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Carrie - Interview 20

Brief Outline: Carrie, 17 is a full-time student and lives with her mother and brother. Her family moved to the UK from Africa three years ago. In the UK she started to put on weight due to changes in diet and less opportunity to do exercise on a regular basis but also because of the experience of starting life in a new country. Ethnic background: White British.
Background: See 'brief outline'.

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Carrie, 17 is a full-time student and lives with her mother and brother. Her family moved to the UK from Africa three years ago. In the UK she started to put on weight due to changes in diet and less opportunity to do exercise on a regular basis but also because of the experience of starting life in a new country.
 
Carrie explained that in Africa she was happy with the weight she was and used to do a lot of sport; swimming, netball, hockey, horse riding and cycled everywhere. But on arrival in the UK she was initially housebound because she didn’t know anyone and remembers that everything was ‘new and overwhelmingly scary’.
 
Initially her diet in the UK was very different to what it was back in Africa. Back there she was used to home made cooking and plenty of vegetables and fruit everyday. In the UK the family began to eat more frozen food and ready-made meals and lot less vegetables and fruit and consequently the family intake of carbohydrates and sugar increased.
 
Another reason why her weight went up after arriving in the UK is that there was less time and possibilities to do outdoors activities after school. Before she used to cycle to school while here she has to take a bus. Also back there her school day finished at 1pm and Carrie spent most afternoon doing outdoors activities. At first she found it strange the idea that people go swimming or do other sports in the evenings.
 
When Carrie first arrived here she was seven stone and within three months she had put on a stone and then it increased to about ten stone. Now her weight fluctuates between eight and nine stone. One of the main things she was not happy about when she got heavier was the fact that clothes didn’t fit and each time she had to go and buy the next size up. She also began to be concerned with the fact that she no longer was one of the thin girls in the class and therefore was becoming different from everyone else she knew. She found that in the UK people’s attitude towards weight and size is different from that in Africa. Back there boys and girls are unlikely to be bullied or called names because of their size whereas in the UK to be skinny is the ideal image and boys prefer them.
 
Carrie discussed with her mum the reasons why she might be putting on weight and both decided that she needed to do more exercise and as a family they decided to start eating more healthily again and take out the fizzy drinks and junk food. Carrie also realised that she needed to cut down her plate portions to smaller ones. She does a lot of trampolining and enjoys it. Carrie says that she is no longer worried about her weight especially now that she is losing inches on her hips.
 

Carrie thinks people are more worried about their size in the UK than they were in Africa, where she lived before.

Carrie thinks people are more worried about their size in the UK than they were in Africa, where she lived before.

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Why was that a problem, just to be a bigger size?
 
Because I was, because I was used to being the smallest, one of the smallest in the class. And suddenly I wasn’t. I was sort of middle to top end. And I don’t, I mean I compare, I suppose I compare myself with other people all the time. But that wasn’t, it was less of an issue, I don’t remember it being an issue in Africa at all. Because there was less of a comparison. You know, people were different sizes and it didn’t really matter. Whereas here, everyone’s a lot more fashion conscious and size conscious and celebrities are really skinny. And there’s al-, you know, you read magazines and there’s always diets and things, no matter how skinny you are. I’ve got a friend who’s, you know, never happy. And she is tiny. And she still thinks that she should lose weight. And I don’t know why that is. But it’s just that whole thing about, you know, you need to be skinny and, all the time. Which is not really, I hate that bit. I don’t like that at all. I’d rather be happy the way I was and just, you know, if I do put on weight, not have the pressure of thinking, you know, you’re the bigger person in the class. Which I s-, I never was really, so I couldn’t say from that perspective if the other people in Africa did feel that way. But I don’t remember, people weren’t bullied for their size at all. It wasn’t sort of, it wasn’t, you know, you wouldn’t be called names or openly bullied because you were bigger than anyone else. I mean we were, there were sort of race issues and that sort of thing you could be bullied for. But I wasn’t aware of being, if you were a different size, that everyone else, or, you know, fat or skinny, it didn’t really, you weren’t really bullied for it. Although there was one girl in the class who was very skinny and she used to get teased a few times for being too skinny. That had nothing to do with her. It wasn’t her fault. But she used to get teased a bit. But it wasn’t, so that was, it was kind of the opposite to over here. Because o-, over here, you know, if you’re really skinny, the g-, the guys like you. And that’s, you know, that would be the normal. 
 
 

Carrie and her mum discussed the possible reasons why she was putting on weight and decided that...

Carrie and her mum discussed the possible reasons why she was putting on weight and decided that...

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I spoke to my mum, because my mum and I are like really close. So we get, get along quite well. And when I put on weight, so does she sort of thing.
 
Really?
 
