Anaan - Interview 36
Age at interview: 18
Brief Outline: Anaan says she was always big but two years ago she decided to lose weight and lost two stones. She did not diet but says that she simply changed her eating habits like replacing chocolate for a piece of fruit and reducing her food portions. She joined a weight management programme for young people because she is interested in doing more physical activities. Ethnic background: Somali.
Background: See 'brief outline'.
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Anaan says she was always big even as a baby but two years ago she decided to lose weight and lost two stones. She did not diet but says that she simply changed her eating habits like replacing chocolate for a piece of fruit and reducing her food portions. She also had exams at that time so may be stress helped as well. She has put some of the weight back on but feels confident she will lose it again and is working towards going back to size 10/12.
She joined SHINE three months ago and said that she has become more aware of the role of exercise in weight management. She already knew about healthy eating but was interested in the physical activities side of the programme. She has always walked everywhere but now in addition she is doing more exercise like playing badminton once or twice a week. Anaan is Muslim and would like to do kickboxing but hasn’t been able to find a women’s only session.
At school she was the brightest in her class and she used to be bullied not so much because of her size but for wearing a headscarf or because of her name. Her way of coping with it was to beat up the bullies. She developed a reputation for being aggressive that followed her into secondary school. She remembers she was angry all the time partly because she was bigger than most of the people her age. Non-uniform days were particularly hard because her peers would tend to talk more about their appearance and complement one another and she just didn’t want to discuss body image at all.
Anaan says that Somali girls tend to be slim and tall and her friends were mostly size 6 or 8 and she was always the biggest one in the group. But she found that a motivation rather than an obstacle to lose weight because she realised that being big wasn’t good for her.
Regarding body image she is happy with herself and thinks that there are always going to be people who are bigger and smaller than you. That the important thing is to do something about weight that may harm your health.
In her experience accepting you have a problem and taking responsibility for your lifestyle are important steps to take to lose weight. Having the relevant information and the support from those around you also helps. Anaan thinks that it is important to tell people that you are trying to lose weight so they can help you.
Her advice to other young people that are thinking about losing weight is to set realistic targets for themselves like losing a pound a week and finding a young people’s programme like SHINE. Anaan says that the group makes it more possible to accomplish the targets you set for yourself.
Naz and Anaan talk about the health problems affecting their immediate families and the...
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Do they have any health problems?
Naz' My Dad’s had a by pass operation two years ago. He had I think ten years ago first, but this is another one what he had two years ago. And Mum’s got migraine really, that’s it. But they both got diabetes which is the main issue for me not to get it as well. Because my Gran’s even got diabetes. So the three adults in the house have got diabetes. I might be the next one in the house getting it. That’s one thing that I do not want at all. Because none of my brothers and sisters had got it so far, its just Mother, Dad and Gran.
Anaan' Yes. They do all have weigh issues, no question about that they do, my Mum does, my Dad did. My Dad when he died, he died, he had so many things, there was like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease. He had the lot. Everything but diabetes I think. I mean, and that was one thing that also made me want to join, partly because seeing the way he, you know, all the medication and things that he had to take. Really, really, sort of like terrified me against having to live my last few years of life like that. Its, its quite frightening when you’ve seen it happen in someone else, you don’t really want that for yourself.
So one of your concerns is the health?
Anaan' Yes, I really… I don’t want anything.
Naz' I think that’s the main one.
The health issue’s the main one though. Because when you come to [name], [name] tells you everything about it, what you can end up with if you don’t lose weight and stuff. High blood pressure, breathing can stop at night time.
Anaan says that, in her experience, black girls often get criticised by their peer group when they lose weight.
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Anaan' Well when we, when I was younger anyway, and one thing I found around being black myself and being from an ethnic minority, people always, it’s not even just other people, its people who are black, always say, “Oh yes. Black girls are bigger. They’ve always got big bums.” You know what I mean?
Naz' It’s true
Anaan' It sounds bad but they always say, white girls tend to be skinny, but black girls usually are bigger. That’s just the way you’re built. So that for me, it’s harder when you’re black to realise you know, that you’re actually bigger then normal. Because it always seems, you will always be, what’s your problem? Do you know what I mean. That’s just the way you are. There’s nothing wrong with you.
Naz' We all come in different shapes and sizes.
