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Health and weight (young people)

Feeling good about yourself

Young people gave different reasons as to why they felt good or not so good about themselves. For some it was about feeling more confident in their social life, for others it was about making the decision to get fit and lose weight. 
 

Duncan gained confidence as he lost weight.

Duncan gained confidence as he lost weight.

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Family and friends have been pretty good. I mean my friends especially well I changed schools in September, I was in a school in [town] so they sort of, they were there at the beginning of the weight loss with this campaign type thing, and then the friends from the school that I’m at now, which is the local college, have sort of seen the end of it and they’ve noticed the weight that I’ve lost, I mean they didn’t see me when I was at my heaviest so, but they’ve seen me sort of from half way and they’ve sort of kept me going.
 
You had their support?
 
Yes.
 
And was that important to you that people noticed that difference?
 
A little bit, it was sort of like the pick me up, it sort of it was like the thing that made me carry on going. The sort of “Oh they’ve noticed let’s keep, let’s keep on with this, let’s keep going” you know, when it sort of got harder and people were congratulating me on my weight loss then it sort of helped me get through. So yes it’s been nice to have friends sort of willing to compliment me when I needed it so.
 
I mean it sounds like you’ve been on quite a journey; you seemed to have gained quite a lot of different things really.
 
Yes. I mean fitness and confidence are pretty much the two that stand out so I, you know, I wasn’t particularly self confident or I wasn’t particularly outgoing, had low self esteem when I was heavier. But as I’ve lost weight, it sort of they’ve all sort of gone up, sort of like the inverse of the weight loss, sort of as the weight was going down the confidence and self esteem and the outgoingness sort of went up, so that’s it really, you know, more than just good health reasons to losing weight.
 
And how do you explain that?
 
I’m not really sure, it’s one of those things that I kind of explain in my head and I can sort of explain in my head but I can’t explain out loud. It’s just because there are so many emotions that you go through sort of from beginning to end and, you know, when you feel down when you put on weight and when you feel pretty good with yourself when you’ve reached the first sort of half stone, stone or whatever so it’s all sort of, well it’s a general sort of increase of happiness sort of thing - a general increase of good things - is still probably the best way I could describe it, you know, everything seems to turn out good.
 
Everything?
 
Yes pretty much it’s sort of, you know, there’s all the health, the social, the psychology, the sort of mind things that sort of go in, sort of all those reasons, sort of are cumulative and, you know, if you think, well if people think that they need to lose weight then, you know, it’s only a good thing, I mean there aren’t any bad things at all that I can think of about losing weight. I mean, well apart from sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle but, you know, there’s, apart from that thing, there’s nothing wrong at all with it.
 
And you said there about social aspects?
 
Yes that sort of came with the increase in confidence. As my confidence increased I sort of spoke to more people, I was more outgoing and I made more friends, became sort of - I wouldn’t say popular - but I was more popular well sort of thing, you know I speak to more people than I would do if I was heavier still, and I think I interact with more people now than I’ve ever done.
 

It took Chelsea two years to lose six stone but now she is more confident.

It took Chelsea two years to lose six stone but now she is more confident.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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Well I’m Chelsea and I’m age seventeen now. I’ve lost six and half stone up to now. Before I lost all my weight I was nearly seventeen stone, and I didn’t feel comfortable with my weight. I didn’t do any exercise at all. I didn’t … wasn’t eating the right foods in right portion sizes. I was just really overweight. And then I just … I was just getting bullied all the time and nobody wanted to be with me. I was always on my own in my bedroom doing my own thing.
 
And then I found … then I just really started to pick up, went to a group called SHINE (Self Help Independence, Nutrition and Exercise) that really built up my confidence. I started to lose weight. At first when I started, it started coming off of me slowly. And I thought, “Well it’s never going to come off me”. “I’m just going to lose a couple of pounds and that’s it. It’s just going to stay on me”. And then it just carried on coming off and off. And I just gradually lost it. It’s took me two years to lose the six and half stone. But it has really helped me a lot.
 
I’ve made a whole range of new friends. I’ve started doing more exercise, whereas I never used to any at all. I, now I can talk in front of people that I never used to be able to do before. I used to do a lot of things that I don’t do now. I help out at certain gyms. Certain swimming baths if anything needs doing I’m like there to help and things like that.  I missed a couple of, like a year out of school well on and off at school …because of being bullied. I got pushed down concrete steps before I lost all my weight. And then when I started to lose my weight, everybody was realising that I was changing and no one could stop me from changing who I were to like I am now. And now people on the street look at me and say, “Aren’t, aren’t you changed?”
 
And I just think I’m right proud of myself. I just think well if I didn’t change my life style, then I wouldn’t have been here now. If I’d carried on the way I was going I’d have not been here now. I’d have just done something.
Those who decided to make lifestyle changes and stuck to their decision noticed that their self-confidence improved and that they felt generally happier. Usually young people said that support from family helped them to stick with their new healthier lifestyle. Once they felt better they said their friends and family began to give them encouragement and compliments. 
 

