Sunday 18 March 2018

When I was 14 I couldn't fit into size 20 trousers – then I started exercising

Chiadika Uzor (19), Dublin

Chiadika’s a keen sports player after winning a weight battle. Photo by Martin Maher
Chiadika’s a keen sports player after winning a weight battle. Photo by Martin Maher

Born in Nigeria, Chiadika Uzor was about 11 when her family moved to Ireland in 2006, settling in Dublin.

Now a 19-year-old medical student at Trinity College, Chiadika recalls how her weight crept up in the years that followed: "I'd always struggled with my weight but it started to get worse as I reached adolescence."

The problem?

"I was too comfortable! I was eating everything and picking at things even when I wasn't hungry.

"I was no good at sitting down and just having my regular meals – I had no control.

"Being big is in the family and my mum was always conscious of this and tried to help me to control my eating.

"I'd have my dinner – and it would be a reasonable portion – but after dinner I'd want a snack.

"I always had to pick on something, usually when there was nobody around."

She wasn't much into sweets or crisps – but, she recalls, she ate quite a lot of bread and "really starchy carbohydrate food like rice."

"Bread was a big one for me. I like white bread and I ate a lot of it."

By the time she was about 13, her mum was getting very anxious.

"Mum started to notice things – I was having trouble putting on my shoes and socks. I was breathing heavily and had very poor balance."

At 13, she recalls, although she was only about 5ft 4ins in height, she weighed over 250 pounds (over 113 kilos or around 17-and-a-half stone.)

"Mum was very worried. The first time I realised there was a problem was one day when I was walking to school and I suddenly started breathing very heavily. My sister asked if I was okay, she said I seemed as if I was going to pass out."

Chiadika was brought to the family doctor who, following a detailed assessment, diagnosed her as obese and referred her to the W82Go weight management clinic at Temple Street Children's Hospital, where she was told to change her lifestyle.

'I stopped eating bread and started on Ryvita. I also ate more salads and fruit. It was very hard – it was such a big change that I struggled at the start."

Then came the game-changer: "One day my mum got me a pair of trousers. They were size 20 and they didn't fit.

"I was 14 at the time, and I was very upset about this. That was the start. I kept those trousers as a warning to myself and started exercising.

"I'd get up in the morning and walk before school or do a slow job when it was still dark – then I'd go to school.

"After school I'd do skipping. I ate a lot of fruit, oatmeal and salads."

The results were almost immediate: "Within two or three weeks, those trousers were loose!"

She joined team sports at school: "I played basketball and joined the athletics club. I was never so determined about anything!

"I lost a stone in three weeks and from then on I've never looked back."

Her weight has fallen to about 194lbs (88 kilos or 13-and-a-half stone).

"It's a huge change," she says. But it takes a conscious effort to maintain it.

"Temple Street clinic put me on the right track – knowing that there were other people in my situation was very helpful.

"I am now very careful about what I eat. I've cut out bread completely and eat a lot of vegetables. I cook vegetables and brown rice and bring that into college for my lunch instead of eating rolls or sandwiches.

"There's a really good gym in Trinity College, and I am doing fitness training at the moment.

"I train up to five times a week and I also walk to and from college – it's about 35 minutes each way.

"I'm really conscious of my food and my weight now."

Her family has changed along with her, she says: "There's a lot of vegetables in our diet now and a lot less bread."

Irish Independent

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