SOCIAL Hero Winner, Joe Longden, is a young man who has Down’s Syndrome. Joseph’s mum, Rayna Longden, is his full-time carer but some advice from her other son made her realise she was potentially killing Joe with kindness.
“Joe has always been a good eater but when he started college at 16 it was harder to control what he ate,” Rayna said. “Joe has autism and I had a terrible habit of using food to bribe and reward him with his behaviour. Looking back, I was literally killing him with kindness.
“Joe's weight gain really kicked in when he was about 18 and his weight loss journey suddenly became a huge mountain to climb. His daily life started to be compromised and he started to get health issues - joint pain, breathlessness, excessive sweating, and mobility issues - all due to his weight. This all really affected his enjoyment of sport and joining in with it.”
A trip to a local theme park was a particularly unpleasant experience for Joe when he weighed 18st one pound and was an XL size.
“Joe went to Twinlakes Adventure Park with his college and he was refused access to a ride because the safety strap wouldn't go around him,” recalled Rayna. “When I heard about it from his mentor, I went home and cried my eyes out. How could I have allowed this to happen to my poor son?
“We went on holiday to Sorrento for a wedding and I had to buy Joe a 44-inch waist trouser and a 54-inch jacket for it to fit. On the plane, he had to have a seatbelt extender. However, even with all this, I felt that it was easier to feed Joe than to even try and tackle such a large mountain as his weight.”
When lockdown hit in 2020, Joe was classed as vulnerable and suddenly his whole social life was taken away from him.
“Lockdown was incredibly isolating for Joe, and he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see people. Then something happened that terrified me. My son is a doctor and he told me that if Joe fell ill with Covid he would unlikely survive because of his weight. They would not put him on a ventilator because of his condition, weight and BMI. Joe's BMI was 43.4. I immediately looked on The 1:1 Diet website for a Consultant.
“To start with, we chose to have remote consultations due to Joe's vulnerability. However, after a while, we decided it would be more beneficial to have face-to- face meetings, which worked well and kept both of us on track.
“For Joe, the Plan has been brilliant. He found it easy to stick to and I think, due to his autism, Joe loves structure. Joe knows when to eat and what to eat, and it was as simple as that! Since starting the diet, Joe has lost more than six stone and has really enjoyed the change in his appearance and in his confidence. He’s even got himself a girlfriend.”
Rayna now feels like Joe is living the life a 28-year-old man should.
“Joe has since been back to Twinlakes and was able to go on all the rides this time. He also gave his sister away this summer at her wedding. And he wore a stylish suit he would never have got in his size before.”
What does Joe make of his weight loss?
Joe said: “The 1:1 Diet has made me feel 100 per cent better in myself. I feel blessed. I have a girlfriend now and I love her to absolute meatballs.”