Going to Walt Disney World is a dream come true for many. But, when one teen found it difficult to ride Disney’s attractions due to his weight, he got inspired to do something about it.
As reported by Fox5Atlanta, a 15-year-old teen named Jamal Graves of Atlanta, Georiga visited the Disney Parks in 2015. While Jamal enjoyed both Disney and Universal, he found it difficult to ride his favorite attractions as his weight topped out at 400 pounds.
Walt Disney World Resort does not have weight limits on its many attractions, but several of them can be difficult to fit into for overweight Guests. In Jamal’s case, he wasn’t able to fit into Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain coaster which requires safety restraints.
Jamal’s mother, Sirena Graves, said Jamal who is on the autism spectrum, started to break down. The same situation occurred at Universal which is known to have smaller ride restraints for its attractions.
Graves mother said at first Jamal didn’t understand because of his communication issues that he couldn’t ride certain attractions due to his size. She knew it was time to do something about his weight.
Shortly after their disappointing trip to Disney, they decided to join have Jamal join the Children’s Strong4Life program, which offers children and their families a team approach to weight loss and getting healthier.
“When we started, it was a struggle,” Graves says. “It was a struggle to get him to understand what we needed to do and how we needed to do it.”
Fox5Atlanta goes on to share that Strong4Life provided Jamal with an individualized plan for his weight loss journey. Jamal’s team included an obesity medicine pediatrician, a psychologist, registered dietitians, exercise physiologists and other wellness experts.
The process was not an easy one, but with small goals and small steps, Jamal started to lose weight. Exercise, meal planning, and water intake were all to credit for the progress.
Over the past 5 years, Jamal has dropped a full 80 pounds and is now down to about 320 pounds, and is still working towards his goal.
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In 2021, Jamal, the now 22-year-old went back to Disney. Jamal headed to Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain once again and this time, 80 pounds lighter, was able to ride the Tomorrowland coaster!
This time, Jamal Graves had no trouble fitting into the safety restraints.
“It was amazing, because all he kept saying, was, ‘lost weight, I lost weight, I can ride,'” Sirena Graves says. “He was on every ride. He had me walking over 22,000 steps in one day. He had such a joy. It was like, ‘I did it!'”
Even though Jamal has now aged out of the Strong4Life program, he is still working towards his weight loss goal and has joined a CrossFit program.
Way to go Jamal! Keep up the inspiring work!