I was going to write a blog today about the importance of keeping your ‘before’ pictures for later use – but I was browsing the news over my lunch and came across this article about a girl in the UK who has been declared ‘Britain’s heaviest teenager’ weighing 63st at the age of 19.
Here’s an excerpt:
A teenager weighing 63st is still in hospital today after being freed from her home by builders, scaffolders and members of all three emergency services.
Georgia Davis, 19, needed urgent medical care but she had grown too big to leave her house and it took around 30 people almost eight hours to get her into an ambulance yesterday.
The road outside her home – which she hasn’t been able to leave for six months – was closed off as two walls of the house were demolished to remove her from her first-floor bedroom.
Her precise medical condition was still not known, but it is understood she had a ‘settled night’.
She is believed to be suffering from diabetes, kidney disease, spinal problems and respiratory failure.
I was almost speechless when I first read that. It reminded me of this blog by Erika at BGG2WL, about a very similar story that ended even more tragically. In that instance, a teenage girl weighing 500lbs died in a house fire because she was too big to be rescued. She was a well-respected, well-known member of her community – and yet she died because she couldn’t be helped, not just in the fire, but through the whole time she was gaining weight. I’d recommend heading over to Erika’s blog, because she explains it far more eloquently than I possibly could – so much so that I’m compelled to quote her at some length below:
It is shameful that we have young girls in our community that need help and, apparently, aren’t getting it. It is shameful that they have no one to talk to about their insecurities and seek out some kind of guidance. It is a pain that we should all feel that there are women who would rather endure the decreased quality of life than do what they need to do to be on a path to wellness.
Make no mistake about it – this isn’t about her dress size. This isn’t about her appearance, either – look at her, she’s a beautiful girl! This is about the fact that a girl, obviously devoted to her church community, was able to become so large that two individuals were harmed in an attempt to save her while she was impaired. That is a serious problem.
This should make us all look at ourselves. What do we do for those individuals who might be struggling? Do we talk to them, befriend them to see if they’re okay? Do we invite them over for dinner and, even though we might endure the “forget this – I want some real food!” comments, at least show them what healthier food looks like? Do we offer emotional support? Offer to go for a walk with them? Or are we just judging from afar, and make sure we can chip in on the casket?
I know that’s a bit sensationalist, but that’s real talk.What are we doing to stop this kind of silliness?
Now, the issue in this instance is that apparently, nobody said to this girl that her health was in jeopardy. In Georgia’s case, it’s a different story:
In August 2008, a 33st Georgia was told by doctors to ‘lose 20 stones or die’.
Spurred into action, Georgia attended a £3,600-a-month Wellspring diet academy in the US for nine months, during which time she shrank to 18st and beat her Type 2 diabetes.
She was seen by behavioural coaches, food psychologists and fitness trainers and encouraged to walk 10,000 steps every day.
She returned to the UK in June 2009 to look after her mother who has a heart condition.
But she reverted to old habits when she returned home.
‘When I arrived my mum said she hadn’t had time to prepare any healthy food so we had fish and chips instead,’ she said.
‘For that moment on, I had a niggling feeling that things weren’t going to work out.’
I’ve been very lucky in that, the whole time I’ve been trying to lose weight, I’ve had my family and friends 100% behind me. (My Mum has been scouring the web for gluten-free recipes since I found out I’ve got coeliac – because she’s a hero.) And while nobody said outright to me, ‘you need to lose some weight’ – as much as, looking back, I wish someone had – when I was at my heaviest, the second I’d say ‘I think I need to go on a diet,’ someone I knew would immediately jump to offer to join me, or help me, or do something to reinforce the idea.
This girl, however, has been told repeatedly that she needs help – and time and money have been invested in making that happen for her. But for her own mother to say she didn’t have time to prepare any food – and to order a takeaway instead? Therein seems to lie a huge part of the problem. Her support network just isn’t there – and she hasn’t got the resources to help her make any sustainable life change last. And who would? At that sort of weight, she’s facing a long – but not impossible – journey back to health, and she needs a strong network of people to help her to make that change on a permanent basis.