Anaan' All black girls are like that, do you know what I mean? Usually its black girls who are skinny get criticised, “What’s wrong with you, don’t you eat?” Do you see what I mean? So being bigger, its like, “Oh you’re normal. What’s wrong with that anorexic girl?” Do you know it’s that kind of thing. So for you to realise you know, what actually I am big, there is something I need to do about this because it’s getting to the point where I am too big. It’s hard because people don’t really want you to see that you have a problem. And I find that usually other black girls usually don’t want you to realise that, because you’re going to go and do something about it. And that makes them look lazy or fat or whatever. They all want you to stay the same, because then they’ll all look okay, whereas if one of you goes and somebody goes really slim, then it’s kind of like, ‘oh what’s she done that for? Ner ner ner ner ner.’ There’s a lot more, I don’t know, it just seems to me there’s a lot more bitching when it comes to…because in a way, you’re expected to stay big, do you know what I mean?
Anaan says that, culturally, black women are 'expected to be bigger' and this makes it harder to realise that you have a weight problem.
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Anaan' Well when we, when I was younger anyway, and one thing I found around being black myself and being from an ethnic minority, people always, its not even just other people, its people who are black, always say, “Oh yes. Black girls are bigger. They’ve always got big bums.” You know what I mean.
Naz' Its true.
Anaan' It sounds bad but they always say, white girls tend to be skinny, but black girls usually are bigger. That’s just the way you’re built. So that for me, its harder when you’re black to realise you know, that you’re actually bigger then normal. Because it always seems, you will always be, what’s your problem. Do you know what I mean. That’s just the way you are. There’s nothing wrong with you.
Naz' We all come in different shapes and sizes.
Anaan' All black girls are like that, do you know what I mean? Usually its black girls who are skinny get criticised, “What’s wrong with you, don’t you eat?” Do you see what I mean. So being bigger, its like, “Oh you’re normal. What’s wrong with that anorexic girl.” Do you know its that kind of thing. So for you to realise you know, what actually I am big, there is something I need to do about this because its getting to the point where I am too big. Its hard because people don’t really want you to see that you have a problem.
Anaan accepts she has ‘weight issues’ but won't accept the labels ‘obese’ and ‘overweight’.
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Anaan' It’s simple really. I don’t look in the mirror and think you’re obese, you’re overweight. I just find those two words really negative, and the connotations that they have are just horrible. You know, I mean ‘obese’ - it always makes me just think ugh kind of thing, it really does, the word ‘obesity’ is just such a horrible disgusting word for me that it’s not something I ever want to attach to my name. I’m not ‘obese’ as far as I’m concerned; ‘overweight’ not even. Yes, I have weight issues, but I wouldn’t say I was overweight. I might be but that is not something I would use to describe myself. It’s not something that I even look at when thinking of myself, as a person who’s a bit bigger.
Yes, I have weight issues but I’m not ‘obese’ and not ‘overweight’, and I would hate for other people to describe me using those two words, or attach [to] me, to anything and use those two words, because I’m not. That’s just the way I feel. I am not obese and I am not overweight and I really hate those two words. Because I think whenever you say that someone is that, it instantly makes them feel worse, because no one likes to be called overweight, and no one likes to be called obese. So, I don’t use it to describe other people and I wouldn’t want anyone to describe me using those words. And yes they are more matter of fact or whatever, but they’re just not nice, and you know, by telling people that they are these things, you’re not helping them… I don’t think really you are going to come to terms with their weight problems, because they just ugh I just hate those words. I really do.
And you. What do you think?
Naz' I’ve never actually thought of it like that. I mean I’ve been called obese and stuff yes, but I’ve never thought to myself that I am. Well I have said to myself that I am obese because I heard people say to me that you obese and called me overweight, but I’ve never done what she’s done like [laughs].
Naz and Anaan admire the singer Beth Ditto because shes confident and funny and makes being big...
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Naz' On the news the other day, they say there’s a new singer, who’s made it think….
Anaan' Beth Ditto, oh she’s fantastic. I love Beth Ditto because she’s so funny.
Naz' Exactly. You know what she’s actually made fat look actually normal, obesity. And they are saying now that’s not good what she’s done. Being fat is not a good thing. And for her to go on the news, I mean with her band and stuff being fat. Showing, that, you know, she’s fat and she’s a celebrity and stuff now. Its, for her it will be good, but for the rest of them it isn’t good. It is not a good thing being fat, the way she’s supporting it.
