Viewers of Channel 4’s Shut Ins: Britain’s Fattest People slammed a mother last night as they accused her of trying to sabotage her 41st 24-year-old child’s weight loss.
AJ, 24, from Airdrie, Scotland, who identifies as non-binary, appeared on the Channel 4 show alongside their mother Sharon, 44, who cooked for them, helped them shower, and even slept in the same room.
While AJ went on to have weight loss surgery and took their strict diet in their stride, Sharon continued cooking huge fry ups, confessing she wanted to ‘feed AJ up’ and she felt like she was ‘starving her child to death’.
Many of those watching criticised Sharon’s attitude online, with one writing: ‘It’s AJ’s mum who needs the help!’
Viewers of Channel 4’s Shut Ins: Britain’s Fattest People last night slammed Sharon, from Airdrie, whose child AJ ballooned to 41st, as they accused her of trying to sabotage their weight loss
Non-binary AJ, 24, struggled with their weight throughout their life until they tipped the scales at 41st (pictured, at their heaviest)
During last nights programme, they battled to shift the pounds after changing their diet, lifestyle and having bariatric surgery to remove three quarters of their stomach
Another commented: ‘Conciously or not, Sharon is an abusive saboteur.’
The documentary followed AJ and Sharon as they tried to prove to bariatric surgeon Professor Kerrigan that AJ’s life was dramatically changing so they would be offered the weight loss operation.
Having three meals a day and exercising regularly were among the rules that AJ was trying to stick to.
They started exercising on a treadmill several times a week, telling the camera: ‘I go on it three days for 20 minutes and then I have one day rest so the muscles can repair and relax.’
Social media users were highly critical of Sharon during the episode, with many calling her ‘inconsiderate’ and ‘abusive’
Dr Laura began a session with AJ by bringing up the idea that they could live on their own one day but AJ responded with a flat ‘no.’
WHAT IS BARIATRIC SURGERY?
Bariatric surgery is a variety of procedures designed to help a patient lose weight.
Surgeries include reducing the size of the stomach with a gastric band, or removing part of the stomach through a gastric sleeve.
It also includes gastric bypass surgery, in which surgeons reroute the intestine to a small stomach pouch which shrinks the stomach.
Dr Laura said: ‘My sense is you’re very definite about that because it brings up some difficult things for you.’
AJ wiped away their tears, saying: ‘I don’t want to leave my mum.’
She asked: ‘That idea of leaving your mum is really emotionally charged. Do you worry about your ability to cope without your mum?
‘I wonder if that idea of separating from Mum is so overwhelming, you can’t think about it at the moment.
‘But perhaps building up your skill level around coping and eventually working towards potentially independent living.’
After five weeks on the weight loss programme, Sharon and AJ travelled to Chester to meet with Professor Kerrigan again.
Sharon said: ‘If it goes ahead, it’s going to be brilliant. my child is going to be reborn.
‘She is going to have this new tool to help her. If he decides he can’t do it, my daughter is going to die.’
AJ revealed they have lost two stone in just five weeks, with Professor Kerrigan saying: ‘What you’ve shown us you can do is that surgery is a worthwhile option for you.’
Weeks later, Dr Laura arrived to visit AJ and Sharon at home, to see the pair in their own environment.
Before the weight loss surgery, AJ spent much of their time lying down on a mattress in their living room and felt unable to leave the house
The psychologist questioned Sharon’s choice to sleep in the same room as AJ, as well as her decision not to diet along with her child.
She pressed: ‘I’m noticing you’re sleeping here in the living room…I’m noticing you’re changing your eating…but there’s the wider context of looking after yourselves.
She encouraged them to consider where they were sleeping, adding: ‘Both AJ and Mum are sleeping downstairs. That’s a representation of that codependency and that reluctance to separate even for the hours that you might sleep.’
To prepare for the surgery, AJ was placed on a super strict diet of just 800 calories a day and they began to notice changes after just a few weeks.
To prepare for the surgery, AJ was placed on a super strict diet of just 800 calories a day and they began to notice changes after just a few weeks
Speaking about what they’d like to see in the future, they explained: ‘Getting a relationship is something I would consider maybe. You’d have that companion then wouldn’t you. So we’ll see.’
By February 2020, AJ lost a further 2 stone, with Sharon confessing she was growing more apprehensive about their surgery.
She said: ‘Little bit nervous now it’s getting so close. I’m full of regret that its had to come to this. I do blame myself. If I had a time machine and I could go back, I would.’
As the date of the operation approaches, AJ tried to be positive, but the enormity of what was ahead may be dawning.
The 24-year-old underwent bariatric surgery to have a large part of their stomach removed in the early months of 2020, after losing 2 stone through diet and exercise
Settling into the hospital bed, they said: ‘Tomorrow is the beginning and the start of the new me.’
Meanwhile Sharon explained: ‘What this means is Amy starting again. [I’m] Very nervous.’
With a starting weight of 41 stone, AJ was one of the biggest patients Professor Kerrigan has operated on but the surgery went ‘very well’.
He removed three quarters of their stomach, leaving them with a small stomach pouch.
After the surgery, Sharon confessed she was struggling with AJ’s strict diet and continued cooking unhealthy meals for herself, saying she just wanted to ‘feed AJ up’
Professor Kerrigan explained: ‘What I hope for AJ is not just x amount of weight loss, but also going out there and doing things that 20 to 30 somethings do.
‘It would be really good if AJ and Sharon see this as a golden opportunity for a new life and its really important they don’t mess it up.’
After two weeks, AJ could only eat five small portions of soft food a day.
What is gender dysphoria?