Another part of the issue – to my mind – seems to be that she’s being sold unrealistic ideas as to how long this sort of weight loss should take. She’s expecting instant results, for very little effort:
The teenager was on a strict exercise plan at a local gym in Aberdare but she stop going to her gruelling workout sessions because she could not cope with the two-mile walk there and back.
She told Facebook friends: ‘I’ve got a personal trainer and life coach, I’ve got the help now, this is why it’s going to work. I want to do it now.’
‘But I refuse to believe that from my house to the bottom of Monk Street is just one mile.’
She paid £240 a month for a controlled meal plan called Diet Chef where he meals which be delivered to her.
But she quit after less than a month because she was unable to stick to the small portion sizes.
She told friends at the time: ‘I’m coming off this diet – you can only try things and this one failed. This diet is not for me but at least I tried.’
It’s a sad fact – but no amount of personal trainers and life coaches will be able to help you if it’s not something you really, really want to do. And if you’re inclined to pay £240 a month for a ready-meal programme, then you’ve missed the point of making a lifestyle change – unless your lifestyle change is to eat Diet Chef, every day, for the rest of your life. More likely is that you’ll eat pre-packaged foods for a couple of months, spend a fortune, and lose a lot of weight – but the second you go back to eating what you think is regular food (and if you’re inclined to try something like Diet Chef, I’m willing to bet your idea of ‘regular food’ is, largely, either processed, or takeout) you’ll gain all of the weight straight away. It’s just not sustainable, in the long term.
I’m not trying to have a dig at this girl – she’s no doubt been through hell and back, she’s probably miserable and downright uncomfortable, and I genuinely feel incredibly sorry for her. It’s a lonely experience being in a position like that, and I really do think she needs help. But if her family aren’t behind her, and her ideas of what will actually work aren’t realistic, it’s going to be an endless process of losing a significant amount of weight, and then gaining it back again once normality is resumed.
The idea of a quick fix is so pervasive – particularly in the diet industry, where it’s a constant battle to sell you the next ‘miracle cure’ for the most cash – and when you’re first starting out, it seems impossible that, for all the effort you’re putting in, you could possibly fail to lose 50lbs a month. Every month.
That’s why people get disillusioned and quit – because for a long, long time, it doesn’t seem like the effort is worth the reward. It’s also why people have gastric band surgery, and then go on to gain the weight back all over again – because it’s about dropping the pounds quickly, rather than making a long-term change to your lifestyle.
I’ll admit, it’s only been in the last few months that I’ve realised how long a process this is, and how fundamental patience is in making it happen. And still, I’ll step on the scales and be mildly irritated that I haven’t lost anything, despite my rational self knowing better. So I can completely understand why, for Georgia – and for anyone with significant amounts of weight to lose – the idea of anything that’s not a quick fix seems like too much.
But it’s essential to remember that if you’re going to do this right, and do it once and for all, you need to look at every single facet of your life and readjust. Whether that’s escaping negative influences (family and friends, for instance, that buy you fish and chips when you get back from boot camp…), or adding more positive ones into your life; whether it’s changing your diet, drinking habits, or exercise routine; whether it’s just being able to look at yourself honestly in the mirror and accepting what you see – you need to do a full life audit and work out what will be a long-term fix for you.
I know this is a really long, and rather serious post – but I think for all the jokes and jibes that go on around the subject of obesity, it’s a terrible thing to live with, and people in Georgia’s condition need help before they reach that point. I credit the people around me with a huge part of my success – not just because they supported me when times were good, but because they weren’t afraid to kick my ass when I was contemplating diving head first into a bucket of ice cream.
I can’t stress it enough – a quick fix is not possible for long-term weight loss. It’s just not. But if you’ve got the patience to follow through for weeks, months, and years, I guarantee you – it is absolutely possible. What you will need, however, is a strong foundation, both in your own emotional resources, and in your family and friends who – if you’re lucky like me – will be behind you every step of the way.
Let’s just hope it’s not too late for Georgia.