A-Z

Health and weight (young people)

Health problems associated with being overweight

There are many health problems that can affect an overweight young person including:
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Deformity of the lower legs (Blount’s disease)
  • Sleep apnoea (a person temporarily stops breathing during sleep)
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatty liver
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) where cysts form in the ovaries
  • Menstrual (period) problems
  • Insulin resistance meaning that the body becomes resistant to insulin, the hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the blood.
  • Type 2 diabetes
The young people we talked to understood that being overweight was bad for their bodies and shared some of the health problems they had experienced.
 

Huw is trying to lose weight to prevent poor health.

Huw is trying to lose weight to prevent poor health.

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I mean have you been experiencing any problems with your health?
 
Not that I can directly attribute to the size I am. I think my immune system sucks, but apart from that I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s any that I can say is just to do with the weight. I mean I don’t have high blood pressure, and I’m quite lucky when it comes to that kind of thing, and its,
And its, so it’s nothing seems to be happening but it’s wanting to pre-empt it and stop it from happening at all.
 
What are you concerned about happening then?
 
Oh you hear about too much heart disease going round, and doing it for, I’m doing A’ level biology and so we’re doing all things on and like narrowing of the arteries and heart disease and it makes you feel really quite scared to be honest, and, it’s just, it’s not as much physical health it’s more mental health as well.
 

‘Cos I think mental, the mental health is well, way, way, way underplayed and like, over, it’s like it’s like underrated really because that’s the major thing that, that happens when you’re over weight, your mental health suffers incredibly. Your physical health, your, that that that’s bad, but your physical is not going to bother you unless you live long enough to let it bother you, which is where your mental health comes in, you need, you need to be happy, and no-ones in the position to lose weight unless they’re happy with themselves.

 

Rachael knows the potential health problems her weight could cause. Doctors can't prescribe the medication she needs because it may put her at risk of a stroke.

Rachael knows the potential health problems her weight could cause. Doctors can't prescribe the medication she needs because it may put her at risk of a stroke.

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Well like you’ve obviously got your obvious problems on the body because you’ve got so much more of a strain to like pump, physically pump the blood around your body. So you’re going to have stuff like your heart issues, your lung issues, like there’s. There’re pills that I could be taking for my polycystic ovaries. And obviously I can’t take them because they’re worried that they’re going to induce a stroke. Because of the size I am. You know.
 
Because they’re that worried that they don’t really want to put me on them.
 
And that’s quite a strange thing to be is when you’re sixteen to be told, ‘We don’t want to put you on those because we’re scared you might have a stroke’. That’s weird.You know. You don’t think like that when you’re sixteen. But obviously you know you’ve got then stuff like diabetes. Diabetes runs in my family.
 
Yeah. So you know I’m kind of like, I’m almost waiting for that to be honest. And polycystic ovary is almost like a strain of diabetes.
 
But yeah so diabetes runs in the family. I’ve obviously got like increased chance of getting like heart disease, heart problems, lung issues, because your vital organs are under so much more stress than in somebody’s that a normal size. But I mean those are the main things that I know about. You know. I’m sure there’re a hundred and one other more things that are associated with being overweight that just never really gets mentioned. But your weight always seems to aggravate things you know.
 
And are they things that you worry about then?
 
I guess so because that’s one of the reasons why I want to lose weight is to make that I am healthier because it just seems such a shame to risk my body just because I like to eat you know.
 
Yes.
 
It does, it does seem a shame. But it’s something that I’m always striving against you know trying to make sure that I am… trying… I’m trying to be thinner. And you know you try because you don’t want to stay like this. You want to change for the better. You know. It’s just something that you’re continuously working at.  
Moving around 
Many young people said that they felt tired, uncomfortable and out of breath. They said that  the extra weight put pressure on their bodies, especially on the bones and joints of their legs. A few, like Loz, noticed that their asthma got worse after they put on weight.
 

Rihanna has problems with her legs and it affects the way she walks. She is on statins to lower...

Rihanna has problems with her legs and it affects the way she walks. She is on statins to lower...

