Real Stories From Real Families

Read through some of the amazing stories from Sydney-based families who have implemented my Ride to Life program.

Meet Karolina, Charlie, and Jordan - three children with their own individual journeys with obesity, food, weight gain and how they and their families have faced these challenges and developed healthier lives.

*to protect the privacy of Dr Gary's patients, all names have been changed and the images below are not true representations of any individuals found on this page*

Healthy eating for children

Samoan Karolina has a family history of obesity and diabetes…

Karolina is a beautiful three-year-old girl of Samoan background. At age three years she was 26kg, well above the normal healthy range, in the severe obese range with a BMI of 27kg/m2.

Karolina was the youngest of four children and her parents were divorced. There was a family history of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease on her mother’s side and type 2 . . .

Samoan Karolina has a family history of obesity and diabetes…

Karolina is a beautiful three-year-old girl of Samoan background. At age three years she was 26kg, well above the normal healthy range, in the severe obese range with a BMI of 27kg/m2.

Karolina was the youngest of four children and her parents were divorced. There was a family history of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease on her mother’s side and type 2 diabetes on the father’s side.

Her grandfather was very sick with end-stage diabetes and heart disease (and eventually passed away six months after I first saw Karolina in my clinic). This had a galvanising effect on Karolina’s mother to make changes at home to improve Karolina’s health and excessive weight.

Karolina’s excessive early childhood weight gain was due to high intake of packaged, processed foods and takeaway foods. With substitution of these fake foods for real fresh home-cooked foods, raw vegetable snacks, less sugary breakfast cereals, more water and more physical activity in play group, over six months Karolina’s mother was able to make sustainable family changes. This was despite being a busy single mother with a family of four children, some of whom being older were not happy to have their junk food – chips, chocolates and sweets – removed from the pantry and fridge!

The changes led Karolina’s weight to remain stable over six months, so when I saw her last, she had lost a small amount of weight from 25.7kg to 25.4kg and with excellent height growth, her BMI fell from a peak of 27kg/m2 to 22.9kg/m2. Though this weight and BMI is still well above the 99th percentile, the resolve of Karolina’s mother has been strengthened by the tragedy of her own father’s death from diabetes and wanting her children to avoid this common pathway of ill-health, that has been part of her family’s life stories. She decided it was not going to be her or her beautiful daughter’s story from now on!

Bringing about that change, and seeing the difference in her daughter, compelled her to keep going and stick with her commitment to breaking the cycle of obesity in her family.

Healthy eating for children

My son’s food addiction and battles with bullying…

“I think this journey with my kids is the hardest, and most trying thing I have ever done.

Having to motivate myself and change my own ways as a woman, and as a mother and role model is the most challenging. While it is truly a daily struggle, it is also very rewarding at the same time.

My kids are my world. Charlie, James and Anton are everything I could ever want and more, and although . . .

My son’s food addiction and battles with bullying…

carli's mum“I think this journey with my kids is the hardest, and most trying thing I have ever done.

Having to motivate myself and change my own ways as a woman, and as a mother and role model is the most challenging. While it is truly a daily struggle, it is also very rewarding at the same time.

My kids are my world. Charlie, James and Anton are everything I could ever want and more, and although they all come with their individual battles, they are my personal inspiration to become better. I know that by my efforts to better myself, one day all my hard work will pay off.

Charlie’s heart is bigger than life. He has a great love for food, and for life. Like many kids, he has to fight for acceptance, and struggles with making the right choices about food or his behaviour. But he has an unending drive to never fail, and to always try his best, no matter the outcome. I know he always trusts that I have his best interests at heart.

Charlie’s long journey with food and his addiction to it has been super hard and trying at times, but what an achievement that he has now become able to manage his weight.

Although still overweight for his age, he has maintained his strict schedule of exercise and eating regimen for 3 years. Although I do the cooking and preparing, he is the one who has done it. I have just pushed him along the way now.

I find it to be inspirational that he has learned to overcome his own daily battles of being bullied and teased. To me he is an eight-year-old champion and one day he will come to the realisation that he did this. He put in the hard work and he will continue to do so going forward, with a more positive attitude and relationship with food. Whatever I have asked of him, he does, and he does it with all his heart.

