On 19 March 2018 Juan José was admitted to the Clínico hospital as a result of the extreme obesity from which he was suffering. His 300-kilo weight meant that he was housebound, because he couldn't move around. He was a recluse, lying in bed or on the sofa, unable to take two steps without exhausting himself and dependent on others for everything. Because he couldn't walk; a group of fire fighters were needed to get him to the hospital.
Fifteen months later, this 53-year-old has lost 160 kilos and can do things which his excess weight used to make impossible, such as showering and getting dressed unaided, going outside and taking a stroll. He has now set himself a challenge: to weigh less than 100 kilos and find a job so that he feels useful.
On 15 September Juan José underwent surgery. In total he spent six months in hospital, during which time he lost weight by following a strict diet and taking exercise. This was essential because he wouldn't have been able to have the operation, otherwise.
In this report, Juan José talks to us about his everyday life, the challenges he has set himself and what he would like to achieve. "As I'm still without work, I spend time reading, studying and training. I also do exercise at home, with weights, just like I did in hospital, and I go for walks," he says. He knows he will need another operation in time to remove the excess skin he has been left with after losing so many kilos.
Juan José is a draughtsman by profession but considers that it is becoming obsolete, because it is so difficult for him to find work. Instead, he is studying IT in the hope that the knowledge he acquires will open doors which at the moment are closed to him in the work market.
"I'm training myself, because I don't see much future for my own profession. I am focusing on IT and computer technology, because it's a type of work which doesn't restrict me from a physical point of view. For example, I would love to work stocking shelves in a supermarket, but I can't. There's something else I have always liked the idea of, and that is picking grapes in France, because that must be great fun, but it has been impossible too," he says.
After losing 160 kilos his life has changed and his health is much improved. "I feel much better and I can do things that I couldn't do before because of the obesity. I can bend down now, and take a shower without effort. I can go out for a walk down the street," he explains.
Juan José lives alone, apart from weekends when one of his siblings comes to stay with him. For him, the support he receives from his two brothers and sister is very important. "It's strange, we three brothers all have obesity problems, but our sister is very slim," he says.
Food and a sedentary lifestyle
Until he was seven years old, Juan José was a child who ate very little. Everything changed after a bout of flu. When he recovered he began to eat everything, and to excess. As an adult, he became morbidly obese for two reasons. On one hand too much food, and on the other a lack of exercise. He admits that he has always preferred sedentary activities, including reading, which he loves. At the moment he is reading a book called The Problem of the Three Bodies, by Chinese writer Liu Cixin and, at the same time, he is re-reading a novel by Emilio Salgari featuring Sandokán. He loved that story when he was little, although now it seems too simple. Anthropology is another of his hobbies. It is a subject which interested him as a teenager and he has continued to learn more about it.
"I believe I have the ability to do an intellectual type of job. I don't have a university degree, I know, but I can hold my own from a cultural point of view," he says.
Since leaving the Clínico hospital last autumn, Juan José has continued to lose weight. He is doing so by following the nutritional advice he was given by the professionals there and by taking exercise. He has a dietary milkshake for breakfast and dinner, and a normal meal at lunchtime.
"I'm not on a diet, just using common sense," he says. He uses exercise as a way of losing more kilos, because he realises that for health reasons he cannot go back to his old sedentary lifestyle. "I have never been keen on sport. As a child, at school, I used to play football occasionally but not much," he recalls.
Juan José was born in Vitoria, the capital city of the Basque Country, to which his parents had moved. When he was 11, the family returned to Malaga. He lost contact with people in Vitoria and has not been there for 30 years. "Once my godparents had died, I only talked very occasionally to a friend of my sister who lived in Vitoria. I have never been much of one for travelling," he says contentedly, as we take a stroll down the street in which he lives.