Age at interview: 13
Sex: Female
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Because we’ve talked about the cholesterol problem have you had any other health problems?
 
Rihanna' No.
 
No? Okay.
 
Rihanna’s mum' What about your legs?
 
Rihanna' What?
 
Rihanna’s mum' Your legs?
 
Rihanna' Oh I have problems in my legs and that.
 
Oh right what problems are they?
 
Rihanna' Because I don’t, I don’t walk with my feet straight I walk with my feet like outways and I’m going to this specialist about them and the, well I’ve got to wear these things for school in my shoes these like black things and it, they try and make my legs go like straight because they are like twisted, so I go to a specialist about that.
 
Oh I see, yes so you sort of walk on the edge of your foot? I see. And so has that been causing problems at school or?
 
Rihanna' No, no it, the, it’s just that every once in a while my feet just start hurting and my legs start to hurt as well.
 
And does that stop you from doing anything, this problem with your legs?
 
Rihanna' Sometimes PE when I get pains in my legs, I get pains in my legs because of my cholesterol as well.
 
Do you?
 
Rihanna' Yeah. When I was first started on my tablets I started getting pains in my legs and I had to go to the hospital because of it.
 
Rihanna’s mum' She’s on statin.
 
Okay.
 
Rihanna’s mum' And they said that could be one of the side effects, you know, she gets pains.
 
Rihanna' Muscle pains.
 
So does that, does it make it difficult then to do exercise and things or?
 
Rihanna' No it, well yeah it makes me, it’s hard to like run around because it like hurts so, and I struggle to run around with my, my legs like hurting because they get really sore. 
Diabetes type 2, cholesterol, heart disease
Some young people mentioned that one or both of their parents were affected by diabetes type 2, high cholesterol or heart disease. Doctors were concerned that these young people could develop these conditions too, so were testing them regularly. Several had a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and one girl was being treated for high cholesterol while another had a suspected kidney disease. These young people know that it is crucial for them to get their weight down to a healthy level and keep it there.
 

Shannon joined a weight management programme after testing borderline for diabetes.

Shannon joined a weight management programme after testing borderline for diabetes.

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So then my weight piled on, so I put, I put like three stone on in like three years. Well, more than that. And then my mum said like we’d still got Kath’s number so we phoned her up and booked like an appointment. And she said I didn’t have to go again but she just wanted me go and check my weight and my problems and stuff like that. So we did and I decided to come back. So I did. I came back and like [coughs] I did I didn’t think I needed to come back but then I saw my weight, all my measurements and my weight and things like that I thought that if I don’t get it off then I’m going to, well I’m already on borderline diabetes. Nearly. So [coughs] my, so I decided like to come again so I can get some more weight, so I can get some weight off because I didn’t want to get diabetic because my auntie’s diabetic and my nanna used to be and things like that. So I know what they have to do. And so I like came and I like enjoyed it and I thought it was fun and I’ve lost some weight and stuff like that so I decided to do like a buddy training.
 

I do go to hospital now and then to do like I have blood tests and a diabetes, just to check that I’ve not got diabetes and kidney failure and stuff like that. And they just like talk to me about things I do at SHINE (Self Help, Independent, Nutrition and Exercise) and stuff like that.

 

 
And I mean a couple of times you’ve said, you know, you worried about health problems developing and stuff?
 
Yeah.
 
What kind of things are you worried about?
 
Well, like I went to hospital and had a blood test. And they said that I was, like you know like I was borderline diabetes. And was quite close to that. So like they said that if I don’t get a lot of weight off I’ll be diabetic.

Well, my auntie is diabetic and she takes tablets, but my nanna that died was diabetic and she had to have needles. And then one of my brother’s players that plays football is diabetic and he has to prick his finger. To like test his sugar levels or something and things like that.

And then my friend, she’s quite overweight, from my old school, and she has to like keep her sugar levels up. So she has to like have a biscuit while we were in lessons or something like that just to keep up the sugar levels quite high.

Well, not high but not low. Just to keep them just right.
 
And so you don’t want?
 
Yeah. 
 