Anaan' I mean she is big, she’s like fifteen stone or something. She’s, she’s massive. But its not about her being big that makes people attract her so much. It’s that fact that seems so confident with it and she seems so comfortable in being the size she is, the way she is. She just doesn’t seem to care. And that, I think, is that people latch on to the fact that she’s got this brazen ‘I don’t care’ attitude. Whereas all the skinnier celebrities or whatever, always seem like, you know, they exercise too much, always dieting, they’re always not eating something, they always look really, some of the look really ill sometimes. But her, she just seems to not care and that’s the bit that appeals. The fact that she doesn’t care and I think for people to, you know, to say that, oh she’s a bigger role model and it’s not good blah blah blah. I think that’s really narrow minded and negative, because oh yeah, she might have weight issues, but at the end of the day that’s her business. Do you know what I mean? It’s not for other people to comment on. And I don’t know, I find that really horrible. That other people, I don’t care if they are medical professionals or whatever. At the end of the day if she has weight issues, that’s for her to talk about, or for her deal with. Not for some moron in the news to point it out in a newspaper article and say she’s not good, because she’s making bigger people think it’s okay to be bigger. I mean what’s his problem, it’s nothing to do with him.
Naz and Anaan hit back at bullies because crying is a last resort and would have made them feel...
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Naz' Well actually I beat a boy up for that in school, once though, you know for wearing a wearing a scarf you say, because I was fat and all. I was wearing a head scarf as well. So that boy got on my nerves, he just pulled my scarf off one day whilst I was just like walking past. So I actually turned round and started beating him up, but it made me feel better afterwards because I beat him up myself, and number two all the class was with me, and so was my brother actually, he was all cheering on for me, “Yes go for him. Hit him. Hit him.” So at the end of it, I thought I can actually beat them up, there’s no point in me crying at the end, because there is another way for me to solve it, just by beating them up or saying something back to them which I did.
Anaan' I think that was why I became aggressive because crying is something, personally for me, crying is always the very last option, it’s kind of like, I don’t know for other people it might be a release for them, but for me, it just makes me feel pathetic. And just..it makes me feel revolting really, I really don’t like crying. I’m not a crying kind of person, and it’s something that for me to cry I look upon in disgust. So for it, it was rather I just beat the hell out of them.
And that’s just what I used to do, just beat the hell out of them. And I never used to get into trouble for it, because the teachers always used to understand that they’d pushed me to sort of point where I couldn’t do anything but hit them, for me anyway. And I mean I did used to tell my Mum about it a bit. And Mum used to be like, “Oh tell your teacher.” And I’d tell me teacher, and then they’d still say it, and then right, but I told the teacher and nothing happened, and my Mum would always say, “If you tell the teacher, and nothing happens, and they say it again, then you can hit them. Because you tried, it didn’t work. So just deal with it however you want.”
Naz and Anaan discuss the importance of setting realistic targets when trying to lose weight and...
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Naz' You have to set a goals that are possible.
Anaan' Yes positive goals.
Naz' Positive goals.
Anaan' That can happen.
Like? What are your goals?
Naz' Like now was drop a dress size by the end of, well drop a dress size by August and that is possible.
Anaan' Because that’s three months.
Naz' That’s three months. Was it you that said, you said eight pounds in how many weeks was it?
Anaan' 12. But that was possible, because for an adult, a healthy weight loss is a pound a week, so that was because eight pounds in twelve weeks is achievable.
Naz' Its like losing two stone in four weeks is impossible or…
Naz' It takes about a week is it, or a week and a half to lose a pound? So if you think about it takes you just 3lb to lose a month. That is possible but two stones in two months is not possible at all.
Anaan' To be honest, what I found with SHINE and what I learnt and everything was that what I was eating actually wasn’t that bad. My diet itself was actually quite healthy. Because I was having a bit of everything. I did usually have my eight glasses of water a day. I did usually have three to five portions of fruit and veg a day, and you know, I was doing all those things. It wasn’t what I was eating that was bad it was the fact that I’m just lazy. I don’t do enough exercise. That really was mostly my problem.
So SHINE, it has made me more aware of that, and its made me want to do more exercise, by, they help me find out a way that I could help get, like free sessions, so do different physical activities, through like the NHS and they also like made us more aware of different places you could go to get these kind, the help on these of things. And like how much physical activity you would, you need, you know, to balance out what you’re eating. So, for example, the more you ate, the more you need, exercise you needed to do. Or like if you eat a certain amount of calories a day, you’d need to do a certain amount of calories to burn some of that off. Whereas if you eat the same, you’re going to stay the same, but if you did less activities during the day than what you’re eating you are going to put more weight on. So it was just things like that that made me more aware that I did need to do more exercise rather than just sit around and just eat food.
Anaan has found that keeping active throughout the day helps her to avoid putting on weight.
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Anaan' Yes, I’m doing a quite lot. Now I usually play badminton at least once a week. I carried on walking everywhere, because I used to do that before as well, and I think that was one thing that stopped me getting a lot, lot bigger was the fact that I walked everywhere. So I carried on with that. What else did I do. And just like I’m more will to do cleaning and stuff at home, just to keep me going throughout the day, just to keep moving and yes, and I think we’re going to start swimming soon, me and my sisters hopefully, and just, just things like that, just little things that help keep me moving throughout the day, so you’re just not sitting on your bum in front of the computer.
Naz and Anaan say it can be a struggle to find women only exercise classes.
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So the first step is to accept that you have a problem?
Or that you want to do something about it?
Anaan' Yes, I think that is really important. And then I think also people.... information as well, getting information to help you change and accessibility, because sometimes you might want to change, like you might want to do more, I don’t know sports or whatever, or you might want to change your diet, but you know, it might be impossible for you. Right. Because we’re both muslims, so for us…
Naz' Ramadan is going to be hard for us innit?
Anaan' But I mean we prefer like to do ‘women only’ sessions for exercise and things. But sometimes you struggle to find them in the sports you want to do. Like I really wanted to do kick boxing, but I couldn’t find a women’s only class to do kick boxing.
Naz' I can help you there.
Anaan' And then there’s just things, so that is a big issue, accessibility. And also information I think. You need both those things.
Tell family and friends that you are trying to lose weight; you need their support and...
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Anaan' But I think its also you need support from the people around you, because you know, if nobody else is helping you do these things, like you’re trying to eat healthier food, I hate to use the word diet, no offence. But I…
Naz' That’s what you, that’s what [name] said, you can’t say the word dieting in SHINE. We’re not dieting, we’re healthy eating.
Anaan' Yes. So if you are trying to eat healthier but then everyone else in your house is eating McVitie’s chocolate biscuits or whatever, that’s what makes it harder for you, because you’re going to have, you’re going to want to have one of them, but then you might be like, oh no, I don’t want to eat that. Well you can eat it, you just don’t eat loads of it, have one rather than 20.
But it makes it harder. Doesn’t it?
Anaan' Yes. So, I think, you know, telling people as well, because, you know, its embarrassing, you know, because sometimes people are saying ‘oh what do you want to diet for’. What are you doing this for. You don’t need to, you’re not huge, whatever, when really you’ve ….
Naz' Deep down they are saying it.
Anaan' If you want to do I think they just need to be okay with that and accept it. You know, I don’t know, I think, support is one of those things that you do really need.
Anaan' Family, from friends.
Think about our feelings and don't patronise us.
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Anaan' Don’t be condescending. Don’t… the people you’re talking to…
Anaan' … you’re there to help them, not look down at them. And don’t view them as through a microscope. You know, like they are your subject for some, I don’t know, seminar or whatever, they’re real people. Yes, they might be bigger, but they still have feelings, so you need to be respectful of that, and don’t through information at them.
Naz' Thank you.
Anaan' Do you know what I mean. The people you’re talking to aren’t medical professionals themselves. They are not going to understand something that has all this, you know, medical jargon in it. You need to understand that the people you are talking to, you need to be basically more on their level. Because sometimes I found with doctors is, sometimes they’ve got to the point where they’re almost a little bit inhuman. Not in a bad way, but just they don’t relate to the people they’re talking to any more. I don’t know whether its through years and years of being a doctor but its sort of like they’re not as personal as they were before. So when you’re talking to them, you sometimes feel that they’re not really listening to what you’re saying, you’re just another person walking through the door with another issue and another problem, that they have to get sorted and I think that is really off putting sometimes.
Naz' As she said, do not chuck information in people’s faces because I don’t know how to take it in myself, the way they just chucked it in my face. Take time to listen to them properly. What they want to say and discuss it properly as well.
Anaan' Yes, listen to what they have to say is really important for a start.
Naz' Break, break the information down, bit by bit basically. that's the main thing.
