Jan's interests include gaming, sports, Magic: The Gathering and reality TV shows.
What Was Freaky Eaters?
TLC's show Freaky Eaters aimed to help food addicts cure their addiction. It was hosted by psychotherapist Mike Dow and nutritionist J.J. Virgin, and it ran from 2010 to 2011. The people featured on the show were addicted to a variety of foods—everything from raw meat to tartar sauce—and junk food addiction was a common theme.
5 Episodes Focused on Junk Food
We'll take a close look at the people featured in the five episodes listed below and how the hosts tried to help them reduce their junk food consumption.
- Eric, "Addicted to French Fries"
- Josh, "Addicted to Pizza"
- Victor, "Addicted to Cheeseburgers"
- Amy, "Addicted to Cola"
- Kimberley, "Addicted to Ice Cream Bars"
1. Eric, "Addicted to French Fries"
Eric was an avid skateboarder who was addicted to French fries. He was so fond of them that he would eat nothing but fries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Heck, he would even blog about fries. Eric's whole identity revolved around being the "French fry guy."
Eric's addiction to French fries was getting out of hand. He would eat 1.5 pounds of fries in a single day, which amounted to a staggering 1,600 potatoes in a year. While Eric wasn't fat due to his active lifestyle as a skater, he was not exactly in the pink of health, either.
His homocysteine levels were through the roof in the high 50s; the "healthy" level is 7 or below. High homocysteine levels correlate with blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. At the age of 29, Eric already had heart disease.
What Happened on the Show
One of the show's favorite tactics was to use shock therapy to help the freaky eater realize the gravity of their addiction. In this case, J.J. and Mike brought Eric to a warehouse where they showed him the amount of fat he was putting in his body as well as the sheer amount of fries he was eating. The hosts needed to use a forklift to carry in the containers of cooked fries because there were so many! Eric also dipped his arm in a vat full of grease that represented the amount of grease he consumed in a year.
It was later discovered through a test strip that Eric was a supertaster. Supertasters have more taste buds than normal and are more sensitive to taste. Thus, they are less likely to try new foods. Because of this condition, Eric struggled to feed his toddler, Maximus, as he detested the smell of baby food.
J.J. encouraged him to try new foods that had a similar flavor profile to fries and the same kind of crunchiness, such as pretzels and pita chips. Eric lacked protein in his diet, so she encouraged him to try almond butter. Eric was open to improving his situation, but he was not confident that he would be able to change.
Eric was alarmed to learn about his health situation and wanted to be around for his fiancée Ann and their kids. During the show, he did his best to try things he never would have tried before, such as bell peppers and pizza.
Where Is Eric Now?
In the end, Eric made a lot of progress. Now, he seldom eats fries, and he has even learned to feed his son.
2. Josh, "Addicted to Pizza"
Pizza is one of the most popular foods among young people, along with burgers, hotdogs and fried chicken. Pizza-loving cartoon characters like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Garfield further popularized the Italian dish. While it may be okay to scarf on some slices occasionally, it's not a very healthy food, and eating it for every meal of every day would have a severe impact on your health.
Before the third grade, Josh ate a normal diet, but when he received his first allowance, he started to get hooked on pizza. He fondly recalled that, on Fridays after the second bell had rung, the cafeteria lady gave him an extra slice. As an adult, Josh hadn't eaten vegetables since back in the fifth grade when his mom forced him to.
Josh ate a staggering 469 whole pizzas in a year. Now, eating more than one pizza per day may not be a superhuman feat for a lot of people. But the frequency at which Josh was doing it was extraordinary.
Most pizzas are unhealthy because of the highly processed flour, sauce, meat and cheese commonly used as ingredients. Processing strips these foods of nutrients and fills them with additives.
Josh was actually an elite athlete in college, and he was even an MVP. This helped him remain fit despite his pizza addiction. However, due to his diet, he began to have a toxic response to pizza and had massive headaches and nausea.
What Happened on the Show
TLC decided to stack up 469 pizza boxes into a wall to show Josh the gravity of the situation. J.J. also came up with the idea of showing Josh how much saturated fat and trans fat was in the pizzas. The fat amounted to 80 pounds and was placed in five transparent jars. Mike instructed Josh to empty the jars of fat into a vat, then asked him to carry the vat of fat for as long as he could. He dropped it when he could no longer manage it.
After the shock therapy, J.J. encouraged Josh to try other foods, and Josh began to experiment with new things. He even ate vegetables.
The final scene showed Josh and his family eating out. Josh's brother wanted to test him by ordering a margherita pizza. Josh did not give in to his demons and avoided eating any pizza.
Where Is Josh Now?
Josh now runs two miles a day and plans to return to volleyball. He rarely eats pizza and has his attention on other foods instead.
3. Victor, "Addicted to Cheeseburgers"
While hamburger addicts are depicted in popular culture as characters like Wimpy or Jughead Jones, real life is more serious. The worst things that happened to Wimpy were debt and a potbelly. As for Jughead, the worst thing that happened to him was a huge tab at Pop Tate's. Jughead was not even fat at all.
Victor was a huge cheeseburger addict. From the age of five onward, he would eat nothing else. His mother, Daniella, did not help matters by giving in to her son's addiction and preparing nothing but cheeseburgers three times a day. Victor wanted his burgers simple and without any frills. He felt violated if his burger contained lettuce, tomato or onions.
Victor's wife of more than a decade, Adriana, was quite the opposite. She was planning to go to culinary school and tried to always cook healthy, nutritious meals for her family. However, Victor did not appreciate Adriana's cooking and set a bad example for his kids by eating junk food.