Rihanna goes to hospital every three months for blood tests to check her cholesterol levels. She doesn’'t mind taking medication but worries about her condition getting worse. (Animated clip).

Rihanna goes to hospital every three months for blood tests to check her cholesterol levels. She doesn’'t mind taking medication but worries about her condition getting worse. (Animated clip).

Age at interview: 13
Sex: Female
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Rihanna: I go to like a hospital for, every three months for to get it checked and I’m on tablets for it as well.
 
And so how, when you go to the hospital what do they do?
 
Rihanna: They just inject me and take a little blood out and then they send it off and then, a few days later, a week or so, a letter will come through telling us like what our cholesterol actually is.
 
And so how long ago can you remember did they tell you that there was a problem with your cholesterol?
 
Rihanna’s mum: Be about three years.
 
Rihanna: Three years.
 
Okay about three years, yeah.
 
Rihanna' Every year I go to [hospital] to see a doctor as well about it.
 
And so in that time has it got better your cholesterol?
 
Rihanna: Yeah.
 
Does it cause you any problems having that high cholesterol?
 
Rihanna: Yeah because when I am at Guides when I go on camps I can’t eat certain foods what like other girls eat so I’ve got to watch what I’m eat.
 
What kinds of things can’t you eat?

Rihanna: Like a lot of dairy products, things with sugar in and like fatty foods, I can never, like once in a while but not like every day.

And do you think that’s important, to be healthy?
 
Rihanna: Yeah.
 
Why do you think that is?
 
Rihanna: Because it’s like it helps, it is helping you keep like your, you are well and so what you eat is like right instead of like putting weight on and stuff.
 
Yeah? And why is it important to not put weight on?
 
Rihanna: Because like you can get high cholesterol and you get like lots of fat in your body and stuff.
 
What can happen if you’ve got that?
 
Rihanna: You can die.
 
Is that something that you worry about or?
 
Rihanna: Yeah.
 
Do you worry about your cholesterol problem? Yeah?
 
Rihanna' Yeah.
 
Do you worry about your weight as well?
 
Rihanna: Yeah.
 
So and what kind of things do you worry about?
 
Rihanna: Like that, I would like get lots of fat in my, in my blood and I’ll die.
 
And you’re taking medication aren’t you for your cholesterol?
 
Rihanna: Yeah.
 
Problem? Okay. And how, do you mind taking that medication?
 
Rihanna: Pardon?
 
Do you mind taking it?
 
Rihanna: No.
 
No. How often do you have to take it?

Rihanna:
Once a night, right after my tea.
Those young people with parents or relatives who had been diagnosed with weight-related conditions had already seen how these medical conditions had affected their relative’s life. For example, the need to manage the condition (self-management), through diet, exercise and medication and what happens when the illnesses are not properly controlled.
 

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.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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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. 
 

Naz and Anaan talk about the health problems affecting their immediate families and the importance of losing weight to improve their health.

Naz and Anaan talk about the health problems affecting their immediate families and the importance of losing weight to improve their health.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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Do they have any health problems?
 
Naz' Me 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.
 

Lisa is worried about her Dad having a heart attack due to excess weight and high blood pressure and Amy says that her uncle changed his diet after a health scare and feels better.

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Lisa is worried about her Dad having a heart attack due to excess weight and high blood pressure and Amy says that her uncle changed his diet after a health scare and feels better.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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What about health? Do you think it affects your health?

Amy: Yes, it would affect your health. Like high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart, you could have heart disease.

Lisa: Yes. It’s like my dad, he’s got, you know, diabetes, but the type 2 one, not where you have to, and he’s got high blood pressure, yes. But that’s like, he’s a lorry driver, yeah, so he sits, he starts work at like 12 and he finishes at like 12, 1. He’s sitting down all day.
 
Amy: Really?
 
