PDH CEO Sheds 47kg And Sets Good Example for SEA Change

Chris Giles - After Surgery Photo
Chris Giles - Before Surgery Photo
Wednesday, 17 August 2016
Portland District Health CEO Chris Giles admits she’s struggled with weight all her life, but it was the prospect of a potentially life-threatening illness that made her take stock and do something about it.

Now Ms Giles has shed 47kg, has cleared the health threat and feels much better and fitter.

She hopes her example will inspire others in the community to get behind the SEA Change program and join the community push for a healthier Portland.

Ms Giles has agreed to share her story to promote community workshops from 9am-12.30pm and 5-9pm at Portland Football Club on Wednesday, August 17.

Having grown up on a dairy farm, Ms Giles was accustomed to a big breakfast and finishing everything on her plate.

At that time I was active on the farm and did horse riding to burn off the calories, but when I went nursing in the city and had access to restaurants and fast food I went from size 14 to 22 in three years.

Ms Giles tried various weight loss programs and managed to keep her weight in check at around 130kg. However, when she arrived in Portland from Thursday Island and again found easy access to fast food and a high-demand job that didn't allow much spare time, she quickly fell into bad habits and saw her weight balloon to nearly 150kg.

I couldn't climb stairs without being out of breath, which was difficult because I live in a two-storey house. Getting to bed at night was a struggle.

Ms Giles discovered she had sleep apnoea, was pre-diabetic and had pulmonary hypertension.

That really scared me, she said. The life expectancy of someone with pulmonary hypertension is only a couple of years.

The principal cause of her health problems was her weight.

A turning point came when a GP referred Ms Giles to a nutritional physician who was able to help her understand her genetic make-up.

We had a long discussion about my genetic make-up,” Ms Giles said. No matter how much I exercised and how little I ate, because I was from `good breeding stock I'd have to do 25,000 steps a day and eat 500 calories to lose weight.

She tried different diets but in the end opted to take the advice of her nutritional physician and have bariatric surgery.

There aren't medicine-type solutions, Ms Giles said. It was either surgery or a total change of lifestyle and I wasn't able to achieve that.

Ms Giles was forced to lose weight before the August 2015 gastric bypass surgery, which was a success although difficult and with complications.

I knew there were risks but I would do it all again, she said. A gastric bypass results in a forced malabsorption, which means if I eat 1000 calories I only absorb 700. My good genetic conversion of food has been disrupted by the surgery and that helps me to lose the weight.

Ms Giles lost a lot of weight in the first six months and continues to lose about .5kg per week.

She has become more active. I found it challenging to walk into a gym, she admits. I consulted PDH exercise physiologist Amy Goetz who helped with a program and even walked in the gym with me because I was worried about it. Luckily it was nothing like I'd feared.

Ms Giles says her eating habits aren't perfect and she has found winter challenging but she remains on the right track. I'm not going to go overboard and become a gym junkie and I'll have an occasional treat, but not every night. Previously I would eat anything and everything but I can't do it anymore. I feel like after one hamburger that I've eaten a full Christmas lunch.

Most importantly, Ms Giles feels better.

I feel more normal now, she said. To walk into a normal clothes shop and not just a plus-size is something I haven't done in 30 years.

I feel better in myself and I have a lot more energy to do more. I can talk and go up the stairs now.

Her pulmonary hypertension has cleared.

The only bad thing about it is I've never been so cold in my life. I've had to buy a woollen coat to substitute but I can live with that.

Now Ms Giles hopes more people will think about ways to promote healthy eating and lifestyle change through the SEA Change program.

One suggestion she will pursue is introducing `SEA Change' smaller size portions in local food outlets. It's all about portion size, eating slowing to enjoy it, choosing healthy options with quality over quantity, and getting moving,she said.

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