By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / director: Jefri Tarrigan
Producer: James Thorne, Nathalie Bonney
Editor: Sonia Estal
Once known as the heaviest child in the world, Arya Permana, from Karawang, West Java, Indonesia is now an active 13-year-old after losing an incredible 220lbs.
Currently weighing in at approximately 189lbs (86kg), Arya told Barcroft TV: “I am happier now. Because now I can play football, hang out with friends, play around, go to the river…”
“Back then I couldn’t do anything, [or] go anywhere, I couldn’t play football, before I couldn’t play badminton but now I can do it.”
When he was 10 years old - and at his heaviest - Arya weighed 423lbs (over 30 stone or 192kg) – the same as six boys his same age.
Thanks to a diet of instant noodles - “I could eat six packets a day”, fizzy drinks and fried chicken, Arya became so morbidly obese he couldn’t even walk five metres without getting out of breath. The 10-year-old was home-schooled and would bathe in an outdoor pond because he was too big to take a shower.
Despite attempts to reduce their son’s diet and introduce him to healthier eating habits, Arya remained dangerously overweight. Arya’s parents also admit that they struggled not to spoil their son.
Father Ade Somantri told Barcroft TV: “Back in the day since Arya was five-years-old and already getting big I can say, ‘Yes I spoiled him’.
“If he wanted to eat or drink sweet food and drinks we just gave it, if he wanted instant noodles, we just cooked for him.”
With Arya failing to stick to a healthier diet, the family were initially nervous about letting their son undergo a gastric bypass at such a young age – before realising they were putting their son’s life in as much danger by refusing to allow the surgery.
Ade said: “At the beginning we didn’t want to do the surgery to Arya.
“Finally, the doctor showed us the procedure from the videos; the doctor showed the types of equipment and they will open just 1cm.
“And after we understood the procedure, we had a family meeting, we agreed and made a decision to do the surgery for Arya.”.
Arya received the life-saving bariatric surgery at the Omni Hospital in Jakarta, where he was the youngest person to undergo a five-hour gastric sleeve operation.
Just a month after surgery Arya had lost nearly five stone and the weight has continued to drop off. In spite of his weight loss, at first Arya struggled with the sudden change to his diet but over time he has adjusted.
Ade said: “At first Arya was very annoyed and upset because he loved eating but after the gastric bypass surgery, automatically if he ate a lot he will vomit.”
Since the gastric bypass, eating as much as seven spoons of food in a row is enough to fill Arya up.
Ade added: “Back then, yeah I would like to eat instant noodles but now I can’t and I got used to it so I don’t want it.”
Eating a diet rich in grilled fish, vegetables, soups and fruit, it’s not just Arya’s diet that has changed.
He now has the energy to walk the 1km route to school every morning and now enjoys lessons with his classmates rather than at home. The pond he used to have to wash in is now full of plants because of its lack of use and after school Arya plays sports or goes to the local river to swim.
Ade said: “His attitude looks calm, more cheerful and with his body weight now he can play football or volleyball with his friends, sometimes join with the friends for jogging in the morning.
“From what I observed about his mental state, he is more confident. Before if he wanted to come with his friends, he feels not confident because he has to walk quite far and was not strong enough. But now if he wants to play with friends he just goes.”
But for all the ways that his life has improved, the weight loss has resulted in a large amount of excess skin on Arya’s arms and chest in particular.
The teenager is hoping to have skin removal surgery, at the Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung, after completing the national exams.
Ade said: “Even though he does exercise, playing football and badminton and his body is already strong, the loose skin is hanging down and it must be removed.”
Asked what he would like to be when he is older, Arya replies, ‘a footballer.’ Unimaginable just three years ago, Arya’s football fantasy is now as realistic as that of any other 13-year-old.