Lisa: It’s so bad. And I get so, I do get so worried about him. He’s like, he is obese, yes, but he’s not like massive. You probably wouldn’t think he was, but his like, you know, like BMI is over that. And I just think, “Oh, my God.” And I just think, “One of thes…” I know it sounds really horrible, but I just think, “One of these days, he’s going to have a heart attack and collapse or something.” Because he’s like, he’s quite bad though. But he does try like, since he’s been to the doctor’s and that he’s like, he has swapped it around and that. Like, he’s, you can tell he’s lost weight, but then sometimes you just think, “Oh, no, you’ve put it all back on.” It’s like he has salad every day for his lunch, like puts it in a lunchbox, brings it to work with him and he has that every day. But then when it comes to the weekend, he’ll like drink a few beers and then like get a pizza, or for dinner he’ll have like chips and sausages. And it’s just like, “What’s the point in that?” You’ve got to balance it out, ain’t you?
 
Amy: And my uncle had a heart attack last year and he, like he always suffered with high blood pressure. So I think that was something to do with it. But now he’s like, after that he’s like changed his diet, his routine and everything. Because he was like a car mechanic. But like, he’s like lost loads of weight now. But I think he’s like, he’s like normal, he’s like on a good diet now. 
Parents also worried about the possible health problems their children can have as a consequence of being overweight. Type 2 diabetes could be a particular concern when there was a history of the condition in their family.
 
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) 
Several young women told us that they had a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This is a condition that can affect some girls causing them to miss periods or not get their periods at all. PCOS is associated with insulin resistance where the body stops reacting to insulin; the hormone which controls the amount of sugar in our blood.  Insulin resistance can cause weight gain make it difficult to lose weight. Developing insulin resistance could also be a sign of Type 2 diabetes. 
 

Rachael says that the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome are worse when you are overweight.

Rachael says that the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome are worse when you are overweight.

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When I was about fourteen, I was diagnosed with PCOS, which is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. And it means that we don't know whether it was hereditary thing or whether it was something that was caused by my weight. But it means that like my hormones don't, like don't function properly. So, it means that I have like irregular periods and other things can happen like… if you Google it you get like thousand pages about it. So you know that's been quite a big part of my life.
 
Because I have had things that have been related to my health, to my weight such as polycystic ovary syndrome. But you know that’s… it’s kind of a strange thing is that because with, when you have PCOS it changes to… it means that it’s difficult for you to lose weight. And when you’re bigger you’re likely to get PCOS. And when you’ve got PC… when you’re a big person with PCOS, the symptoms are aggravated. And it’s kind of like this downward circle… that is really hard to get out of because it’s difficult to lose weight and when you’re big it’s harder to… its, the effects are more strong. So you know it is, it isn’t a bonus really. There’s nothing working in my favour on that level. But you know it’s just a case of… trying to break that circle.
 

Holly developed an ovarian tumour and she says that if she had being a smaller size she would have noticed a 9 cm tumour on her stomach.

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Holly developed an ovarian tumour and she says that if she had being a smaller size she would have noticed a 9 cm tumour on her stomach.

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One of the only problems where my weight has come into it was during April of this year I had a tumour on my ovaries, and I went to, again my doctor’s coming into this, I went to him, for two years I was telling him there was something wrong, symptoms were getting worse, and it started off as just a menstrual cycle things, then it was sort of pain then I was being sick a lot, and I was passing out. And every single time he told me it was stress, and go home and sort yourself out, which is why I hate my doctors, and for two years this went on and a couple of months later I come back well this has now started, this has got worse and he said, “It’s just stress, go home.” And in the end I asked to be referred to someone else, and they diagnosed it in the first appointment, and where my weight comes into it is the tumour was 9cm, now if I’d have been a skinnier size, a 9cm thing in you, in your stomach you’re going to notice it. But because I was bigger I didn’t notice it and I think you know because of that, because it was so big I had to lose an ovary and therefore I’ve, I may or may not be able to have children. So had I been skinny I might have noticed it, and it wouldn’t have resulted in having to lose an ovary so, that’s the only way my weight’s has affected it as such.
 
