Big Meets Bigger made Anne get smaller!
Have a look at the welcome meal...
The meal was laid on by 38-stone Deloris and her 23-stone sister Diane in Mississippi as they greet British girls Bex Upton and Anne Odeke. Despite the warm Southern welcome of the American sisters, the tragic effects of obesity on all areas of the sister's lives are truly shocking. Making the programme had a profound effect on Anne and I caught up with her to find out about the impact it has had on her life.
How did you first hear about the programme? Did you know what was involved when you signed up?
I happened to read about Big Meets Bigger when flicking through a magazine one afternoon last summer. The advert asked 'Are you aged 18-28? Do you love to travel? And do you love food?' I was a 'yes' to all of them! Originally I thought I was applying for a travel programme or some sort of quirky cookery show - how wrong could I have been?! I had no idea that eventually I would be involved in a programme that would make me stop and reflect on my own (bad) dietary habits.
What was it like living so closely with a family that you'd only just met?
At first I was quite worried about the idea of staying with another family. All sorts of thoughts went through my mind; What if they're crazy? What if they're annoying? What if they find me annoying?! Luckily they turned out to be a wonderful bunch of people; friendly, fun loving, generous and caring - I could go on and on. Deloris it has to be said was my favourite.
(Photo: Anne and Doloris in Mississippi)
What was the most significant part of the trip for you?
The most poignant moment for me was after having attended a church session with Deloris and Diane when they took us to the parish graveyard. It was here that they introduced us to their deceased relatives, many of whom, they explained, had died of illnesses related to obesity. I don't know why, but it was during this moment that I realised I had to turn my life around; otherwise I too would end up in a box in the ground because of my weight.
By the end, the trip seemed to have inspired you to make lots of positive changes. Have you continued with your new healthy lifestyle?
Yes I have and I'm very proud of myself. For the first time in my life I am very conscious about my health as I am now very aware of the consequences of being obese. I exercise 3 times a week, my food portions are much smaller and I have not touched a bowl of cheesy pasta since returning!
(Photo: Since returning from the USA Anne is now slimmer and healthier.)
You also vowed to make changes for your whole family including your boyfriend - how successful has that been?
My trip to Mississippi seems to have had a rippled effect on my family. My brother has lost weight, my dad has lost weight, my mum exercises more and as for Jon (my boyfriend) he too has become much more conscious of his eating habits and now exercises daily.
(Photo: Anne and Bex in America)
Have you been in touch with Bex? In the film she seemed to be struggling more with making changes when she came home...
I certainly have been in touch with Bex. It was an honour to meet her and pleasure to spend ten days with her in Mississippi - I really couldn't have asked for a better trip buddy - she was lovely. I know that she has struggled with her weight for a very long time and I know how hard she finds it to lose weight but it is very difficult and anyone that says it's easy is lying. I know that one day Bex will find happiness in herself and when she does, the weight will start to drop off.
Are you still in touch with the family? Did Doloris stick to her promise that she made to you and Bex to eat more healthily?
I haven't spoken to the family since coming back. But I really hope they kept the promises they made to Bex and I - or else we'll have to go back and this time, we won't be so nice! (Take no prisoners!) He he!
What's the main thing you'll take away from making the programme?
That it is not 'ok' to be overweight. I know many people are happy being large but the bottom line is that it's not good for you. Yes, some overweight people may argue that they are fine and have nothing wrong with them medically but it will catch up with them one day and when it does, they shouldn't be surprised. I realise this sounds a very grim note to end on but sometimes honesty really is the best policy. I do not want people to end up suffering the same way as Deloris.
You can watch Anne Odeke's journey in Big Meets Bigger tomorrow, Thursday 1st July at 9pm.