Viv Groskop: The surprise is that there aren't more Georgias

The health authorities should have intervened long before this became a £100,000 problem

Viv Groskop@VivGroskop
Monday 28 May 2012 20:36

The story of the teenage girl who is so large that she had to be cut free from her house is appalling. But not because of weight issues; because of the psychological implications. A child, caring for two adults. No support. Cheap and plentiful calorific food, which is far easier to obtain than, say, crack cocaine. When you think about it, the outcome is not remotely surprising.

"Britain's biggest teen", as she was dubbed by the tabloid press a few years ago, was hospitalised with major organ failure. She had been confined to a bedroom for months. It's one way of avoiding responsibilities you never asked for. She wrote on Facebook: "We all die in the end... But food will inevitably kill me." It doesn't take Freud to work out this was a kind of slow suicide via food addiction.

When such an extreme case comes to light – and a specialist describes Georgia Davis's story as "astonishing, probably unique" – everyone marvels at how things could have got so bad. But just a glance at Davis's circumstances explains everything. Her father died of a heart attack when she was a small child. She is the registered carer of her mother, who is in her late fifties and has a heart condition and severe arthritis. She also lives with a 71-year-old stepfather with lung cancer. Can you live like this as a teenager and not experience some kind of side effect?

The health authorities should have intervened long before this became a £100,000 problem (which was the cost of removing Davis from her home). In 2008, when she was 14 and weighed around 30 stone, she was told she needed to "lose twenty stone or die". She won a scholarship to a weight loss programme in the US where she lost 15 stone, under the close supervision of doctors and psychologists. She had reversed her Type 2 diabetes and started an exercise regime. Back at home, by her own admission, it was impossible to keep it up. Two years later, she had regained the weight. And more.

Doctors have speculated that she must have been eating up to 10,000 calories every day to hit an estimated weight of over 60 stone. To anyone who has never struggled with their weight, this is a colossal amount. But to anyone who mostly fails to resist junk food (guilty) and who has ever comfort eaten (who hasn't?) – is it so unimaginable? What's surprising is that this case is so rare.

Georgia Davis is not so much a story about teenage obesity, as one about a young woman given too many responsibilities too young, offered a quick fix, reality-TV style, and then abandoned. She was a child when she was let down by everyone around her. Now she is an adult, let's hope this last desperate intervention finally brings her the help she deserves.

Orange still ripe for the prize

On Wednesday, we'll discover the winner of this year's Orange Prize – the last of its kind, as Orange has just announced that it's withdrawing its sponsorship after 17 years. Is this a decision they'll come to regret? You bet. The Orange Prize represents literary quality and originality in a world where those things are rare commodities. Not to mention a healthy dose of "we love women". What company would turn its back on such values? Unless this is a cynical, canny move. It's already being predicted that the prize will still be "Orange" and add in the new sponsor's name as well. Keep your name on a prestigious prize for zero investment? The future's bright, the future's free. Don't let them get away with it.

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