It wasn’t the fat shaming that broke Jim Tomlinson’s heart, rather the innocent observation of a little girl at the shopping centre.
“A little girl looked up at her mother and said ‘look at the fat man’,” Mr Tomlinson said.
“Well the mother smacked her hard on the side of the head and told her daughter off for saying anything.
“It wasn’t her fault, she is just a kid saying what she saw.
“That sent me into deep depression.”
Jim Tomlinson does not have family of his own and this moment had a deep impact on him.
Around this time, four years ago, he was 197 kilograms.
He stopped going out of the house.
“I collapsed at work and was rushed to hospital,” he said.
“They gave me 12 months to live, they told me to go home and live as healthy as you can.
“They said I wouldn’t survive surgery.”
Years of poor health choices had exacerbated his diabetes and he was in heart failure and suffering depression.
Mr Tomlinson had to use a machine to sleep, he had blood clots, nerve damage to his feet and couldn’t walk 50 metres.
What happened next was nothing short of life saving.
“I was put onto the Heart Failure Service and Cardiac Rehab team at West Moreton Health,” Mr Tomlinson said.
“The nurse would come to me every day and just get me walking along the street,”
“I found it hard to do any exercise because I couldn’t breathe very well and was at risk of stroke, but they helped me change my diet too.
“It was hard, real hard, but they didn’t give up on me, so I didn’t quit on them.”
After dropping 20kg and working with the Cardiac Rehab team to improve his strength, surgeons at the Prince Charles Hospital gave Mr Tomlinson the all clear to perform a stomach sleeve operation.
After shedding another 30kg he received a mechanical heart valve and had a pacemaker put in.
“The result was instant, I could breathe straight away,” he said.
Mr Tomlinson still has a long road to travel but he has lost a staggering 70kg over four years.
“I’m off needles completely now for my diabetes,” he said.
I still need a machine to sleep and suffer low blood pressure. I still suffer depression and diabetes but it is under control.”
His message to other people out there like him –‘Don’t give up, there is help out there’.
“I am able to leave the house again and I have volunteered my whole life with Brisbane Rugby League so I can do that again,” he said.
“I also volunteer part days preparing meals for Meals on Wheels and I am a driver for Able Australia Ipswich three part days a week, helping take people to do their shopping or get to appointments.”
Mr Tomlinson finds each day a struggle, and his illnesses have left him financially ruined.
“I have never been a drinker or smoker but I have always been a big person,” he said.
“I am unable to work, I really can’t afford the gym fees but I don’t want to go back to where I was.”
West Moreton Health Nutrition and Dietetics Director Philip Juffs said too often people hoping to achieve better health focused on the digits showing on a scale but he said achieving good health was more about gains than loss.
“Weight loss is really only one measure of positive lifestyle change,’’ Mr Juffs said.
“The other measures are all about what you gain from those changes – you might feel better, sleep more soundly, have more energy, be more confident or be able to spend more time with your kids – and they’re the results people should be focused on when making that amazing decision to improve your lifestyle through diet and exercise.”
He encouraged people to pick one or two things that were important to them, and achievable.
“Bad habits build up over time and that means it will take time and effort to break them.
“Not everyone will reach their goal on their first try but there is no need to fear failure or be discouraged by set-backs – great health gains are always worth another try.”
West Moreton was ranked as the second highest in the state for obesity rates.
“We know that we have a lot of room for improvement in West Moreton but we also know that positive change is within our grasp,” Mr Juffs said.
“Individuals have the power to change the course of their health trajectory, and their life.
“To get started, just ask yourself what is the one or two things you could start doing today to feel better?”