We get along quite easily on that sort of thing. And we both, and she, we talked about sort of why I might be putting on weight. And one of the issues was possibly more that, where I was doing a lot more exercise. So we decided, you know, what sports can I get involved in. And there was a trampolining class that was on a Thursday evening. So I got involved with that. And then we also thought about what we were eating. Because when we first came over we were staying with friends, so we didn’t have much choice in what we were eating. There were sort of, you know, ready, the meals were there already, and there was a, access to sort of fizzy drinks and junk food all the time and that sort of thing. But when we moved into our own little terraced house, my mum was sort of, we decided to s-, start trying to eat more healthily and take out the fizzy drinks and the junk food and that sort of thing, which I’d never had before. I don’t, as a, as a rule we don’t have crisps or fizzy drinks at home normally. So when they were suddenly available, I think we probably sort of had fun partying really if you like and had as much as we could. But we sort of cut that, cut down on that. And then lately we’ve realised that we possibly put a little bit too much on our plates. So maybe I tend to sort of overeat, or my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I put too much. And then I, you know, and then afterwards I feel really, really full. When perhaps I should just eat until I’m, you know, just full, and then, you know, sort of that keeps me satisfied. So it’s the amount that I was eating that we’ve also sort of cut down.
 
And so you’ve  managed to lose the weight that you gained?
 
Uh-hm
 
So the sort of the weight and size that you are now, you’re happy with, with that?
 
Yes, I am, yes, yes. I, since starting college in September, I’m doing, I’m doing a lot more trampolining as well. And it’s getting a little bit more competitive and stuff. So as well, I’m not losing weight now, but I am losing sort of on my hips. So I’m getting, my sh-, my shape’s improving, but not necessarily weight. Because I’m putting on muscle and losing fat at the same time. But I’m, sort of I’m happier with my shape rather than... So I’m not as worried now.
 

Don'’t ignore the health advice given by medical people. Try to exercise everyday and eat healthily.

Don'’t ignore the health advice given by medical people. Try to exercise everyday and eat healthily.

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Probably just important that it’s to sort of eat healthy and to exercise. That’s something I d-, that I learnt when I first came over here. They said, they mentioned, I think it was in a news item or something, where scientists had found out that exercising for half an hour a day was good for you. And that sort of thing, when people do say things like that, take it on board and consider it. Because a lot of people don’t, you know, if you say, when scientists say, “Eat five a day” a lot of people just disregard it. So I think listening to sort of people that know what they’re talking about and sort of, you know, trying to follow that and don’t just ignore it. It doesn’t go away. 
 
 

When Carrie moved to the UK from Africa, everything felt overwhelming and ‘scary’ and she started to put on weight.

When Carrie moved to the UK from Africa, everything felt overwhelming and ‘scary’ and she started to put on weight.

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Well, I recently moved to the UK from Africa, and it was three years ago now. And just then I was happy with the weight I was when I was in Africa. But when I first came to the UK, I put on a lot of weight, possibly because of kind of stress and a new country, new experiences. I was, it was, I’d never even, I’d only ever been on holiday once, so everything was like new and overwhelming and scary.  And I struggled to make friends at the beginning. So that sort of thing was kind of horrible. And I think putting on a lot of weight before then was just sort of part of it.  And as I gradually, now that I’m starting to make friends and get to know people, and sort of finding out about different activities and the sort of thing I can get involved in, I do a lot more exercise now. Because I know that I enjoy doing sports. But when I first started we couldn’t do anything because I didn’t know what there was. So I spent the first two weeks in the UK literally at home doing nothing, because there wasn’t anything, I didn’t know what I was doing or where I was going.
 

Carrie learnt about healthy weight at school, from the TV and her mum.

Carrie learnt about healthy weight at school, from the TV and her mum.

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If you eat junk food you put on weight and that sort of thing and it’s not healthy. Whereas, and if you eat, you know, your fruit and veg, 5-a-day, that sort of thing, that it’s healthier. And drinking water as opposed to fizzy drinks all the time and that sort of thing is always better and that sort of thing. But I don’t think I actively looked on the Internet or anything like that. I remember doing, we did a few tasks in PE last year and the year before where we did look at, and in science I think as well, and we looked at sort of how much, how many calories you’re taking in versus how many you’re exercising and getting rid of and that sort of thing. Which was quite an interesting, because I, you, you’re not aware of sort of how many calories you actually eat in a day and how many you burn in a day and that sort of thing. I think more activities like that would be, make people more aware of what you’re eating and that sort of thing. Because a lot of the television, there’s programmes where, you know, there’s people that are overweight and you show them how much they’re actually eating, and they’re not aware of it and sort of surprised by how much. Whereas if the people know already, you know, if you take, if you exercise x many hours a way, a day and you’re going to eat this much, then this is what’s going to happen and that sort of thing. Then if, if there’s more awareness, then you can sort of stop going, you know, if you want to, if you don’t want to be overweight you can avoid it.
 
How do you know those? You know, where do, where do those messages come from?
 
I think television programmes. But a lot of it was from my mum. From a very young age she sort of said, you know, “Whenever you’re making a meal you need to make sure that you’ve got more veg. And you need a little bit of meat and a little bit of carbohydrates and that sort of thing.” And that was sort of, I can remember having, talking about the different colours in food when I was about 7 and my mum was preparing, you know, I think it was carrots in the kitchen or something. And she was saying how, you know, you need, you know, colourful food and, you know, carrots and beans and all that sort of thing to make up an entire meal.
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