'We ditched our habit of three takeaways a week, saved thousands, and booked our first holiday in years' – Irish family on their shock wake-up call

By | March 13, 2019
Pat and Paula Twomey, and their children Ava (20), Regan (17), Ella (13) from Clane, Co Kildare
Pat and Paula Twomey, and their children Ava (20), Regan (17), Ella (13) from Clane, Co Kildare

Geraldine Gittens

An Irish family who estimate they spent over €250 on three takeaways a week have saved thousands since they ditched their habit.

Pat and Paula Twomey, and their children Ava (20), Regan (17), Ella (13) from Clane, Co Kildare, consumed around 20 bottles of fizzy drinks a week, takeaways, chocolate, and had a carbohydrate-rich diet and no vegetables. 

But last year, they went on their first family holiday in years with the money they saved by giving up their habit of unhealthy eating.

“It’s down to lifestyle,” Pat told Independent.ie. “We work long hours, and then when we come home we end up working. Myself and Paula run talent shows for children so during the week, the minute we get home we’re trying to look after so many emails and texts coming in.”

“It’s very, very hard to get motivated to cook a big meal for five people. We just got into whatever’s handy. And then on Friday or Saturday, we’d get a chinese… it became a habit and it was always two or three times a week. It’s not laziness, it’s just tiredness.”

“At the weekends, I am an entertainer by trade, and I might do a gig on Friday or Saturday and I mightn’t have had dinner before the show, and then it’s stopping in somewhere at 1.30am.”

The Twomey family sit down to a takeaway on Virgin Media's
The Twomey family sit down to a takeaway on Virgin Media’s “Doctor In The House”.

Last year, Virgin Media’s team of “Doctors in the House” visited the Twomey home and unearthed serious health issues in the family.

When Pat, who had been passing blood from his back passage, was pushed by Dr Nina Byrnes to undergo colonoscopies, doctors found a lump.

“It quite possibly would have been cancerous within a year. It was shock to the system.”

“Without a doubt [the show] saved my life. [Before] I’d have to be on death’s door before I’d see a doctor… but they found a lump, the doctor did more invasive tests and found another very large lump.”

“Only for the programme I would never have contemplated going for a colonoscopy.”

Pat’s daughter Ava, whom the doctors classified as obese after a range of tests, told the doctors that she didn’t eat any vegetables and lived on a diet of bread, butter, pot noodles, diet coke, and potatoes.

Ava, who applied to the show on the family’s behalf as a cry for help, revealed that her mental health was suffering and she had been self-harming.

“I started making myself sick. I was purging every single meal for about two years. I got really depressed and I turned to self-harm.”

Pat and Paula Twomey
Pat and Paula Twomey

She explained to Dr Sinéad Beirne: “I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I actually thought that it was so much easier to make myself bleed and to sit over a toilet than to speak to somebody. That’s the way I felt at the time.”

“I had such a good relationship with my mam and dad and I just completely ruined everything. I have gotten a lot better in the past year but I think it’ll always be something that – because I never got any professional help – I’ll always be able to say ‘oh I’m 100pc recovered’.”

Pat told Independent.ie yesterday, one year after filming: “We didn’t know anything about [going on the show] until she got a text back that they’d like her and us to appear on the show. We thought it was a wind-up to be honest.”

The show which airs tonight shows Regan who never ate a vegetable, start to eat healthier along with the rest of the family.

“Regan was the obvious one that never ate any vegetables, she just didn’t like them. She wouldn’t tolerate them whatsoever.”

“Then when we went on the programme, the way the meals were done, the way they were seasoned, they had no problem eating them. None of them ever ate onions or mushrooms, and now they’re all sticking them in an omelette or whatever they’re making.”

Ava, who was told by Dr Beirne to curb her binge drinking at the weekends where she would drink ten or 12 drinks in one night, is now following a healthy meal plan and has significantly reduced the amount of alcohol she drinks.

Pat said: “She’s doing great, she’s cooking all of her own vegetables. She just comes in and cooks her own stuff. And she very seldom goes out and drinks now, she’s often working at weekends. But when she does go out she might go out with her boyfriend and have three and four.”

Regan, who once worked as a model but became disillusioned when she began to put on weight, now has her sights set on becoming a helicopter paramedic.

“She’s not the same child,” Pat said. “She’s really motivated. She’s there every night now studying, and she got accepted to a college in England.”

The family threw out their deep fat fryer, and haven’t eaten white bread since the doctors visited their house last year.

“We don’t have minerals in the house, we might have had 20 bottles a week in the house before that. There’s no crisps. We do a weekly shop, we make a habit of doing it on Wednesdays.”

“All the vegetables we eat are fresh. We have a steamer now and it only takes 15 minutes to cook them.”

He added: “We do stuff we’d never have dreamed of doing. We have chips made out of vegetables, we have parsnips here in the oven cut into chips and dipped into a honey crust.”

The family now spend a lot more quality time together, with everyone sitting down for a film night. Ava got a new dog which she walks every day, and her sisters often accompany her.

“We did cut down on Ella’s mobile time because that was a big problem. She’d be lost in her room for hours on end. You’d think she was studying but really she was on her mobile phone. A lot of kids are hiding that they’re on it, but it doesn’t be long adding up.”

Doctor In The House airs tonight on Virgin Media One at 9pm.

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