Victor kept his cheeseburger addiction from his wife. His wife thought he only ate a handful of burgers a week, but he was gorging on four burgers a day, which is 28 burgers a week and nearly 1,500 in a year!
While the prospect of eating that many burgers may sound mouthwatering, it is absolutely not healthy. That many burgers contain 88 pounds of fat and 1.3 million milligrams of sodium.
The effects of this bad diet soon caught up to Victor. At the time of the show, he was a 260-pound diabetic who relied on maintenance drugs. He also lacked the stamina to spend quality time with his family. He couldn't even play with his kids, and he spent most of his time lying down. Adriana was sick and tired of Victor's bad habits and implied that she was thinking of leaving him.
What Happened on the Show
J.J. brought in a truck full of cheeseburgers to show Victor how many he had been eating. She opened the back door of the truck, and a ton of paper boxes with cheeseburgers in them spilled out. Victor thought it represented his cheeseburger consumption for five years, but J.J. said it was for only one year.
Victor then realized that he needed to change his lifestyle fast, as he could lose his marriage and his life due to his addiction. J.J. decided to work with Victor and asked him to taste-test some healthier burger choices. He didn't like the new burgers, but he settled on a turkey burger.
Victor resisted eating cheeseburgers for a week and went fishing to celebrate. He liked the burgers served in the fishing boats, but he ate a granola bar while everyone else ordered a burger. He caught a bass and brought it home for Adriana to cook, and the family had a barbecue. Victor enjoyed his wife's cooking instead of eating a cheeseburger.
Where Is Victor Now?
He has since lost weight, and he has done a good job of avoiding cheeseburgers.
4. Amy, "Addicted to Cola"
There is no doubt that a lot of people like the taste of cola. The soft drink industry is a big business that was worth about $269 billion as of 2020. The reason this industry is so large is because soft drinks are available everywhere, from fast food chains to vending machines to supermarkets.
In this episode, we met Amy, a surgical technician who really liked cola—to the point that she drank 30 cans of it per day!
While there is nothing wrong with drinking soft drinks occasionally, drinking them every day can have detrimental side effects. This is especially true for colas because they contain phosphoric acid, which damages our bones and teeth. These sodas also contain caffeine, which can cause palpitations and heart problems.
Amy was in a state of denial about her cola drinking and wouldn't acknowledge that she had a problem. The 30 cans she drank per day amounted to 10,000 cans a year, but she saw no problem with that. Her cola consumption alone was twice the recommended calorie intake for a normal person. Amy may not have done the math, but she drank 1,000 gallons of cola in a year.
Amy got her first taste of cola as a five-year-old child when her family migrated to the U.S. from Russia. She and her family ate out at a fast food restaurant and had soft drinks. Ever since, Amy had been hooked on colas, and her addiction had only grown worse over the years. Sadly, her family basically enabled her behavior.
What Happened on the Show
Mike and J.J. tried their best to help Amy overcome her addiction. They showed her 37 cases of cola stacked on top of each other to visually represent Amy's monthly cola consumption. They also showed her a pile of sugar sacks equal to the amount of sugar she consumed in a year. They encouraged Amy to throw out her cola and had her watch her family pour cola down the sink. Mike encouraged Amy to empty at least one can down the drain herself, but she refused.
J.J. tried to find Amy a sweet but healthier substitute for colas and settled on smoothies. While many people pay top dollar for smoothies, Amy seemed to be repulsed by them. J.J. showed Amy the result of her blood test and said Amy was pre-diabetic, so switching to a smoothie would be a wise health move.
J.J. and Mike left Amy with a mere 58 cans of cola to ration for an entire week. Amy went through almost half of it in one day. She soon ran out of cola and had to go to the grocery store to replenish her stock.
In the end, Amy never acknowledged her problem and showed very little willpower to effect any change. J.J. and Mike tried their best, but they can't succeed every time.
Where Is Amy Now?
In 2018, Amy posted a video on YouTube sharing that she had beat her cola addiction. Watch her update in the video above.
5. Kimberley, "Addicted to Ice Cream Bars"
Ice cream is a popular dessert, and the average American consumes 23 pounds of ice cream per year, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. However, Kimberley ate up to 40 ice cream bars a day, which is up to 10,000 per year. Her daily consumption was what many people would eat in a year!
Kimberley had weight issues all her life. She had gastric bypass surgery to help her lose weight. She kept the weight down until her divorce, which left her devastated. She found solace in ice cream bars, and they had been her coping mechanism ever since.
What Happened on the Show
J.J. and Mike ambushed Kimberley in the grocery store, where she was caught red-handed with the merchandise. She had gone to the grocery store to stock up on several days worth of ice cream bars.
J.J. and Mike tried several tactics to help Kimberley. They brought over an ice cream truck, and at the back of the truck was a block of ice with a picture of Kimberley and her kids inside it. They had Kimberley smash the block of ice and pick up the picture.
Then, they led her along a trail of 9,996 ice cream sticks to show her the magnitude of her problem. The sticks were 1,200 yards long. At the end of the trail was a wall of ice cream boxes filled with 1,500 ice cream bars, which represented how many she ate in a two-month period. Behind the wall was her son, Drew, who offered his support.
J.J. introduced Kimberley to healthier eating choices, such as pilafs and turkey burgers. She brought in a big garbage bag and helped Kimberley dispose of all of her ice cream. J.J. also introduced Kimberley to a support group of other gastric bypass patients.
Where Is Kimberley Now?
While Kimberley has not totally quit ice cream bars, she now only eats a handful of them per week—a far cry from the dozens she used to eat per day.
© 2018 Jan Michael Ong