Treatment for gender dysphoria aims to help people live the way they want to, in their preferred gender identity or as non-binary.
Gender Dysphoria Clinics have a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, who offer ongoing assessments, treatments, support and advice, including: psychological support, such as counselling cross-sex hormone therapy speech and language therapy (voice therapy) to help you sound more typical of your gender identity
The aim of hormone therapy is to make you more comfortable with yourself, both in terms of physical appearance and how you feel. The hormones usually need to be taken for the rest of your life, even if you have gender surgery.
In general, people wanting masculinisation usually take testosterone and people after feminisation usually take oestrogen.
Some people may decide to have surgery to permanently alter body parts associated with their biological sex.
Based on the recommendations of doctors at the gender dysphoria clinic, you will be referred to a surgeon outside the clinic who is an expert in this type of surgery.
In addition to you having socially transitioned to your preferred gender identity for at least a year before a referral is made for gender surgery, it is also advisable to:
- not smoke
- lose weight if you are overweight (BMI of 25 or over)
- have taken cross-sex hormones for some surgical procedures
It’s also important that any long-term conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure are well controlled.
While AJ was committed to the new eating plan, Sharon wasn’t convinced.
She said: ‘AJ is barely eating enough to keep a cat alive. It’s a bit frightening actually.
‘I must admit yesterday when AJ was tucking into her beans… you know that lovely instinct you get when you want to take the bowl of beans off her and feed her up.
‘I felt…I felt like i was starving my child to death.’
The success of AJ’s weight loss relied on Sharon and AJ pulling in the same direction so Dr Laura wanted to see Sharon on her own.
Dr Laura asked: ‘What I thought would be helpful is having a chat about how things are going post-surgery.’
Sharon said: ‘I did have a bit of a wobble moment where I just wanted to feed my baby.
‘Thinking about going back to the past, when people would say, did you comfort eat and that kind of thing….I thought hang on a minute, I might have done.’
Dr Laura pressed Sharon to admit the comfort eating was maybe more comforting ‘for her’ rather than AJ, adding: ‘For you there is something that tells you you’re a good mum because you feed your child.
‘I wonder if you have some sense of how your relationship with AJ has changed?’
Sharon explained: ‘My relationship with AJ is never going to change, it’s always going to be a strong bond…but obviously she will have to go out and do stuff on her own. I’ll have to cut the apron strings.’
She went on to confess it was probably ‘most difficult’ for her, with the psychologist explaining: ‘What I’m hoping is Sharon can get to a stage with AJ to move forward with their life and start forging ahead, and help AJ feel confident that shes always there to support her so that they don’t remain so attached.’
Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, weight continues to shift off AJ in the following months, with their BMI has dropping from 95 to 67, while their weight also dropped from 41 st down to 29 st.
AJ said: ‘You see when you get these people who stand in front of a mirror and they say, “Oh my god, I’ve never looked so fat”.
‘But when I look in the mirror, I just look and think “Oh my god, I’ve never looked so thin.’
Six months after bariatric surgery, life was no longer such a struggle for AJ, who could take care of themselves and helped out around the home.
Psychologist Dr Laura pushed AJ and Sharon to aim for a more independent way of living with one another
They also slept in their own room, with AJ saying: ‘I get good quality sleep, longer sleep. I’ve got that privacy and independence. I am happy I’m on my own.’
As lockdown eased, AJ went to meet up with Dr Laura in person, explaining: ‘I can do things better, I’m just finding general life easier. It’s like I’ve started anew..like a pheonix. That’s me. Reborn.’
Dr Laura said: ‘I think i saw a very different AJ. They were much more articulate and transparent.
‘From a psychological point of view, there’s definitely still areas AJ would benefit from working on in the future, but I’m just really pleased for AJ.’
After shedding 12st following their surgery, AJ said they ultimately hoped it would help them reach their goal of having gender reassignment surgery
Even though AJ has been doing well, a second bariatric procedure may be needed next year, which could take them closer to having gender surgery one day.
They explained: ‘I’d like to have a double hysterectomy and a mastectomy and hormones. If I could put myself in a machine, I want that that that and that..and tada.’
AJ met up with Dr Sandy Melvin, a gender consultant, for a virtual appointment, who explained: ‘It would be understandable if you felt different as your body changed.
‘I spoke to Professor Kerrigan and we’ll weigh up your progress after your second surgery.’
At the end of the documentary, AJ said they were feeling positive about the future and having gender reconstructive surgery
AJ confessed they felt positive about the meeting, adding: ‘I think that went pretty well because she has given me something positive to look forward to.’
As well as aiming toward gender surgery, they are also getting work experience at a local dog salon and taking driving lessons.
Sharon explained: ‘She’ll always be my baby, no matter what size she is.’
Meanwhile AJ added: ‘I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far. I don’t feel so shut in anymore.’
After losing 12 st, AJ started driving lessons and gaining work experience at a local dog groomers (pictured, after weight loss)
As AJ continued to gain independence from her mother, Sharon said AJ would ‘always be her baby no matter her size’
But viewers were far from convinced by Sharon’s behaviour and attitude towards AJ’s weight loss, with one writing: ‘Sharon is a feeder who seems to need her child to be dependent on her.
‘She seems more concerned with controlling them. AJ is doing great despite this. They need to lose weight, and get the hell out of that house. Also, why is the dad not taking part?’
Another wrote: ‘Shouldn’t mum be trying to eat a bit healthier to help AJ, rather than cooking fried food in front of them?’
One questioned: ‘Mums going to sabotage this isn’t she?’
Shut In: Britain’s Fattest People airs tonight at 10pm on Channel 4