Bella’'s Mum helps boost her confidence by praising her whenever she does something to help herself.

Bella’'s Mum helps boost her confidence by praising her whenever she does something to help herself.

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My mum really does support me. And she really, I think, it’s like for my drama and that, she goes to every play that I’ve done and she’s like, “Well done [name].” And she’s like, “You’ve done fantastic. You were the best person there.” And the more she says it, the more, the more best you feel and that. And it really does support you when someone’s sort of saying that you’ve done well and, and that and saying that they’re proud of you.
 
Yeah. And I mean you said before that you think confidence is the most important thing. Why do you think it’s so important?
 
Because it’s all does for your self-esteem. It’s how you feel, what you feel like, what you can do. It, it just adds up to everything. It’s like peer pressure and stuff, it, it’s just like you’re confident and that. If you, it’s like if you’re confident on how you feel and how you look, you’ll be a lot more comfortable with everything, the way, self-esteem and that. But it’s just, you’re more comfortable with who you are.
 
Right OK. And it makes it easier to deal with like bullies and, and things like that?
 
Yes, it makes it a lot more easier. 
Building up self-confidence was not that easy for some young people. Some said that they disliked themselves and felt guilty whenever they ate too much. Changing their lifestyle involved facing some uncomfortable truths about their problems. Several young people said that having counselling from weight experts was really helpful.
 

Emma realised it was down to her to make changes in her life.

Emma realised it was down to her to make changes in her life.

Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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I think the thing for me were seeing it as a battle with other people [which] meant that I had to take on way more challenges, like facing ten or fifteen different people, on top of what I needed to battle with my weight and things myself. Made it more of, “Right I’ve got all these battles to fight, I’m never gonna win.” Whereas when I started to think it as my own battle, that I wanted to do it for myself, it made me realise that really, it’s only myself I’m battling with. It’s only myself that can make the changes that can do anything about it, and it’s only me that’s gonna do it.
 
When I realised it were my own personal battle, I realised that people would support me, that I did have people that were gonna be there for me, and the people that bullied me just weren’t gonna change anyway. And that no matter how much I tried to change, they were just gonna either keep bullying me or find somebody else to bully. So I realised that it weren’t, it weren’t that they had a problem with me, it were just that they just had some sort of issue that they had to deal with their selves. And I think it were the fact that I realised that. So instead of taking it out on myself, and thinking everybody hates me, everybody’s against me, I then thought to myself, “Right, not everybody hates you. There’s people gonna be there for you, you go for it, and people will support you no matter what.”
 
And so I mean then when it came down to it you felt that it was your responsibility to, to do something?
 
Yeah, it did take me a while to realise it. Obviously because like I were 14, I mean I were in my teenage years and things, and basically it were down to me choosing my lunches at school and everything else. I realised that maybe if I changed the choices that I made for my lunches at school, and that if I did actually start to believe in myself then it would make things easier.
 
Do you think that sometimes even if you feel it’s your choice, and you have to make you know certain choices to do the right thing or whatever, do you think there’s anything that can make, making those choices hard?
 
Yeah. I think it’s the pressure from everybody else around you, because like you might have friends that are of normal weight, and they can eat, they can eat basically desserts when they want to, they can have all chips and things when they want to, but you know yourself that if they’re going out and getting chips, and sweets and crisps and everything else, you know yourself that it’s not the right choice for you. But because your mates are doing it, you feel left out if you can’t do it, so you go along with your friends and do it anyway. Whereas I think it’s more of a fact that because you didn’t have no confidence you’d go along with your friends, but as you more believe in yourself then you decide to do what you want to do.

Weight management programmes like SHINE (Self Help Independence, Nutrition and Exercise) and MEND (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition … Do it! Programme), were said to be extremely helpful for increasing self-confidence as well as for losing weight (see Community-based weight management programmes).
 

Reg has become more confident since she joined the SHINE programme.

Reg has become more confident since she joined the SHINE programme.

Age at interview: 13
Sex: Female
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How long have you been coming to SHINE (Self Help Independence, Nutrition and Exercise)?
 
About three, three or four years I think. Since I started comp, so it’s about three years.
 
And what other sorts of things have you done that have helped with your confidence?
 
Well, there’s role play - I've already said that – we sometimes show our works of other people and talk about it. After they've done the course, like all the, yeah the course. There's like a little sort of awards ceremony. And they've just started doing like shows, where they can perform their talents so that's good.
 
And so you've been involved in all those things?
 
Yeah.
 
And, so because you did the program to start with and now, because I can see it on your T-Shirt, you're one of the assistants?
 
Yeah.
 