I had surgery in April and they managed to, I had tumours on both ovaries. Whereas one of them was 9 centimetres and that one had to, that ovary had to go completely, I’ve still got the other one ‘cos it was small enough to be able to be dealt with, so again if I’d have, if I was skinny I would have noticed it growing and then it would’ve been, it wouldn’t have ended in that way. 
Other health issues
Being overweight may also affect your health in other ways. Rachael broke her leg when she landed awkwardly on top of it and still wonders whether if she had been thinner the pressure wouldn’t have been enough to break her leg.
 
Treatment for medical conditions
Being overweight can make it difficult to be diagnosed or treated for a health condition. If an operation is needed, being overweight might cause difficulties during or after the surgery. Gemma had problems waking up from her anaesthetic and she needed help with her breathing.
 

Doctors suspect that Naz has kidney disease but she needs to lose weight before a proper diagnosis can be made. She feels let down by the lack of support from the hospital.

Doctors suspect that Naz has kidney disease but she needs to lose weight before a proper diagnosis can be made. She feels let down by the lack of support from the hospital.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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Naz: My kidney, they said to me I might have an extra tube in it, so we have to scan to see that, and my scan wasn’t coming clean, clear because I had fat there, so she referred me to the dietician to say to her to help me lose weight, but all the dietician would do would basically, she would have a pen in her hand and go in and out, in and out, and just to see what I am doing and how was I losing weight and stuff. She didn’t refer me to anything at all, she just gave me a leaflet, here’s numbers, go and ring home, find out. And then she’ll go, “Come back in three months time and I want you to lose weight.” How can you do it like that though?
 
And then I ended up with my stomach pains, and then they found out it might be my kidney problem, and then its been in and out again, because I used to go in for the kidney, then come back out, go to the dietician, come back kidney. It used to just be like that. And then I had two year, sort of three, four year break and I thought thank God and then I’m back in for my eczema now.
 
What about your kidney?
 
Naz: That’s still there, because unless I don’t lose weight it’s still going to be there. Because that’s the only problem, unless I lose weight my scan is going to come clear for me to see that.
 
So you need to lose weight?
 
Naz: Yes.
 
In order for them to do the scan?

Naz: Yes, but the thing is, because this has got me thinking though, because if they were really worried about me, the hospital, if it was really bad, they would have helped me to lose weight properly, not just send me to a dietician and then say two months, three months and stuff. No. No. If it was a really bad issue, you know, the kidney was getting really bad and stuff, they would have sent me…

Anaan: But they don’t know, because they can’t see it.

Naz: Yes, but if they were worried about my overweight problem causing it not to be, you know, for the scan to not come clear they would have helped me, but they didn’t did they?
 
Anaan' They probably thought they were helping you.
 
Naz: Oh yes. Come back in two months time. Come back in three…
 
Anaan: I know that they probably thought, you know, sending her to the dietician is the right step.
 
Naz: Because like they never…
 
So what do you think they should have done?
 
Naz: They should have helped me in a bit better way.
 
How?
 
Naz: You know, come and support me a bit more, not you know, send me home for two months. That’s just taking the mick. Go home for two months and eat less and stuff. I think it should have been every week or something. See how I’m going throughout the week. Not two months. Because that was just taking the mick. Because I remember my first ever appointment was six months. They go to me “Come back in six months. Because we’re going to see you then.”
 

Holly overheard the nurses talking about the possible need for a bigger bed for her in theatre.

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Holly overheard the nurses talking about the possible need for a bigger bed for her in theatre.

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I did overhear a conversation with some nurses about whether or not they needed to get a bigger bed which was, ‘cos they, the surgical tables, the beds in the hospital were fine, but the surgical tables are tiny so people can maneuver around them, and they asked if they needed to get two or not because they hadn’t seen me, but they’d read my file. And my file had said I was this weight, but because I’m tall, it looks different, whereas someone’s who’s my size would be a lot larger because I’m tall, it doesn’t, you can’t see it as much. And so I did overhear that conversation, but it’s never been a problem. I mean I had to be weighed for every single operation that I’ve had, I mean I’ve had them once a year since I was six, and every one I’ve had to be weighed for so they can get anaesthetic and things right.
 
How did you feel when you heard them saying that?
 
