I nearly let my son eat himself to death

10 Jul2015
3,216 0

“Look at the story on the front page mum, Joe 17 said.

“What does is say?” I replied.

“It says how Britain’s fattest man had died aged just 33 at 65st,” he said.

“You know that could have been you,” I said.

“I know mum,” He replied.

We were right I nearly sent my son Joe, to an early grave after overfeeding him junk food, clueless about healthy eating. Seeing Carl’s story made me feel sick. It could have been Joe. I felt helpless when Joe was obese.

He reached 28st, aged just 15, and doctors warned us would not see his thirties if he continued to gain weight.

Bizarrely help eventually came in the form of a Chinese take-away delivery driver, who called at our home in Rotherham, South Yorks, so often that he and Joe became friends.

Slimmed down Joe is now 16st and the driver, fitness fanatic Tom Stringer, helped Joe turn around his life with trips to the gym and dietary guidance.

When he was little he would shun PE at school, I would even write notes to get him out of it. I didn’t know anything about calories and, even when I did try to cut back on the snacks for him, I always felt bad and gave in.

At his biggest, Joe was classed as super-obese.  Before having Joe with my second husband John Law, I had three children from my first marriage — Andrew Wilson, 27, and his siblings Paula, 38, and Robert, 40.

They were all a normal weight. They were always outside playing after school. But Joe’s generation are different. He spent a lot of time on the computer and I had a car to drive him everywhere, unlike with my first kids.

When he was at nursery he’d come home and have a sandwich and crisps he liked that food so that’s what I fed him.

At five years old, Joe was already larger than other children his age. I didn’t think anything of it. I knew the foods Joe liked and they were all easy things to make, as I’m not a good cook.

Joe ate Coco Pops for breakfast, crisps, sandwiches, chocolate bars and takeaways for dinner.

By age seven he was officially overweight. He was always hungry so I wanted to feed him.

I thought he was a growing boy and he would grow out of it eventually. But by the time he began secondary school, Joe was 11st and his weight was spiralling out of control.

I’d give him lunch money and had no idea he was going to the takeaway and having a full meal. Then when he’d come home I’d get in another takeaway for dinner.

I used to let my mum look after him after school and didn’t know she gave him money to get chips. Then I’d go again with him to get chips for dinner.

Joe got bullied because of his size, of course I felt bad but I didn’t know where to start with helping him. I’d never dieted myself.

The doctor warned me that Joe would not make it into his 30s if he continued to pile on the pounds.

I was stunned. We saw a nutritionist, who tried to talk to me about the different food groups and calories, but it was so confusing. I tried to cut him back on cakes, but he didn’t manage to follow it.

At the age of 15, Joe reached 28st. Looking back, I shouldn’t have bought unhealthy foods. He’d take a 24-pack of crisps to his room and eat them all while on the computer.

Then Joe met his new pal, and saviour, Tom. He delivered Chinese takeaways to the house and, because we ordered them so often, he got to know Joe.

One day he had a word with him and said:

‘You need to be careful about your weight, mate. If you keep getting bigger, you won’t be around.’

Joe idolised Tom and, when he offered to help him lose weight and take him to his gym, something in Joe changed.

He told Joe to stop eating sugar, white bread and butter, and gave him recipes for chicken and rice and swapped fizzy drinks for water. The weight fell off Joe and, in a year, he had lost 8st.

I wish we had met Tom earlier. He’s done so much for Joe. Now Joe is telling me what to buy and telling me off for buying anything with too much fat in it. I’ve even lost a stone myself.

When I read stories like tragic Carl Thompson’s I realise how close I was to losing my son. I feel guilty he got that big and I hope others read this and can help their children.

I want to share our story and warn other parents about the dangers of leading their children down the life-threatening path to obesity.

Joe says

I always ate what I wanted to. I told Tom I wanted muscles like him and he said I could, if I put the effort in.

I learnt so much about food from him. Almost everything my mum bought was full of fat and preservatives so I got her to buy chicken and rice instead. Now I’ve completely overhauled my diet. I cut out takeaways — I had them twice a day sometimes.

I feel amazing and am so grateful for everything Tom did for me, I want to be a bodybuilder now when I’m older, anything is possible now. I can’t believe how close to death I was, but it seems like a different life now.

Tom, 19 was a delivery driver, now works for Captia in call centre.

I had seen him around the area before while delivering food, then one evening I delivered to his house, he answered the door. I was wearing a tank top after being in gym, he noticed my muscles, I said you fancy coming on for the delivery with me, when we were driving he said he wished he could lose weight.

I took him down the gym, and told him diet is the most important part of training. I was harsh on him, he even dropped down crying one night.

I taught him needed to know, and now he wants to be a body builder. I was happy to help him, I did it for the  ove and passion of the sport. He was a kid in need and if he had carried on the way he was, he would be dead by now.

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