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Doc Martin


Ian McNeice (Bert Large)

Ian McNeice says he has had a new lease of life since he resisted the temptations of Cornish pasties and cream teas, and followed a strict diet.

After filming the Doc Martin Christmas special last year he knew he had to take drastic action to reduce his weight.

"What triggered the diet was really a crisis. At the end of the Christmas special I ballooned to an extraordinary weight of 25 stone 12 pounds and was really in trouble," Ian explains.

"I was horrified when I saw myself in the Christmas special at how big I was, and how immobile. I was just a big blob.

"I had had all these interventions from various friends and family saying you really ought to lose weight. None of which I took any notice of. It took me ringing up my agent and saying things seem to be awfully quiet, dare I say it, is my weight a problem? There was this deafening silence and she said actually it is. She said we are finding that people love you; they think you are great, they think you are a wonderful actor but unfortunately they think you are too big. Your mobility is becoming a problem and they are worried about whether you can do various things and health issues too.

"I was stunned. I thought I had got to do something because it was my livelihood. Cindy, my girlfriend, suggested we try Weight Watchers. I had done various diets over the years and none of which I'd stuck with. I've always been a heavy guy.

"So we went to Weight Watchers and the first week on their points system I lost ten pounds and I thought that's interesting and I kept at it. It has been an enlightening process for me and I have really stuck with it. Having started at Brentford in London I decided to continue at Weight Watchers in Wadebridge near Port Isaac.

"Apart from anything it is terribly funny. In Brentford it was me and 25 women. At Wadebridge there is one other guy there but it is mainly women. Actually you get spoilt with all those women at the sessions and the chats afterwards.

"I have had a new lease of life since I got a Weight Watchers cookery book. I have enjoyed experimenting with the recipes. I have now lost five stone."

Ian has already noticed huge differences: He can now walk up the hills in Port Isaac, which he previous found impossible, and he couldn't get into the driving seat of the van he had to drive on set.

"The poor people who organise the transport for the film had to take the seat out and re-work it; it was a huge job, just so I could get into the van. This year the van was back the way it should be and I got in it, so that's a huge plus.

"The wardrobe man had to use two tape measures to measure me last year. Now we are back to just the one now.

"I can walk every where now. Cindy and I walk into the village to listen to the Fishermen's Friends singing on the Platt, we walk to church, and we go for coastal walks. All these things are huge changes and huge changes in  life style. "

Ian had to resist daily temptations from the on set caterers. He refused the cooked breakfasts, the mid morning pasties, the stodgy puddings and cakes, in favour of the food allowed on his diet.

He was so overweight that Weight Watchers were unable to calculate a goal weight for him to aim for.

"I'd be happy to get down to somewhere in the teens. I want a career like Hugh Grant," Ian jokes.

"People ask me if I think I will lose work as I get thinner because I have always been a big guy. But I am never going to be absolutely thin. I will always be chubby. But there is chubby, and there's the phrase they slammed me with which was morbidly obese."

Ian has made a documentary charting his weight loss.

Ian's character in Doc Martin, Bert Large, Portwenn's plumber, also has a major life change. He's down in the dumps because his son Al has deserted him, to go on his travels around the world, and seeks the doctor's help.

"Bert is having a bit of a mid-life crisis, and asks the doctor what he should do. But the irascible doctor kicks him into touch, and tells him he has to get on  with it.

"Then Bert sees a shining white light at the end of the tunnel and knows what he is going to do: open a restaurant and have a complete change of life.

"He sets up this restaurant, called Large's, in an incredible location overlooking the harbour. But like everything Bert does there are always pitfalls and problems.

"On the opening night the doctor threatens to shut down the restaurant when he is served a plate with drops of blood on it from where a member of the kitchen staff has cut herself.

"Then a stomach virus sweeps though the village and the finger of suspicion points at Bert's restaurant."

Bert doesn't have a good track record with his attempts at catering. He stepped in to take over the running of a fish and chip shop, and couldn't keep up with demand. Then he poisoned the village when he attempted to bottle spring water.

"It is incredibly hard work running a restaurant- we've seen that in one of our favourite restaurants in Port Isaac, the Watershed. So it is not something I would contemplate. I'm getting better at cooking though," says Ian.