So what does that mean?
 
That means I like, I help out with the new group and I also help out with dance and swimming and stuff like that.
 
And you like doing that?
 
Yeah.
 
Why?
 
Well, it's because it's something I enjoy doing. And since I started it's sort of like made me feel better about doing it myself. And now that I help out, it's nice to see that other people are trying their best to get into what they're doing.
 
Yeah. And what would you say the best thing about SHINE has been?
 
Meeting new people, definitely. Because you meet new people like we're different religions and disorders, and but you understand what they’re like because… I don't know, because you’ve met other people like them before and it's just nice to help out. 
 

Anaan and Naz feel more confident and have both lost weight since joining the SHINE programme.

Anaan and Naz feel more confident and have both lost weight since joining the SHINE programme.

Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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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.
As they lost weight, some young people had become more conscious about their physical appearance. Several said that they felt confused and had conflicting feelings about losing weight and about their new body shape. Some girls who were losing weight talked about how very proud they were of the curvy figure they had achieved and had no intention of losing more weight. Losing weight could also bring up new issues for young people to deal with, like the need to exercise in order to tone muscles.
 

Ella likes the curvy body she now has but is still is a bit self conscious about her looks.

Ella likes the curvy body she now has but is still is a bit self conscious about her looks.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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I don’t want ever to lose my curves. I mean I went down 5 bra sizes actually losing weight, which was great for me because that was always something I sort of was also self conscious about, but I mean I don’t want to ever lose my curves completely, so I don’t want to be like a size 6 and, you know, straight up and down, but, yeah I mean I think all girls, especially teenage girls who sort of see celebrities in the, in the magazines and think it would be lovely to have a figure like that, but I don’t want to lose my curves completely.
 
I feel much less self conscious, definitely on the beach and on holiday, I would never ever just sunbathe in my bikini, even if I was just with my family, I would sort of spend most of my time in the shade, sort of wearing at t-shirt and reading a book or whatever, and if I did sun bathe I’d have a sarong or, or something, I just didn’t like showing my thighs or my stomach and things. But I’m fine to do it now, I mean yeah, I’ll never, I wouldn’t say I was, I wouldn’t say I was very happy to, but I do, I mean I’m always, I’m still a bit self conscious but to not the same extent that I was.
 
And so you still feel a little bit uncomfortable maybe or…
 
Yeah I do just ‘cause I’m not, I’m not, you know, a size 8, or, yeah I just feel a bit self conscious but I wouldn’t, I’d, I sunbathe in my bikini, I don’t think I’d walk along the beach in just a bikini, I’d put a sarong on or something, just because I don’t particularly like people looking at, looking at me, ‘cause I just feel self conscious, like what they might think and so on. I guess that sometimes, sometimes I feel as though I’m still as big as I was.
 

Chelsea feels a lot better about her body now but advises others to tone up while losing weight.

Chelsea feels a lot better about her body now but advises others to tone up while losing weight.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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And so how do you feel now about your body and your weight and that sort of thing?
 
I feel a lot better than I did. I feel a hundred times better than I did. But now I’ve just got to tone up because I’ve got a lot of loose skin.
 
You know like on my stomach it’s horrible. On my legs I can’t get like … when somebody’s like, somebody’s cuddling you, you just feel uncomfortable because you just think what I they feel my stomach now how it is.
 
What if they just look at me as if to say they’re just horrible?
 
It’s horrible the way it… I’d advise somebody to… if they’re to lose weight, to tone up as well as lose weight.
 
Not just lose weight on it’s own because once you’ve… if you don’t tone up while you’re losing weight, it will take you ages to tone up.  
Many young people believed that parts of the media, teen and celebrity magazines especially, were much too focused on the way people look (see Weight, health and the media).Young people with weight problems found this difficult and it impacted on the way they thought about themselves but there were a few people who were able to ignore it. These young people said that they were inspired by the success of larger celebrities such as Beth Ditto and Dawn French.
 

Vicki says that people make assumptions about her, because of her size.

Vicki says that people make assumptions about her, because of her size.

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And I sort of feel that I have to put myself on the line before people just think, “Oh the quiet little fat girl,” they sort of think, “Oh, she’s actually got personality, she’s not just like a lump of lard or something.” And, I just… I mean I’d quite like to be able to sort of keep myself a bit more reserved, and I feel if I was slimmer I’d be able to but because I’m bigger that’s what I, my personality is bigger than my size, so I throw that at someone first rather than sort of sit there and let them look at me and think, “Oh, she’s going to be really shy because she’s fat.” Its like, “No she’s not.” Like fat people aren’t shy, they’re just are unconfident, like a lot of, like I have a few overweight friends as well, and they’re just, they’re like me as well, they put their selves out there first, and I just, I don’t know, I get into big rants about it! 

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated February 2015.

 

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