There’s No Such Thing as a Quick Fix

There’s No Such Thing as a Quick Fix

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.

Source: Daily Mail

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.

Excerpted from 63st teenager cut out of her home by 30 scaffolders, builders, police, fire and paramedics had not been outdoors for six months

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?

Excerpted from 500lb Teen Unable To Be Rescued From Fire, and I Blame EVERYONE | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

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.

25 thoughts on “There’s No Such Thing as a Quick Fix”

  • Very well said! I can’t count how many new “miracle” pills and “no fail” diets I have seen in the last decade. Fads are a part of everyday life it seems, from foods to technology, fashion to diets. We are really turning into a “NOW” society. You are absolutely right that the only way to truly make a change is to change your lifestyle and the way you look at food and health. And I can’t agree more about the importance of a good support system. I do hope Georgia finds her way back to health! Great post!

  • very well said… quick fix solutions frustrate me, but so do people who have weight loss surgery thinking it is a quick fix. I’ve just had a gastric sleeve, and I know it isn’t a fix by any means. It limits my portions, thats it’s ONLY job. I have to choose the right foods to put into my mouth, I have to want to exercise daily and enjoy exercise and fitness. I have to stay motivated, and learn how to keep the weight off when I lose it. I have to deal with the reasons why i over ate in the first place via therapy, I have to work on my self esteem and confidence. Everyone chooses the path that feels right for them to lose their own weight but no route should be seen as a quick fix. It frustrates me that the media often show stories about “Failed weight loss surgery”, it’s the surgery that failed, it was the unrealistic expectation of the person who had surgery thinking it would be the solution to all their problems. There is no easy way to lose weight and keep it off. There are only tools that can help you along the way, if you have the right mindset to achieve your goals.

  • This makes me incredibly sad because I worked at Wellspring Camp for two summers, and I felt like part of a deceitful group that was not teaching good behaviors or a sustainable lifestyle. Yes, they have a wonderful overall approach to weight loss by including nutritionists, therapists, group behavioral therapists, fitness trainers, adventure staff (myself), culinary instructors, etc. But they promote a diet that is unhealthy and unsustainable. I gained weight during the season working there, and continued to gain when I got home because my eating habits were all out of whack. My body was deprived of essential fats.

    Now I am working as a Health Coach through Take Shape for Life, which could probably be categorized under the same ‘diet’ as “diet chef” but our clinical food program is more or less a cushion of safety while the clients are being coached into better, sustainable eating habits. Most people who successfully go through Take Shape for Life end up keeping their weight off for the rest of their lives, and then become health coaches themselves to pass along the gift of health to others.

    What Wellspring failed to do as a whole was recognize that we are not all “fat” for the same reasons. So putting us on the same diet (fat-free) and putting us through the same routines wasn’t going to work for everyone.

    What Take Shape for Life does is create a safety net while we (the client) figure out where we’ve gone wrong. For some, it is a high-fat diet. For others (myself included) it was a high-carb diet not because I was addicted to ice cream but because I was an endurance athlete trained in peak of the Power Bar craze “don’t bonk”. So while you’re busy trying to figure out what to do better in your life, the clinical food program is giving your body what it needs, teaching you to eat smaller, more frequent portions and you are focusing on one or two “lean & green” meals a day. So you’re never relying 100% on “packaged foods”.

    But – no matter what program someone follows, it boils down to intrinsic motivation first. The person has to be at a place in their own life to be committed to the change no matter what obstacles come his/her way.

    I am in the field I am in because obesity affects me personally. I am forever grateful that I never really developed the burden of obesity in myself, though I have been on my own weight loss journey to better improve myself. The thing that has gotten me through it all, and helped me stay successful is this:

    I never want to be a victim to food again. I never want to feel like the only way to have fun when you’re camping is by roasting hot dogs over the fire, eating potato salad, s’mores, having popcorn at a movie theater, trying the deep-fried whatever at the state fair, having a 3rd glass of wine with dinner. I really look forward to exiting the program (when I am ready) because I do look forward to a glass of wine with dinner again, and I look forward to french toast with nutella on top .. I will just be very aware of my portion sizes and what I am doing in my physical life to counter balance it all.

