Gary Rooney is a 38-year-old printer from Dublin who is dangerously overweight. He is a shift worker and finds it difficult to balance his food intake. He eats a limited diet of white bread, takeaways and large portions of chicken, chops or steak with chips and rice. He has no energy and is permanently tired - even walking to the shops tires him.
When Gary was younger he kept pretty fit and played competitive basketball three times a week. Now, although he's only 38, he says he feels like a person who is close to retirement age. His wife is worried that they won't grow old together - she thinks he's heading for an early grave because of his weight.
We started by giving Gary a body monitor* to wear for a week so we could measure just how much - or how little - exercise he does each day. The results were a shock. He should be moving about 12000 steps a day, but at the moment he's only managing just over 3 and a half thousand.
*The body monitor measures metabolic rate. To find out more about the body monitor (a SenseWear Armband) contact firstname.lastname@example.org
In just 8 weeks we are going to try and break habits that have become a way of life. It's going to be one of the hardest things Gary's ever done but he doesn't need to look too far for motivation. His third child, a little boy, was born in July 2006 and he is desperate to have the energy to get off the sofa and play with his kids.
His weight affects every part of his life. A year ago he developed sleep apnoea which means he has to wear a mask every night to keep his airways open. The extra fat in Gary's neck is making his throat narrower than normal. Without the mask his airway becomes blocked and his body jerks him awake to breathe.
Putting on excess weight doesn't happen overnight. Gary reckons he's been gaining a stone in weight every year over the last few years. Things started to go wrong when he gave up playing sport regularly but kept on eating and drinking the same amounts as when he was more active. At over 24 stone or 154 kg Gary is 70 kg overweight, the combined weight of both his daughters!
THE MEDICAL AND FITNESS TESTS
We sent Gary for a medical at the Mater Private Hospital* to examine his current state of health. He's anxious and he's right to expect problems - his excess weight could be reducing his life by as much as 12 years.
*Mater Private Hospital, Eccles Street, Dublin 7
Carrying excess weight puts a strain on the body. Gary's already had a problem with his Achilles and now there's a worry that he may have arthritis. Gary had not realised that his weight could be putting stress on his joints.
We also measured his fitness at the Peak Centre* and it's no surprise to find that Gary is very out of condition. By analysing his blood lactate levels and breathing we get a VO2 reading of just 23 - it should be double this. *email@example.com
THE MEDICAL RESULTS
BMI 44 - Very Obese
BMI (Body Mass Index) is a measure of weight in relation to height. A healthy BMI is between 21 and 25.
Gary is morbidly obese. He's not alone - the average Irish waistline has risen by 6 inches over the last 40 years. This level of obesity puts him at major risk of serious illness. 90 percent of people who develop Type 2 diabetes are overweight.
ABDOMINAL GIRTH - 52 inches
(A healthy girth for a male is less than 37 inches)
Gary is likely to be prone to Type 2 diabetes due to his abdominal girth.
CHOLESTEROL - 5.1
He's on the borderline for a healthy cholesterol result. However, his
LDL CHOLESTEROL - 3.8
At 3.8 Gary's LDL (the bad type of cholesterol) is a concern.
By applying Gary's results to a variety of life expectancy calculators we predict that if he carries on as he is then Gary's life expectancy at the moment averages just 69 years old. The average life expectancy for an Irish man is 75 years.
At the end of 8 weeks Gary will be retested to see if he's managed to add any years to his life.
THE 8 WEEK PLAN
30 min vigorous exercise a day
3 healthy meals a day
5 portions of fruit and veg a day
Dr Mark wants Gary to get off the couch and increase his activity - building up to at least 30 minutes vigorous activity a day, 5 times a week. He also has to eat more healthily and axe the takeaways. We won't reverse 15 years of weight gain in 8 weeks, but we can make a start.
Gary has taken the advice about increasing his activity on board - and it proves quite an event. Gary's wife is delighted that he chooses to clean the windows - the first time since he moved in. Even simple tasks like housework can improve your health. An hour of cleaning windows would burn off at least 3 times more calories than watching TV.
But he'd have to clean the whole street to burn off the extra calories he's been taking in. He needs to sort out his diet and the woman to help is top nutritionist Margot Brennan from the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute*.
Gary used to eat half a white pan loaf each day; his regular lunch sandwiches contained 800 calories and 36g of fat. Margot advises him to use brown bread and to try to use fruit, veg or salad as fillings. She recommends using natural yogurt in place of mayonnaise.
Gary is going to have to get used to a whole new food palette of brown breads, fish, and at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
There's plenty of work to be done and Dr Mark introduces Gary to an exercise programme that's tailor-made to a father of three - playing football and Frisbee in the park!
For activity to give health benefits it's enough to get warm and slightly out of breath. If Gary can do this for at least 30 minutes a day then he can really start adding the years on to his life.
Margot Brennan returned to find out how Gary was coping with his new eating plan. She advised him to try making smoothies to satisfy his cravings for sweet food. She also dispelled a myth about not eating in the evening; she explained that it's your total calorie intake in a day that's important.
We're just over halfway through the 8 weeks and Gary has introduced a regular workout into his life. Now he's getting fitter, pushing himself, and getting out of breath will really help him extend his life. Gary's determination is great to see and for the first time in years he's not too heavy to weigh himself on regular scales.
Our plan is to reintroduce Gary to his first love - basketball. If he decides to take up basketball again it will give him even more motivation to keep fit and lose weight. (He played at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin).
Gary's resolve to be healthy is spilling over to the whole family and their all losing weight.
WEEK 8 - THE FINAL RESULTS
Gary's initial examination revealed that he was inactive, morbidly obese and heading for a possible future of arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. But with determination and hard work he's managed a complete overhaul of his life.
Gary's initial tests were repeated - has he made any difference to how long he might live?
Mater Private Healthcare
Eccles Street, Dublin 7
Phone: 01 8858888
Fax: 01 8858541
Suite 4, The Mall, Beacon Court
Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland
Tel: +353 1 2934994
Unit 4, Block 4B
Blanchardstown Corporate Park
IRISH NUTRITION AND DIETETIC INSTITUTE
Tel: (01) 280 4839
Fax: (01) 280 299
NATIONAL BASKETBALL ARENA
Phone: (01) 4590211
Fax: (01) 4590212
RESULTS FOR GARY ROONEY
AVERAGE METS (energy burnt per hour)
Was 1.1, now 1.6
Was 3671, now 12539
Now 136 kg, 21 stone 6 lbs
Lost 18 kg, 2 stone 11 lbs
Was 42%, now 34%
BMI 40 (was 44)
LDL cholesterol 3.5, was 3.8
LIFE EXPECTANCY WAS 69 - NOW 80