Lisa Krantz - A Life Apart: The Toll of Obesity


“If I had to paint you a picture of my life, it would be of a little kid behind the glass on the store, with his hands pressed up against the glass looking at the world go by. Life is going on and I’m missing it. And I’ve been missing it my whole life.” – Hector Garcia Jr.

For most of his life, Hector battled severe obesity and all its consequences: the pain, the ridicule and the lost hopes. Bullied and ostracized as a child, he turned to food for comfort early. Hector lived in San Antonio, Texas, a city that has a place on “fattest city” lists every year. Recent figures from Gallup show the city has the second-highest obesity rate among major U.S. cities. 31 percent of San Antonians are obese and 65.7 percent of adults in the county are overweight or obese. Despite San Antonio’s efforts to curb obesity, an untold number of people with severe obesity live in isolation like Hector, unable to find or access the medical and psychological help they need to combat its pervasive effects.

After years of repeatedly gaining and losing hundreds of pounds, Hector, who at one point weighed 636 pounds, once again was stuck in the back bedroom of his parents’ modest house. In 2010, Garcia renewed his effort to lose weight. With only diet and exercise, he lost over 300 pounds in hopes of receiving double knee replacement surgery he thought would change his life dramatically for the better. Two surgeries turned into four and Hector was unable to exercise. He grew depressed and once again turned to food as comfort. Over the next year, Hector regained the weight he had fought so hard to lose, continuing the cycle of obesity.

“I overeat because food never rejects me,” Hector said, “but the truth is, it’s actually rejecting me now, because it’s killing me. It’s going to reject me up to the point where it takes my life if I’m not careful.”

In 2013, Hector was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As he continued to gain weight in 2014, the disease progressed and Hector struggled to breathe. On December 8, Hector walked 40 feet to answer the front door to let his mother in when she knocked, having left her key at home. He told her he couldn’t breathe and collapsed in a chair, unable to be revived at the age of 49.

Hector told his story in hopes of helping others. “And if it’s Gods will that other people are touched by this and if I save one life through this, if other people see this, parents, and they change their childen’s eating habits and that child’s life changes so they don’t have to go through the same things that I did, to suffer the same humilitations, the attacks, the isolation, then all of this was worth it. Would I want to go through it again, I wouldn’t want to go through it again but I would, if it helped save one child, I would.” – Hector Garcia Jr.

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Lisa Krantz

Copyright photo © Melissa Lyttle


Lisa Krantz is a staff photographer at the San Antonio Express-News in San Antonio, Texas. She focuses on long-term stories in her community. “A Life Apart: The Toll of Obesity,” the story of Hector Garcia Jr.’s struggle with obesity in the last four years of his life, was awarded the Pictures of the Year International (POYi) Community Awareness Award and three additional awards in POYi in 2015. Hector’s story also received recognition from the Sony World Photography Awards, PDN Photo Annual, SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi, the ASNE Community Photojournalism award and was screened at Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan, France.

Lisa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography as part the Express-News’ team coverage of the immigration crisis and received a World Press Photo award for a portrait from an ongoing project on the transformation of San Antonio’s historically African-American Eastside in 2015.

In 2014 her photographs of survivors of Military Sexual Assault received multiple awards including first place Issue Reporting Picture Story-Newspaper in POYi. Her project on Sam Houston High School, an inner-city school threatened with closure, garnered recognition including the 2010 Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award for Photojournalism and several awards from POYi including third place Newspaper Photographer of the Year for 2010. She received the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award again for her portfolio in 2012. Lisa is a three-time NPPA Region 8 Photographer of the Year. NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism and the Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism have also recognized her work.

She has a psychology degree from Florida State University and a MA in photography from Syracuse University. Previously she worked at the Naples (FL) Daily News.

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