    Anyway – this was a great post and a great blog to discover. Thanks for the comment that led me here! Keep up the great work!

    • Thank you so much for your comment – it’s amazing to hear an opinion on camps like that from the other side of the fence. I think you make a really good point, too, in that we all do have different reasons for being overweight, and re-education is an enormous part of the process, especially if you’ve got a lot of weight to lose.

      It took me a long time to realise that for myself, which is why I slipped back into old habits when I was eating processed foods – and even now, it’s still a learning curve. And I still trip up from time to time – but you’re right, having a treat with a good understanding of portion sizes is absolutely fine. Better than fine, in fact – for your overall wellbeing, the occasional indulgence is a good thing!

      Thanks again for the insightful comment – and good luck with your journey!

  • There is a difference between being overweight and morbidly obese to the point you are immobile, There is certainly enough media attention and education about the dangers of being super-sized, so I think individuals need to take responsibility for their own state of health. Unless you’re being force-fed, you’re probably making decisions to eat a lot of the wrong things. I’ve struggled with my weight, and probably always will, but I know if I gain weight I only have myself to blame.
    I just don’t know how you could get to the size of the two girls mentioned without someone, a friend or family member intervening.
    I realise it’s taboo to mention people’s weight but in extreme cases you have to be cruel to be kind.
    Being within a healthy weight range shouldn’t be rocket science, and I’m not saying everyone has to be skinny, but people should not have to be cut out of their houses. That’s just extreme.

    • Absolutely – I think there’s a point where something has to be said. Even in my case, I look back now and I really wish someone had said to me that I was endangering my health as much as I was, or even that I looked the way I did. People do tiptoe around it, but there comes a point where it’s unfair to keep ignoring it.

      That said, I know when I was bigger it took me quite a few goes to figure out what worked – I tried starving, fad diets, etc – but once I’d ‘re-educated’ myself on eating right, it suddenly seemed easy… So it’s a matter of getting these people the right kind of help while also being realistic about what they can actually expect to achieve. That’s where things like the Biggest Loser go a bit wrong – because while the diet and intense exercise will get results quickly, it’s just not possible to make that sort of thing work, over such a short period of time, if you have any sort of life whatsoever.

      It’s such a shame that it’s become acceptable for people to get into this situation, and that people like these girls are sold such unrealistic ideas about both their own weight, and how they can get out of that situation.

      • I think a lot of people miss out that this girl is 19 years old. She lives at home, and has probably always lived at home, save the two months in camp. Whether she is an emotional eater, or her parents have awful eating habits they have passed on, or whatever her particular past issues are, it raises a lot of alarms for me that she came home from a fat camp either 1. not knowing how to cook for herself or 2. not feeling empowered to cook for herself. Before she can lose weight, she needs to feel in charge of her body and her life. There are still some pieces missing in this story before we can even begin to guess how her neglectful (or who knows, maybe they were even trying to make or keep her fat) parents have raised a child so unwilling to take proper care of herself.

        I am not saying that she is helpless, but at 19 years old without ever living away from home and being treated as a carer, you just can’t expect her to go away for two months and come back ready to tackle her home environment.

  • Most people who are fat know they are fat and know it threatens their health. They have struggled with trying to lose weight and lost the battle many times over. They feel hopeless and sad and angry about it. And if someone “says something” to them about their weight, usually it triggers intense shame and self criticism, and self destructive behavior is the result (eating binges!). So please, while it is sad, honor these women’s struggles and differences from you, and if you “say something” make sure it is with respect and gentleness.

    I love this blog! It is so positive and your success is an inspiration!

  • Yοu aгe so аωeѕome!
    I ԁon’t think I’ve truly read something
    like this befοre. So nіce to find anothеr person wіth sοme
    oгiginal thoughts on thiѕ issue.
    Seriously.. thank you foг stаrting this uρ.
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    • Thank you so much 🙂 You’re very kind – I’m hoping if it helps anyone at all then it’s totally worth it!

      Thank you! x

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