I just thought it was funny to be honest. I, I’ve passed the point of ever really minding about people’s comments, I mean because of the area that we live in, you know, people aren’t very nice, so, you know, I have people shout some rather lovely comments, so I just find them amusing now, I’ve passed the point of being concerned about it, and so, and so I’ve just sort of smirking to myself and it’s sort of cheered me up before going into surgery, and maybe, you know, if it was someone else they might have sort of gone into surgery being all “Oh these blooming nurses,” I just thought it was funny [laughs].
Several young people were scared about the impact of being overweight on their health. They were worried about going to bed at night and not waking up; of developing serious illnesses; of being on long term medication; and of having to change their lifestyle, among other concerns.
 

Before her gastric bypass surgery Gemma was thirty one and a half stone and became very scared of...

Before her gastric bypass surgery Gemma was thirty one and a half stone and became very scared of...

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Because the way my weight were actually going up, I were actually scared of how long I’d have left, really did start getting in my head, and I was scared of all the health problems that would come, were gonna come, ‘cos I were close to diabetes. But I were lucky that I didn’t get it. But I am, it were always in the back of my head, oh what would happen, and what age I’d have, you know, how much longer I’d have left,‘Cos you never know really. It might sound nasty but you can go to bed one night and not wake up. And that were always summat that I were always scared of. So it, that is a big thing that made me go through it. 
 

Rihanna and her little sister have a condition that affects their cholesterol. It runs in their father’s side of the family. (Animated clip).

Rihanna and her little sister have a condition that affects their cholesterol. It runs in their father’s side of the family. (Animated clip).

Age at interview: 13
Sex: Female
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You mentioned about your little sister as well is, so is there, is this sort of a family problem…?
 
Rihanna: Yeah. My brother doesn’t have it it’s just me and my sister.
 
And this is the problem with the cholesterol?
 
Rihanna: Yeah I’ve got other two brothers that they have it as well.
 
Rihanna’s mum: Though the sister, your little sister she’s got a cholesterol problem as well, it’s not as high as [name] but it comes from their daddy’s side of the family, he’s had brothers that’s actually died with strokes and heart attacks while they were young so this is why we started chasing it, and this is what they found out that, I’ve forgotten what they call it, it’s familial something, I can’t remember the name, it’s related to the cholesterol anyway through the family.
 
Hyperlipidemia?
 
Rihanna’s mum: Could be.
Several young people said that there is a side to obesity that is related to emotions and mental health but it is not recognised. They said that anorexia and other eating disorders have been described as mental health issues but that being overweight is normally seen as a physical problem. On the other hand, those with experiences of eating disorders were keen to draw attention to the physical results of their condition.
 

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.

Age at interview: 17
Sex: Female
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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.  
 
 

Rebecca says that anorexia caused her periods to become irregular.

Rebecca says that anorexia caused her periods to become irregular.

Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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And how was that affecting you, not eating?
 
Not eating? Obviously weight dropped off me. I got very, very poorly, really quickly actually. I developed anaemia, which is like low in iron. I used to pass out twenty four-seven, just down. Once I passed out in the middle of the shop. At the bus stop it stopped it was snowing, I passed out at the bus stop, at the bus stop in the snow. And it’s quite horrible really because I could feel that it was coming on. And I’d just like be like, “Ok, am I going to pass out?” and I would. It was really weird. But it also like I got diagnosed with depression as well. Because like I knew what I was doing but I didn’t want to change it. If that makes sense? And I couldn’t, I couldn’t see the cause. I couldn’t see why I was doing it, I just was. And then obviously looking back I can see, right the trigger was that.
 
But I couldn’t see that at the time. So I got a lot of mental health problems, from the anorexia. Also it affected my gynae-, like kind of gynaecologically, I developed really dodgy periods. I’d have a period, one like, I’d have a period about two weeks long and then I wouldn’t have one for six, for six months. So they put, the doctors put me on the pill and that. And that, and that didn’t really work.
 
So that was all down, obviously it was, the first trigger for that was the anorexia.
Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated February 2012.

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