Being healthy is huge in my house. Does one size fit all? NO WAY! Is it a lot of trial and error? YES! 100 percent. What works for one kid, sure as hell doesn’t work for all of them, but I’ve learned that being healthy is not just about the way you look or what a set of scales reads.

I have come to believe a healthy gut means you will have a healthy mind, and a healthy mind means you will have a healthy life. More, more, and more food is not the answer, and less, less, and less is not either. It’s finding a happy medium. A balance of a little bit of everything in moderation. That is the answer and it really is as simple as that.

In all honesty I used to be 146 kilos which I know was huge! I now weigh 84 kilos, and my own lifestyle and battles were insane. I was a diabetic on daily insulin, plus tablets. Having a heart attack at 33 years of age put me on my arse quicker than anything. My high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and my life was loaded with stress. This was not ideal!

Every day, I now make a conscious decision as to whether I am going to live for myself and my children, or whether I’m going to die. And I choose every day to LIVE. I choose to be here for those three boys. That’s what gets me up every morning. As their mother I will do all I can to forever make good choices in our diet and lifestyle. We try our hardest to be better and healthier versions of ourselves. I decided I want to live a long life, as I want the same thing for my kids too.

I don’t have any extra support. It’s me and them all the way. So, I know I need to make sure that they all have the correct information, the right life skills. I need to make sure that they will be ready for this harsh world we all live in. Having autism and ADHD and so many other things is hard.

Food plays a huge role in life, and they will need all their own tools to be ready in that tool box for when I’m not around. To make sure that they are set up for life, and no matter what, they will be ready to take on the world. This also means they will be ready to pass on what I have taught them to the people they meet, and eventually onto their own kids.

It comes down to this: this journey that we have all been on, is so much more than dieting and exercise; it’s about making a choice to live. That choice is called a healthy lifestyle change.”  Charlie’s mum.

Childhood obesity

The effects of indulgent grandparents and a mixed ethnic background on 3-year-old Jordan

Jordan the Spider-Man boy is a delightful three-year-old old client of mine from a mixed ethnic family with food-loving Italian grandparents on one side and a Fijian–Chinese background on the other.

Jordan’s mother is Italian and his father Fijian and both parents worked fulltime, so . . .

The effects of indulgent grandparents and a mixed ethnic background on 3-year-old Jordan

Jordan the Spider-Man boy is a delightful three-year-old old client of mine from a mixed ethnic family with food-loving Italian grandparents on one side and a Fijian–Chinese background on the other.

Jordan’s mother is Italian and his father Fijian and both parents worked fulltime, so Jordan and his younger sister were looked after by one or other of his grandparents during the daytime. Food, especially processed foods, sweets and sugary drinks, was the way the grandparents expressed their love to their grandchildren.

This unhealthy intake of processed fake foods led to Jordan gaining excessive weight, so by the time he was three years of age he weighed almost 27kg.

I saw Jordan and his parents once and within three months Jordan started eating ‘power vegetables’ as he kept saying to his parents after his first visit to see me. ‘Dr Koala said I will be strong if I eat my veggies,'' Jordan said, as he flexed his biceps eating carrots and cucumbers.

Both Jordan’s mother and father had major concerns about the health of their children from eating so poorly when with their grandparents. When these concerns went unheeded, Jordan’s mother decided as it was so stressful leaving her children with the grandparents, that she would reduce her work hours to take more direct care of them. She understood that this might be taken as a criticism of the grandparents, but both grandfathers are now being more supportive and reminding their respective wives how important a healthier approach to food is. Giving the grandparents a copy of the growth chart depicting how far Jordan’s weight was above even the top normal child’s weight helped crystallise how abnormal the situation was and how important it was that changes were made.

Three months later, the family’s stress level fell. Jordan’s mother’s stress in particular decreased significantly. Jordan’s weight stabilised. In facthe lost 200g and grew over 2cm taller so his BMI dropped dramatically.

I encouraged both parents to continue their courageous actions for their children’s health and fully expect that this beautiful family will continue a healthier journey.

If these true stories from Sydney based families inspired you to want to make serious changes in your family’s lifestyle and health, now’s the time to start.

Ride to Life provides your family with the tools you need to live happier and healthier lives.

Ride to Life