Can't Stop Eating - Wednesday 5 December

Real Life: Can’t Stop Eating Wednesday 5 December, 9.30pm

Kettering is a normal, British suburban town. It’s home to commuters, families and everyday people leading everyday lives. But Kettering is also home to Gretton House – an extraordinary community that specialises in the full-time care and rehabilitation of adults who have been diagnosed with Prada Willi Syndrome (PW), a rare and incurable genetic disorder which affects around 2000 people in the UK.

One of its key symptoms is that sufferers never feel full and cannot control their eating. They will beg, steal, lie and often resort to more extreme forms of crime to literally feed their addiction. Tonight’s Real Life documentary Can’t Stop Eating sees the story of Gretton House residents Joe Blackburn, 21, and Tamara Allwood, aged 27, and their struggle to fight their food demons (at 9.30pm on TV ONE).
Joe Blackburn tipped the scales at around 190kg at his heaviest, and was seriously in danger of eating himself into an early grave before his anxious parents – after three years of trying – finally managed to get him a place in the home. His parents both knew there was something wrong with Joe as soon as he was born. He was extremely weak and slow to develop, but he wasn’t diagnosed with PW until he was one. By the time he was a teenager, he was shoplifting food and his weight was spiralling out of control.

Under the strict supervision of specially trained staff, Blackburn is limited to three balanced meals a day and has to take regular exercise. He has absolutely no access to the kitchen. It’s just one of several rules which Blackburn must adhere to in the house, often causing him to display some of the more anti-social aspects of PW syndrome – confrontational and stubborn behaviour.

As far as he is concerned, the strict rules are not helped by the fact he is stuck out in the middle of nowhere. If he goes the distance and loses weight, he may get the chance to move to one of the Gretton Homes in Kettering town centre where residents are trusted to live near the local shops and the edible contents they contain. With a scheduled visit home where the fridge remains unlocked, how will he and his parents fare at Easter weekend?

Tamara Allwood is not going home for Easter. She lost contact with her mother when she left home at 16. Neither Allwood or her mother understood why she always had a craving for food and as a result, their relationship was torn apart. Allwood then turned to stealing to feed her addiction, and by the time she was 23, she weighed 215kg and was finally diagnosed with PW. Now 27, she has managed to shed 146kg.

However, Allwood has yet to resolve her relationship with her mother. She says she is determined to show her mother that she is now an independent woman. Due to her weight loss, Allwood has been granted an unchaperoned trip to visit her mother in London. However, once free from her carers, Allwood’s compulsion to eat takes over and she turns up at her mother’s home an hour late with a bagful of sweets and a television crew.

Real Life: Can’t Stop Eating shows a first-hand account of what it’s like coping with such a rare genetic disorder.

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  • Paul

    I used to date Tamara too. This was years ago when she was clinically obese. She called me her jungle king. That’s my nickname. That’s my petname.

  • Joe Blackburn

    see me escapades here:

    I am now living like a gangster. I dont care .Watch the full documentary here: