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Becca - Interview 22

Age at interview: 17
Brief Outline: Becca works part-time as a retail assistant. In the past few months she has joined WeightWatchers and has lost one stone. Her main motivation to lose weight is her health. She is concerned about weight related conditions such as diabetes and heart problems. Ethnic background: White British.
Background: See 'brief outline'.

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Becca said that as a child she was slightly bigger than other children her own age but as she got older her size did increase and eventually there was a noticeable difference in size between her and her peers. Becca remembers she was quite young, six or seven when people began commenting on her size. The first of those comments seems to have come from relatives; aunties and cousins.
 
Becca did experienced bullying in school particularly in secondary school. Bullying was mostly verbal but there were occasions in which it turned physical. She said that her school didn’t take any action for a long time until Becca’s parents threaten to go public if they didn’t do anything about the bullying. Becca said that her school’s response wasn’t adequate because it was patchy and not really supportive. As a result of this experience she said that she matured faster than other teenagers her age. Copying with the bullying was sometimes difficult and hurtful but eventually she was able to move on. For a long time Becca thought that if she was thin she wouldn’t have any problems at school and people would accept her. She just wanted to fit in. As she matured she has come to realise that it’s not necessarily the case.
 
Becca has lost one stone and dropped from size 18/20 to 16/18. She wants to achieve a size that is right for someone her height meaning a 12 or 14 size. Her most important reason for wanting to lose weight is her health. Her father was overweight and was diagnosed with diabetes. Becca’s father has lost weight and keeps his diabetes under control but he has poor eyesight. Becca said that she doesn’t want others to worry about her health. The second reason she mentioned is because she wants to look good.
 
She attends a WeightWatchers group with a friend and said that they are the youngest ones there but it doesn’t bother them. She finds the women in the group supportive and understanding. Becca tried WeightWatchers twice before but explained that it didn’t work because she was only fourteen and was doing it for the wrong reason; namely to conformed to the expectations of others. She thinks that the media portrays men and women differently. Girls have to be thin but boys need to be muscular.
 
Becca’s lifestyle has changed. Now she eats healthily and exercises regularly. She finds that it becomes a positive circle in which she exercises, feels more energetic and therefore wants to eat healthier food. Becca said that she is feeling the happiest with her body in a long time.
 
Becca made the point that health professionals treat people with eating problems differently. She explained that anorexia is treated as an emotional disorder and an anorexic person gets the support he/she needs whereas overweigh/obesity is seen in negative terms and there is little support available. Becca thinks that overeating also has an emotional component and health professionals should be more sympathetic.
 

Becca has identified the reasons why she overeats and is trying to overcome them.

Becca has identified the reasons why she overeats and is trying to overcome them.

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I mean I think that the physical side of eating and overeating sometimes it is a personal, you know, it is a personal choice that if you, you eat it that’s it, but most people don’t know the reason why they do.
 
I don’t think because I didn’t, I just thought ‘oh I, it follows in my family that we overeat so that is clearly in my genetics so I was born to overeat’ so most people don’t know the cause of why they are overweight and I think that, I think that the majority of it is probably an emotional factor, I don’t think, I know that there is genetics and all the other things that come into it, but I think that the emotional side of it is quite a huge factor and, as a personal choice, I mean it is hard to fight bad habits and fight, you know, the fact that why you over ate in the first place but I think once you come to terms with that that is when you start making your own personal choices because, you know, it, it is the individual’s choice to overeat or to do something about it but I think you have to reach a certain state of mind, like I have, I know the reason why I overeat and I tackled it and maybe I haven’t overcome it because I still have the days when, you know, I think ‘I’m stressed so I’ll eat’ but then I’m trying to replace that with ‘I’m stressed so I’ll relax’ or something like that, so yeah I think in, in order to be able to make conscious personal choice of what you really want to do the emotional side has to be tackled because, I mean, you know, a lot of people don’t really know the cause of it which I think is a problem, so yeah. 
 

Becca used to feel that she'd do anything to fit in with her peers.

Becca used to feel that she'd do anything to fit in with her peers.

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I mean now, couldn’t care less about fitting in at all I’ve kind of gone past that stage but before my whole life would revolve around it, everything I would do would be so they would think this about me, or to change people’s perspectives, and I can see now it was, you know, a really bad take to have on life [laughs] but yeah every, every thing I, that, like before now if I ever tried to lose weight it would be because I wanted to fit in to this size jean or I wanted to look like this person you know? Which I knew, I know now is all the wrong reasons to do it, but yeah fitting in, especially when you are bullied, you think if I can look like them they will leave me alone, but obviously again I know now that is not the case, you know, people just pick on you for the sake of it. And yeah so, God fitting in it did really ruin, not ruin my life but it took over my life quite a lot you know? I would do anything to just fit that perfect model which again I know now [laughs] there isn’t one them, so yeah.
 
Is it important to fit in then do you think?
 
If I go back a few years it was the most important thing in my life, just to fit in and fit a certain category, now it doesn’t bother me, if I don’t fit in then that is their opinion, you know, it is other people’s opinion if they don’t think I fit in but, yeah when I was younger God if I wasn’t part of like a friends group that wasn’t cool then I think ‘well why? You know why aren’t we cool? Why aren’t we getting the same kind of, you know, looks and views of other people as other people do in this school?’ and, you know, things like that so God yeah it was important.
 

Becca knew that she was bigger than everyone else from the age of three. She started to eat more because she was being bullied.

Becca knew that she was bigger than everyone else from the age of three. She started to eat more because she was being bullied.

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From as long as I can remember really, you know I’ve got memories of like, you know when you are younger and kids play about and stuff? And it wasn’t necessarily harmful but it was always I was bigger than all the other kids kind of thing, not that much bigger, just you know, bigger than average. And maybe that is where it started, I was only a slightly bit bigger but then because of the way that I was treated by other people then it, it got worse and worse and worse kind of thing so yeah I would say maybe from like three or four years old probably I’ve probably been overweight which I know is quite drastic isn’t it really to be that young? But yeah, not, not like hugely, I mean you can see in the pictures I’m just slightly bigger, like, you know, quite fuller and things like that so, yeah, yeah I mean, yeah three or four years old I would probably say.

I’ve always been overweight from when I can remember, like a young age, and I would now put it down to I saw food as a comfort but then I don’t, but then it’s hard to say, you know, because I’ve always been overweight ever since I can remember so it’s, you know, I can’t say that it was being bullied that made me over-eat or things like that because it was from a very young age. I mean yeah like being bullied definitely a huge factor because you just get into like a circle of you are bullied because you are fat so you eat for comfort, and then you get bullied again and round and round and round so it just, yeah that that was basically the whole, that’s where it, like the peak of it kind of started. And yeah I have always been uncomfortable about it, always.

 

In her early teens Becca thought that losing weight was the answer to all her problems.

In her early teens Becca thought that losing weight was the answer to all her problems.

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There was a lot of negative kind of, it wasn’t just about my weight it was about other things like, but mostly if I had been thinner and because mostly it was about my hair because I had that afro hair and that is what most of the bullying was about, but I think if I had been thinner, well at the time I thought this, if I had been thinner I don’t think it would have come up as much you know? Like I don’t think it would have played that part of an issue, so yeah, yeah.
 
 
I mean even today, like it doesn’t bother me as much now, I’m quite open with the size I am and, but at the time I would do anything to try and hide how big I was, anything. Right I would, I remember at one point I even said to my mum, “Can I have that operation where they staple the stomach?” And, you know, it wasn’t, you know, it, like it’s really stupid now to think about it but at the time that was what I needed to do, you know, just in order to stop everything that was going on and to stop the negative kind of connotations with me and things like that.
 
How old were you then when you said that?
 
Thirteen maybe? And yeah so, I remember [laughs] my mum said to me, she said, “Don’t be stupid.” And she went, “Becca there are other ways.” And I went, “Yeah there are other ways but it takes time doesn’t it?” And like with this I knew that it would be, not instant, but literally within months where it would show a difference. And, you know, that, that’s how extreme [laughs] it had got that I was willing to have surgery to change, well I thought it would change how people saw me and that I would get all these new amazing friends but yeah totally, that’s how extremely [laughs] it got, it did get really bad at one point so.
 

Becca thinks that food obsession is an emotional disorder and should be treated like other eating disorders.

Becca thinks that food obsession is an emotional disorder and should be treated like other eating disorders.

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What would you say would be the best way for a doctor to tackle it if they think they do need to raise it?
 
I mean I think for a person to be overweight and obese nine times out of ten it is probably not a genetic thing it is probably an emotional kind, you, I think it should be treated in the same way as anorexia is treated, it is an emotional disorder causing physical damage and I know that the two are very different things but I think that you have got to be emotionally stressed or upset in order to have this kind of obsession with food because at the end of the day if you are that overweight you, like I had an obsession with food and a lot of people do have an obsession with food, you know, that like either they won’t eat it or they eat too much of it, you know, so I think it should be treated in the same way anorexia is treated, it is an emotional disorder, and I think most of the time, you know, like people that are overweight or obese they don’t, it is not sympathy that they are after it is just the kind of guidance that, “Okay it is alright we can handle it.” You know like instead of it is your own choice that this, it is what you have done that has caused this, you know, but like anorexic people they, they get support and, you know, and whereas being overweight it is kind of a negative thing and it is a criticism of you, you know which, again it’s not necessarily all doctors but I think it should be treated as an emotional disorder because, you know, it is not just a physical thing that you overeat there is obviously something in your mind that is making you overeat.  
 
 

Becca'’s father is diabetic and she has seen the problems that it causes.

Becca'’s father is diabetic and she has seen the problems that it causes.

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So I mean like are there particular health concerns that you have?
 
Yeah I mean my dad is diabetic and he got that from being overweight and he has lost the weight now, and like, you know, he has got his diabetes under control. My auntie who I said about earlier she is also diabetic and she is very overweight, and this is only quite recent, so she hasn’t really got it under control yet but, you know, that is a big kind of risk for me because I see it as I am following that path and I don’t want to. And all the things that you see, you know, oh you can get heart disease and all this, like I don’t necessarily know if there has been any of that in my family but to me that would be a big risk because I would not want to be older and have that worry kind of thing, I would not want to self-inflict that kind of damage on my own body so yeah that is probably the most important diabetes and my heart really [laughs] so.
 
Is there something in particular about diabetes that, you know, makes you not want to develop it?
 
Yeah it is just the fact that it is very unhealthy and it does deteriorate if you can’t keep it under control and it is a huge lifestyle change as well that I have seen in my dad, kind of have to adapt to how he has to be kind of thing to stay healthy. And you know, and like his eyesight is going and not, you know, completely but he is having to, it is changing, you know, things like that, that having actually seen it firsthand I don’t think, not necessarily that I would want to go through it but like to have people worry about me in that kind of sense I don’t think I would want so yeah, yeah. 
 

Becca feels that her obsession with food is as much of an emotional disorder as anorexia.

Becca feels that her obsession with food is as much of an emotional disorder as anorexia.

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I think for a person to be overweight and obese nine times out of ten it is probably not a genetic thing it is probably an emotional kind. I think it should be treated in the same way as anorexia is treated, it is an emotional disorder causing physical damage, and I know that the two are very different things but I think that you have got to be emotionally stressed or upset in order to have this kind of obsession with food, because at the end of the day if you are that overweight you, like I had an obsession with food and a lot of people do have an obsession with food, you know, that like either they won’t eat it or they eat too much of it, you know, so I think it should be treated in the same way anorexia is treated. It is an emotional disorder, and I think most of the time, you know, like people that are overweight or obese they don’t, it is not sympathy that they are after, it is just the kind of guidance that, “Okay it is alright we can handle it.” You know like instead of it is your own choice that this, it is what you have done that has caused this, you know, but like anorexic people they, they get support and, you know, and whereas being overweight it is kind of a negative thing and it is a criticism of you, you know which, again it’s not necessarily all doctors but I think it should be treated as an emotional disorder because, you know, it is not just a physical thing that you overeat there is obviously something in your mind that is making you overeat.
 
 
 

Becca was very badly bullied at school because she looked different and she still feels a bit of an outcast.

Becca was very badly bullied at school because she looked different and she still feels a bit of an outcast.

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I mean being in school and there, like so many people just look at you in a different way, you know, just because you’re overweight and it’s like I have had people before say to me, “Oh well what does your mum feed you?” And like, you know, giving my mum, criticising my mum, you know, which I wouldn’t, there’s no need for in my eyes I think. And you know, like even now I’m seventeen years old, I have learnt to deal with people’s comments but some of the time you walk into a room and it may just be paranoia but you think ‘what did I get that look for?’ you know, ‘I’m not different from any one of you in a genetic way’ and you know, even at an age of seventeen it still happens, and yeah it’s not a nice thing at all. No and just to be out casted just because you look a tiny bit different, even from something as stupid as being a bit fatter than that person, you know, it just doesn’t ring true with me at all, so yeah I think that’s probably all I can say.
 
Like, I was bullied years seven, eight and nine in my secondary school, like that wasn’t the only time but it was quite severe bullying, like it went on for three years, it did die out a bit over the year eight and nine but year seven was just.. I would probably guess and say three-quarters of the school were involved in it, like it wasn’t just a group thing, it was walk down the corridor, and I actually counted this one day, counted how many people said something to me, just walking about a hundred yards twenty-three people I think, and you know every day in between every lesson and going, you know, it gets a lot, so then that’s when you begin to think ‘okay well if I was part of this group well, you know, I would either have someone to stop them saying that or, you know, I would not be the only different one’ kind of thing, so if I fitted into a particular clique or group that’s, you know, that’s when I would, maybe it would stop - in my mind that’s how I saw it. But yeah so there was a lot of negative kind of… it wasn’t just about my weight, it was about other things like. But mostly if I had been thinner… and because mostly it was about my hair because I had that afro hair, and that is what most of the bullying was about, but I think if I had been thinner, well at the time I thought this, if I had been thinner I don’t think it would have come up as much you know?
 

Becca has got fitter by going to the gym and now genuinely enjoys exercising.

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Becca has got fitter by going to the gym and now genuinely enjoys exercising.

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It is as if I just want to... I just walk everywhere now it is just like, I would ring up my auntie and say, “Oh can I pop round?” Just you know for the sake of 1) I know I need the exercise and 2) I just do enjoy it like. And I have joined the gym and like I do really enjoy it, and my fitness levels have just - when I first went there I did three minutes on a cross-trainer and I was out of breath - I was sweating, it was just ridiculous. Now, yesterday I was on there twenty minutes you know, and like to me, that is what spurs me on to carry on going you know, to see an actual change. Then I think ‘okay well that is okay I will do it again’ so you know, now I am looking at, I will do twenty minutes on the next level up kind of thing. And… and seeing it improve, and seeing how different it is now, just shows me that obviously I am doing something right. So it does just spur me on to carry on you know? And I do genuinely enjoy exercising as well, I didn’t realise how much I did until I have been doing more, you know, so yeah definitely that, like I do enjoy it a lot so.
 

Becca thinks other girls didn'’t want to know her because she didn'’t look like them.

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Becca thinks other girls didn'’t want to know her because she didn'’t look like them.

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From the moment I walked into the school, you know, people, mostly I was friends with the quieter people that were shy and you know, so I think that was mostly because although they would have made a judgement on me at the time they were just the shy little people who couldn’t do anything else, you know, and I became that because, that’s not my personality that’s just what I became because I didn’t kind of get anywhere else.
 
So yeah I mean, like people just look at you and like I’ve, I’ve later become friends with some of them [sorry] and but at the time they think… and they just make that judgement like that, and then just think - and again I don’t think it would be anything about my personality or what I am like as a person - it is just quite literally what I looked like and how different I looked and that was it. That was how they made their assessment of me and that, you know, that’s how it was so…
 
So what do you think they were thinking on that basis then?
 
Just, I think, ‘look at how different she is’. If I was to be friends with them it would kind of bring them down with it as well, because walking round with me in school… you have got that many people saying things that it must take over them as well. And I don’t think it was, it was always in a negative harsh way. I mean some, a lot of it was, but some of it was just… they were people that were scared to get involved with me because of what was happening. Other people just you know like, I could call them shallow now, but that is again just making a judgement of them but they, there was a group of people that they were all friends with each other because they share the same make-up and, you know, and they share the same kind of values, that if I look like this I will get attention, and I obviously wasn’t like that because the only attention that I would get is negative. So yeah I think that was the kind of judgement they made on me is ‘she’s not pretty, she doesn’t look like this, I don’t want to know her’ kind of thing that was it, that was just all it comes down to so.
 

The dietitian Becca saw was rather overweight herself,– which didn't inspire confidence. She wasn't very helpful.

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The dietitian Becca saw was rather overweight herself,– which didn't inspire confidence. She wasn't very helpful.

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I went in and she was quite a large lady, she was, I think she must have been over twenty stone. So not judging or making anything about her it is just the fact that, you know, you think ‘well if she’s a dietitian [laughs] and she’s eating healthily’, and she’s doing what she’s telling me how to become healthy it wasn’t really a positive role model for me, you know, it wasn’t really this is what you can be if you do this you know? So, and I think as well the stuff she was telling me it was stuff I already knew and I wasn’t kind of just, you know, pushing it to one side but she was telling me like the basic kind of eat five fruit and veg a day and exercise thirty minutes for three times a week and things like that, and you know, and she set me like really, they were realistic targets but for three months she said lose two pounds and to me that was a bit of an under-achievement, you know, because, she said, “Because then if you come in and you lose four pounds then that’s great.” And I said, “Yeah but from what I wanted to get out of it wasn’t just to lose two pounds in three months.” You know I wanted to be able to push myself a little bit harder and to actually set myself a target that would make me feel better because for me losing two pounds in three months wouldn’t necessarily make me feel better, you know, it wouldn’t really be an achievement for me and, you know, so yeah I don’t, I don’t really think, I mean she was a lovely lady but it was just, you know, she, she did just cut it, it wasn’t really, I didn’t really get much out of it at all really, you know, so that’s why I didn’t go back because.
 
What would you have liked her to have done?
 
Well just, you know, it, like giving me tips on how to overcome overeating and how to change my lifestyle in order to become healthier and things like that and she was just giving me like the basic kind of things I think everyone knows, you know, that like, and so, yeah I think just, just giving me realistic tips and kind of setting me realistic goals that would actually make me feel like I’ve achieved something rather than nothing kind of thing, you know, so yeah I think, I don’t know what she could have done better but to me, I don’t know if I’m just being picky but, you know, to me it just didn’t help me in, in the slightest so yeah, so I just kind of gave up on that idea [laughs] and like carried on myself kind of thing, so yeah. 
 
 

Becca has experienced 'awesome' benefits since starting to lose weight.

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Becca has experienced 'awesome' benefits since starting to lose weight.

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I started losing weight November last year so it has been a good two or three months now and like the benefits of it have been just awesome really [laughs] just like, you know, I have felt so much better in myself and I have felt, you know, that, like because I am on a thing where I get weighed every week and it, like on a, it’s, it’s, I don’t like to call it a diet but it is like healthy eating, and it does help me stay on track, so if I go and get weighed and I have lost weight you, you think, you have got the next week thinking ‘I want to do that again’ because that kind of rush that you get from knowing that you have done something good to your body by losing weight, I mean obviously like I need to lose weight but for me knowing that I have lost weight is a good thing and, you know, so, yeah it is, I think it is important to be healthy because I, like when I wasn’t healthy, I mean I am not, you know, completely healthy now but you do you are like, you are just so like lethargic and you just got, and it is just, you know, now I am a lot brighter, I’m a lot, you know, my health, I haven’t, I would get the flu and I would have it like six months maybe just, you know, because my immune system could not fight it?

But now, you know, I have become better at if I, if I have become, I did become ill in December just with the flu like everyone had, and it, like I did have it maybe a month or maybe two actually but, you know, I, I didn’t necessarily feel like crap every single day whereas before I would, you know, it was easier to fight it I think so yeah, yeah I think it is, it is important, very important because it has made such a difference to me and I think, you know, yeah I really do think it is important. 

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