Episode 6: Stephen Garden


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This week’s episode presents the extraordinary story of a man who once had a very unique psychological aversion. 

As a child, Stephen describes having a violently negative reaction to the very concept of consuming almost all food: “There were only about 5 different foods I’d eat as a child” these  included bread, cereals, french fries and ice cream. This hardly provided Stephen with the basis for a healthy diet. But Stephen says that he was genuinely fearful “if I tried a piece of steak or chicken, I’d have an allergic reaction or start vomiting” and he describes a banana as “scaring the hell” out of him.

His parents tried all they could to encourage Stephen to adopt a healthier approach to food. They even took him to hypnotherapy sessions; however, nothing seemed to work. In order to attempt to receive adequate nutrition, Stephen simply over-ate on the foods that he was comfortable tolerating, he describes sometimes eating an entire family packet of Weetabix for breakfast, that’s 48 biscuits!

Due to the lack of balance in his diet, Stephen found himself putting on a lot of weight. This impacted his ability to play sport at school. He enjoyed playing football but would find that he would very quickly become out-of-breath. The one sport he was able to play well was roller-hockey as he found moving on roller-skates a less tiring way of manoeuvring. Yet Stephen’s social life at school was not only impacted by his weight, he also found it extremely difficult to have meals at his friends’ houses or to go on school trips due to how restrictive his diet was. 

When Stephen left school and went into business, he realised that he needed to address his dietary issues. He began by reducing the amount of high-carb foods he was eating, he then slowly began to branch out and started to accustom himself to eating different types of meals. Through making these adaptations, Stephen was able to lose a significant amount of weight, he was also able to participate much more naturally in business dinners.

Stephen’s business proved to be extremely successful but the stress of running it led to him, once again, putting on an excessive amount of weight. Eventually, Stephen decided that his health was more important than his work and he decided to sell the business and focus on dealing with his more personal issues. He made this decision just before lockdown and actually found that social isolation was the perfect environment for him to start to make some serious long-term changes.

During lockdown, Stephen got in contact with boxing and fitness coach Tony Jeffries, a previous contributor to the podcast, and was able to get advice on both physical activity and nutrition which has helped him to once again reduce his weight. He describes lockdown as “a catalyst that drove me to work very, very hard” and feels that the changes he has made during this period have helped him to finally take control of both his diet and his health. During a time of great challenge and sacrifice, it is fascinating to see such a positive story emerging from this period.

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