweight that the health risks of being obese seem to outweigh the risks of eating too little.

    None of that is an excuse, and these women do know that they're not on a healthy weight loss plan, but I do think that there's room for a little more compassion.

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    Silver Member Queen Mab's Avatar
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    ^Okay, yeah, you do make a point. I was just angry because I'm sick of hearing stories like this where women have to basically starve themselves or get into dangerous diets in order to lose weight and I feel like they are not seeing through the consequences. I take back what I said, but I still think they should know better than to do this.
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    Elite Member Novice's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sparklehead View Post
    I agree that the women know what they're getting into, but I don't agree that they are "dumb asses" etc. Food is drug and for many obese people, likely those in this article as well as myself, overeating is just as much an addiction as other severly destructive habits like drugs or alcohol.

    I have had points in my life where I've lost large amounts of weight through diet, however, not until very recently was I able to actually stick to any healthy eating plan prescribed to me. I didn't have the ability for moderation, it was all or nothing. I found it hugely easier to either over-eat or under-eat than to face a meal three times a day and eat the right things or stop at a normal portion.

    It also becomes easier to justify risky dieting when you're so overweight that the health risks of being obese seem to outweigh the risks of eating too little.

    None of that is an excuse, and these women do know that they're not on a healthy weight loss plan, but I do think that there's room for a little more compassion.
    Great Post.

    Funnily enough, Lighterlife has been marketed along with the Cambridge Diet as "safe" in the UK. Things like slim-fast have had impacts like gallstones, etc. Lighterlife is perceived as better since it (allegedly) tries to address the problems of emotion eating and food addiction.
    Until recently when my Dr told me to loose weight slowly, no-one had ever said that loosing too much weight too quickly was "dangerous" i.e. heart attacks, etc. NO-ONE!!!! No-one has told me that to loose too much too quickly is dangerous. And I think that I'm reasonably well informed & I didn't know that it put one at risk from stuff like heart attacks, etc.

    People are so deperate and Drs are so nasty in some cases about being obese that people (esp women) will try anything.
    "I don't know what I am to them, maybe a penguin XD" - Tiny Pixie

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    Elite Member Penny Lane's Avatar
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    Wasn't there a similar scandal with the founder of the Kimkins diet ?

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    Silver Member sparklehead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Novice View Post
    Until recently when my Dr told me to loose weight slowly, no-one had ever said that loosing too much weight too quickly was "dangerous" i.e. heart attacks, etc. NO-ONE!!!! No-one has told me that to loose too much too quickly is dangerous. And I think that I'm reasonably well informed & I didn't know that it put one at risk from stuff like heart attacks, etc.

    People are so deperate and Drs are so nasty in some cases about being obese that people (esp women) will try anything.
    Wow, that's very concerning. I'm glad you have a doctor that finally said something, it’s very important that he/she does.

    A Time article recently talked about it and found that “Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., recently released the results of a survey of more than 2,500 obese patients who went to their doctor for a regular checkup over the course of a year. The investigators found that the charts of only 1 in 5 of those people listed them as obese. What isn't on the charts is probably not communicated between doctor and patient either, and that means trouble. Those in the study who got the diagnosis were more than twice as likely to have developed a weight-management plan with their doctor than were the other obese patients. "If you don't have a plan, you're not going to lose weight," says the study's author, preventive-medicine specialist Dr. Warren Thompson, whose research was published in August's Mayo Clinic Proceedings.” What Doctors Don't Say About Obesity - Fit Nation - TIME

    I also read a really interesting study about doctors' feelings or prejudices when dealing with obese patients. http://www.biomedcentral.com/content...6963-9-106.pdf (CNN summarized it as “Studies also show that doctors can be biased against patients because of their body size. A study out this week from researchers at the New York University School of Medicine found more than 40 percent of the doctors surveyed had a negative reaction to obese people.") Does your doctor judge you based on your color? - CNN.com

    What I got out of it was that many doctors either felt unprepared to deal with helping a patient lose weight, or felt that it was pointless to discuss weight because the patient wouldn’t lose anyway. It was only the doctors that were confident in their knowledge and ability to help, or that believed that patients would lose weight who took the time to talk to their patients about their weight and the steps needed to lose it.

    That was a huge reality check for me and changed the way I looked at my relationship with my doctor. I used to love going to doctors who didn’t talk about my weight and just dealt with the issue at hand. I didn’t want to be harassed about my weight every time I saw a doctor. After reading that study, I think the reality is that every time a doctor, a nurse, a family member, etc. bothered to hassle me about my weight, it was because they believed that I could do something about it, wanted to help and wanted better for me. Those that didn’t mention it did me no favors.

    I thought I knew it all: I knew I was obese, I knew a healthy diet and exercise were the only real ways to lose weight, I knew I was on the fast track to diabetes, heart disease, etc. I just didn’t seem to be able to do it for extended periods of time, so I didn’t need a doctor to make me feel worse about it. It wasn’t until I went to a doctor who took the risk of bringing up my weight that I was able to form a real plan with her and stay on track. She was able to recommend people to help me (a program that pairs me with a nutritionist/therapist/trainer weekly so there is support and accountability) and to monitor my progress and health so that I saw not only physical results but immediate, real results like lowered blood pressure. It’s still the same healthy eating and exercise, but much more than I could have done on my own.

    If you feel you’re not getting enough information from your doctors that is a huge problem, but one you can do something about. Bring a family member or a friend to the visit with you to ask questions you may not think of or take notes so that later you remember what the doctor told you and you can ask follow-up questions. Show your doctor that you want information by asking questions and taking ownership of your health and by even bringing up the need to lose weight first. If you find your he/she doesn’t want to spend the time answering, you must find a new doctor.
    Last edited by sparklehead; September 18th, 2009 at 12:15 PM. Reason: Sorry for the manifesto.

  10. #10
    Elite Member qwerty's Avatar
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    I don't know about anybody else, but I don't want to be taking dieting tips from a morbidly obese woman.

  11. #11
    Silver Member sparklehead's Avatar
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    haha, yeah probably not! I saw that picture and wondered whether she gained some back or whether they just photoshop the hell out of her...

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