BBC’s Headroom campaign “to tackle the psychological issues surrounding conditions such as anorexia, bulimia and obesity” began last night with this film about a morbidly obese teenager whose size is putting her life at risk.
“Growing numbers of people in the UK are affected by eating disorders and obesity and we want to draw attention to some of the extraordinarily complex psychological concerns around those disorders” explains Headroom campaign executive Nina Bell.
“The aim of Headroom is to help people find a way through the problems thrown at them in everyday lives, not by suggesting a particular course of action but by helping them to unravel the complexities involved and assisting them to find their own way to better mental health and well-being.”
Very honourable I’m sure but, cynic that I am, I felt that a big part of the programme was simply the shock factor that someone so young could be so large… Had this been an American show, it might well have been called something like, “When Good Kids Go Fat” or similar.
Anyway, at 33 stone, Georgia Davis – a 15 year old from Aberdare in South Wales – was too young for medication or surgery so instead, she spent nine months at the Wellspring Academy which is a “residential weight-loss school” in the USA – which costs £40,000 a year to attend – where they got Georgia to change her eating habits, develop an interest in exercise and find out what makes her turn to the foods that’ve caused her obesity.
And at Wellspring, Georgia did well; the weight began to fall off, she partook of the much venerated exercise and things were looking good. Maybe it was in part because she’d been taken out of her normal environs; that is, her home, where she looked after her invalid mother.
Georgia reckoned that her issues with overeating began when he dad died when she was just five years old, and I believe her… When my father died when I was eleven, I recall being constantly offered sweets and cakes – as well as copious quantities of tea, which I’ve not been able to stomach since – as if eating would take away the grief of losing a parent…
Well intentioned these sweetie givers no doubt were, but for Georgia, the pattern was set. That said though, even at five, Georgia was a chubby girl, but obviously, her father dying didn’t help anything.
Anyway, back to her Wellspring experience and I was expecting the kind of Brat Camp confrontations and tantrums when chocolate éclairs weren’t forthcoming on demand and I was similarly expecting teary or angry refusals to join in the exercise programs but none of that happened. Georgia showed real determination to rid herself of the life-threatening weight and even when she came home for Christmas – a trial of her mettle if ever there was one – she stoically stuck to what she’d learned at Wellspring.
In fact, she was one of the few kids from the academy who actually managed to lose more weight over the Christmas break, and she didn’t let up on her regime of getting up at 6.30 in the morning and doggedly ensuring she clocked up her allotted 10,000 steps a day.
And as the fat disappeared, a confident and happy Georgia began to appear; she’d clearly been hiding in there all this time and with the shedding of her fat, her real self began to emerge in a charming butterfly from chrysalis-esque manner as she lost a fabulous twelve stone!
The Sun ran an article about her on April 13th which you can read here.
This was a touching and moving story of a young girl’s ascent from misery to happiness as she took proactive measures to change her destiny, which, had she not done so, would probably have featured a very large coffin, so well done Georgia!
Advice, wellbeing guides and webcasts relating to eating disorders can be found at bbc.co.uk/headroom and an action line – 08000 933 193 – is available to offer callers advice about where to get support if they, or someone they know, has an eating disorder.