Anaan' But don’t think you already know what they want, because sometimes you might think you know what they’re asking your help for, but really you don’t. That’s the kind of thing. Just listen. That’s the big, big one, listen to what they’re saying, and really listen, not pretend to listen, or act like you’re listening or anything else. Really listen to what they have to say, and don’t look down on them.
Naz and Anaan explain why they joined the SHINE programme.
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Anaan' Basically we join SHINE (Self Help Independence, Nutrition and Exercise) because one of the girls across the road from [friend’s name], who’s also on the project, she heard about it before we did. And her Mum came to us and said, “Oh there’s this weight thing coming on at [name] School and would you like to take part. They do activities. And they teach you about like how to cook healthy meals and things like that. And I have to admit it was like the physical activity side that really pushed me into doing it. Mostly because I did know quite a bit about healthy eating, and for me personally that is not the aspect that I struggle with. Its more, actually, you know, the physical exercise bit that I find harder to do. So the fact that it would be a guarantee of every week at least doing some form of physical exercise, was really what sort of pushed me into doing it. And, basically that’s how I got into SHINE.
Okay and you?
Naz' With me, though, because half of my family, on my Dad’s side, they’ve all got problems with the heart basically and basically another thing is that my Dad’s side of the family, half of them are really fat, really fat, and I got really worried because I looked in the mirror and I could say to myself that I really look ugly compared to my sisters. Many of them have thought I’m older than my sister, but I’m the youngest and I actually went to the doctor to say that I want some tablets to help me lose weight. But then the doctor said for me to, “There’s a group called SHINE.” But I had heard of SHINE a couple of years ago, but I could never find it, and the doctor referred to SHINE, which actually has been really good help for me.
The SHINE programme has helped Naz and Anaan to feel calmer and be less aggressive.
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Naz' Every week we had a target.
Anaan' Not just that, but it helped on things like body image, we did stuff on body image. We did stuff on confidence and self esteem. And we did stuff on like how to deal with aggression which I found really useful.
Naz' That was true.
Anaan' Things like that. And in fact that aggressive stuff we did on aggression actually has helped me calm down a lot more, like at home, because at home I used to find that I’d always get really, I was very quick to snap. And it helped me deal with that a lot more, so now I’m a lot more calmer at home. And I think that was a really good thing, because that helped me to lose weight as well, because I was being calm and I wasn’t getting stressed, because like you say, that you eat more when you’re stressed. I don’t. I don’t eat anything at all. I go off food.
That also happens to me when I’m stressed. I eat more when I’m bored.
And I think that’s what, it helped me calm down in that I was still eating healthily. I wasn’t not eating and I was just eating okay. Because I was calm, I wasn’t angry at anything. And I think I found that really useful.
Anaan and Naz feel more confident and have both lost weight since joining the SHINE programme.
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So how do you feel about your appearance now?
Anaan' I think I’ve got a lot more positive about it. Because when I did start to lose the weight was slowly coming back on. And first I was really, oh my God, but then after a while I sort of got used to the idea that it was okay - as long as it never went back to being what it was before it was fine. And I think nowadays I’m more, you know, I mean I always, I have a thing about mirrors, I don’t like looking in mirrors. Not because I’m like repulsed by what I see looking back but more just because I’m not that obsessive about my appearance kind of thing, that I don’t want to look at a mirror. I don’t need to look at a mirror. I don’t want it. Do you know what I mean? I would rather there were no mirrors in the world, because then I think people would get less obsessed about themselves. But, yes, it just made me more positive and now I feel more like I can do things. It’s not such an issue really. And that, you know, that I am big but you know, what some people are bigger than me, some people are smaller than me. Some people are the same size as me. It really, it’s not a massive, massive thing, as long as it doesn’t lead to me dying or whatever, then I’m not bothered.
Naz' I used to look in the mirror and I used to think I’m really ugly and stuff, but since, you know, ever since I’ve been told I’ve lost weight and I’ve even felt I’ve lost weight, I’ve actually looked in the mirror and I’ve actually said to myself I look a bit better. And always think ‘oh my God, look at me man’, you know? ‘Look at me, what am I doing to myself?’ I’ve got like a positive thing inside me saying I can lose weight and I’m losing weight and I’ve lost weight. So there’s nothing … you know, I don’t say anything bad about myself any more that much now. I’m actually saying, I’m actually saying good things about myself now.