Obesity watch

Sven Schubert sought medical advice when he was 46 stone. He was referred to the weight management service in St Columcille’s, Co Dublin.

IRELAND has one of the fastest growing rates of obesity in the world. The National Taskforce on Obesity says 40% of Irish adults are overweight and 18% of those are obese.

This worrying trend will be highlighted in a documentary, The Obesity Clinic, on RTÉ One on Monday, Nov 12. The programme focuses on Ireland’s first public weight-management clinic, at St Columcille’s Hospital in Dublin. Filmed over 10 months, eight participants reveal their long struggle with weight.

Sven Schubert is one of the eight. A software engineer in Kildare, he struggled with his weight since childhood. He was 293kg (46 stone) when he sought help. “I was overweight from an early age and was first treated for obesity at five,” says the 33-year-old.

“As I grew taller, the weight distributed a bit and I was only slightly obese. Once the growing stopped, my unhealthy relationship with food caused the pounds to pile on again.”

Sven (originally from Germany) dieted and exercised and lost 75kg, but the pounds crept back up and by 2006 he was 250kg.

“A stressful work life, dramatic family events in Germany, and lack of coping mechanisms led to an ever-increasing weight gain. My quality of life dropped at the same time, and when resignation and depression kicked in, I finally asked my GP for help,” he says. Sven was referred to the weight management service (WMS) at St Columcille’s, and he has lost 100kg in four years.

“The WMS provided me with eating plans and exercise routines, but when it became clear my food addiction was caused by psychological symptoms, they adapted their treatment and increased counselling.

“By 2011, I had to stop working, was on anti-depressants and my mobility was greatly reduced. I was suffering from numerous infections in my limbs and respiratory tract and my weight peaked at nearly 300kg.

“Professor O’Shea admitted me in Dec 2011 and put me on a milk diet, combined with daily exercise and physiotherapy.

“I lost over 40kg and, in Feb 2012, I was deemed fit for surgery and received a gastric bypass procedure. I’ve since lost a further 100kg, will return to work shortly and am looking forward to a fuller life, visiting family in Germany, and perhaps having a family of my own.”

Prof Donal O’Shea, founder of the clinic, says: “A hospital service like this is necessary for the extreme end of obesity ... Cork was allocated funding in 2005 for an obesity clinic, but it was decided that it wasn’t needed and that money could be better spent elsewhere. It’s a further example of obese people being discriminated against.”

¦ The Obesity Clinic begins on Monday, Nov 12, at 9.35pm on RTÉ One.

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