Sherman Quah was not a fussy eater as a toddler. He would clean his plate without much prompting, said his mother, Mrs Pauline Quah, 52. But when the boy, now 14, was about to start school, Mrs Quah, an office manager, admitted to being worried “right from day one”. The boy would frequently have four to five full meals in a day, she said.
A typical day’s meals would be: Breakfast of fried egg and beehoon at home, chicken rice during recess, lunch of nasi padang in school, another round of lunch at home – several dishes without the rice – followed by dinner of rice with fried fish and/or chicken. In between, Sherman would snack on prawn crackers. Not surprisingly, such eating habits put him in his school’s Trim and Fit programme for three years, but he was unfazed.
Both Mrs Quah and her husband, Mr Daniel Quah, a 50-year-old estate manager, have tried in vain to teach Sherman the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Mrs Quah said: “Using ourselves as examples, we showed him the inconvenience of having to take medication to manage our diabetes, but he was bochap (Hokkien for unperturbed) initially.”
The turning point came last year when Sherman, who is in the National Cadet Corps (NCC) at Bukit View Secondary School, was advised not to try the belay system during an obstacle course. The teacher was afraid his weight would endanger the boys attached to him. Sherman also said that he could not fit into his NCC uniform and was not allowed to play paintball. He weighed 107kg and was 157cm and it then hit him that he had to lose weight.
Last December, he was warded at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) with a flu and high fever. There, his doctor recommended he enter the hospital’s weight management programme for severely obese children between the ages of six and 18 years. Dr Oh Jean Yin, consultant from the department of paediatrics at KKH, said the programme has 81 patients to date, of which some require intervention for illnesses like obstructive sleep apnoea, high cholesterol and hypertension.
Since then, Sherman has been returning to KKH weekly for hourly exercise sessions, supervised by senior clinical exercise physiologist, Mr Micheal Lim. Mr Lim praised Sherman for being “highly motivated” and always willing to try out new exercises on the machines. Sherman said he sees a nutritionist at KKH once every three months too, where he is taught good eating habits. He eats healthily now – cereal or boiled eggs for breakfast and noodle soup for lunch. He is more active too.
Each week, he cycles and plays basketball and occasionally swims and does in-line skating. Instead of being chauffeured by his parents, he now cycles to school. It is all paying off. Sherman now weighs 90kg. But he still has some way to go to reach his long-term goal of an acceptable body weight for his height of 164cm and needs to shave off at least another 20kg. Showing this reporter brightly-coloured slips of post-its on which he had written his short-term goals, such as to eat half a bowl of rice for dinner, Sherman said: “I find it easier to fit into clothes now. I like my current lifestyle. With perseverance, I can achieve these goals.”