Saturday 21 September 2019

'I hardly ever feel hungry now' - How this teenager shed almost 14 stone in one year

Daniel Killeavy has been heavy most of his life, so he thought his chances of slimming down were nil. But he tells Joy Orpen, thanks to his loving parents and a whole new eating plan, he has lost loads of weight

Daniel Killeavy with Dr Eva Orsmond. Photo: Tony Gavin
Daniel Killeavy with Dr Eva Orsmond. Photo: Tony Gavin
Daniel Killeavy with his mother Samantha

Daniel Killeavy makes quite an impression when he walks into a room. That's because, even though he is only 16 years old, he is already over six-feet tall, with broad shoulders and a ready smile.

But that wasn't always the case. Not so very long ago, Daniel weighed almost 30st and was absolutely miserable. His weight problem had been going on for years, and seemed insoluble.

"He was always big, even as a baby," volunteers his mother, Samantha. "He was hungry all the time." In the early stages, his parents weren't too concerned. But when he was four, they had to face the fact that Daniel was not going to lose what they had previously thought of as puppy fat. They were puzzled, because overall, the family had a balanced diet.

When Daniel went to primary school, no mention was made of his excess weight. "He was taller than most boys his age," says Samantha, "so it wasn't that noticeable." However, as the years rolled on, so did the pounds. Eventually she took Daniel, the eldest of her five children, to a course called ACE (activity, confidence and eating), where he was seen by a dietitian and a psychologist. For a short while, it seemed to be working. But afterwards, with no follow-up, Daniel reverted to his old habits.

That course was the first of many that Daniel would attend over the years; all of them without long-term success. "I loved my food and I felt hungry all the time," he says. His mother agrees. "He always wanted more than everyone else. He'd have dinner at home, and another meal at his grandparents' house," she explains. "He'd take lunch to school, and then buy snacks. He seemed to have an insatiable appetite." So Daniel continued to expand, upwards and outwards.

The upshot of all this was that Daniel lost all confidence in himself. Fortunately, he loves hurling and soccer, and always made himself participate, even if it meant hiding in the bathroom while changing.

When Daniel went to secondary school, he encountered a new problem - stairs. Moving around to different classrooms, meant lugging a heavy schoolbag up and down, all day long. "It was a big problem," says Samantha, "because he was so overweight."

By now, she and Brendan were desperate. "Daniel had done courses; he'd been seen by doctors, psychologists and dietitians. But always, we'd end up back at square one," Samantha says. "Our GP then advised taking him to the weight-management service at St Columcille's Hospital, in Loughlinstown, but you have to be referred by a consultant. So, we went to see one privately, to save time, and he did refer Daniel to Loughlinstown. We were told the waiting list there was over two years long. We've heard nothing since."

By now the Killeavys were frantic. "I used to lie awake all night worrying about Daniel," says Samantha. "And by day, I was terrified that something terrible would happen to him, at school or playing sport. I also realised that in less than two years, he'll be preparing to go to college, and then it will be impossible to control the situation. So, we began searching online, and kept coming across Dr Eva Orsmond's name. We went to see her in her Oranmore [Galway] clinic, in March of this year. I said to Daniel, 'This is it. There are no more chances'. We had tried everything under the sun. Genuinely, my husband and I were absolutely desperate."

At his first appointment Daniel mounted the scales; the numbers shot up to 28st 8lbs. "I knew he was big, but I had no idea it was that bad," says Samantha. "We were shocked. However, from the very first, Dr Eva made it very clear that if Daniel was not 100pc committed to the programme, she would not work with him."

Following various blood and medical tests, it was decided that a very-low-calorie ketogenic diet would be the most suitable for Daniel.

Dr Eva explains: "Glucose [a type of sugar] is the body's main energy source. When the body can't get glucose for energy, it uses fat instead. This causes chemicals called ketones to appear in the blood and urine. When the body is in ketosis, it is actively using stored fat as an energy source. Ketosis can happen if you do not have enough insulin in your blood, or when there simply isn't enough sugar available - for example, as a result of a low-carbohydrate diet."

So drastically reducing his carbohydrate intake was the key to getting rid of Daniel's excess weight. Once Dr Eva had explained the diet to him, he was seen by the resident nutritionist, who gave him a diet sheet, some recipes and a choice of pre-packaged foods with minimal carbs, maximum protein, and supplements that Dr Eva has developed.

"He was allowed lots of small meals based on her recipes," explains Samantha, "and as much soup [made from vegetables grown above ground only], as he liked. We started the programme on a Tuesday, and by the following Friday, he had lost 5lb 11oz. Every week since then, he has lost an average of 7lb. Once he saw the weight coming off, he never wavered, and is now down to 16st 5lb," says his absolutely thrilled mother.

She says losing weight has had untold benefits for Daniel. "If you spoke to him some months back, he couldn't look you in the eye, he was so shy. Now, he's a completely different person. His social skills have increased enormously, he's genuinely happy in himself, and he did fantastically well in the Junior Cert."

Daniel agrees. "I knew Eva's diet was my very last chance. My parents had tried everything. The first few days were tough. But when the ketosis kicked in, around day three, I didn't feel hungry any more," he says. "My diet is carefully controlled. I make most of my own meals. I had banana pancakes for breakfast today; a wholegrain wrap with salad for lunch, and 150g of white meat with veg for tea. In between, I can have vegetable soup and Eva's low carb biscuits. But I hardly ever feel hungry. I'm nearly at my goal weight now, and feel absolutely fantastic. I cannot thank my parents enough for all they have done for me. They never, ever, gave up on me. And of course, I have to thank Dr Eva too; without her ongoing and absolute support, this couldn't have happened."

Daniel is now busy studying for the Leaving Cert, he leads an active social life and a has new, enthusiastic interest in mixed martial arts. Watch out, Conor McGregor.

For more information, contact the Orsmond Clinics in Dublin and Galway, tel: (01) 282-7500, or see

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