Brief Outline: Holly, 18, is a student and is happy being the size she is. She thinks it's important to hear from people who are 'comfortable with being on the larger side'. Holly disagrees with her BMI (body mass index), which classes her as 'morbidly obese'' she would describe herself as overweight. Ethnic background: White British.
Background: See 'brief outline'.
Holly, 18, is a student and is happy being the size she is. She thinks it’s important to hear from people who are “comfortable with being on the larger side”. Holly disagrees with her BMI (body mass index), which classes her as “morbidly obese”' she would describe herself as overweight. She thinks the term “obese” is unpleasant and is used for “shock tactics,” but says this doesn’t help your confidence.
Holly thinks that genetic factors may contribute to weight gain, because most of the women in her family are big, but she thinks that people also have different metabolisms and says their environment may affect what they eat. In her case, she says it’s a combination of these factors and the fact that she is lazy and loves food!
Holly has always found it really difficult to lose weight. She’s tried lots of different diets, exercising and she’s been to WeightWatchers. She finds it difficult to stick to diets or to eat healthily by eating five fruit and vegetables a day and choosing lighter options. She says she’s noticed that healthy foods cost more than unhealthy ones and this is difficult for students like her to afford on their budget. She also thinks that low income families are more likely to be overweight, especially during the credit crunch, because people will eat what’s available to them. Holly also says it’s difficult to eat healthily because she’s so busy with college and the volunteering that she does. This means that very often she’ll grab fast food on the go or late at night when she’s finished work. Holly says she always found excuses not to do PE lessons at school and thinks that may be why she’s unfit now. School PE also put her off doing exercise classes or going to the gym now, although she doesn’t mind cycling because no-one can see her.
Holly says there are downsides to being bigger, such as finding clothes to fit, and how it affects your health and mental health. Holly says her weight affects her confidence, and this has had a knock on effect in other areas of her life. Holly has been tested for diabetes, and although she does not have it, she was advised to lose weight to reduce the risk of it developing. When Holly developed a 9cm tumour on her ovary, it was not discovered until she started experiencing pain and other symptoms; Holly wonders if she would have discovered it sooner if she had been smaller. Holly has been called names and had comments made about her weight by strangers in the street and in supermarkets; she even used to receive abusive messages via her Facebook and Myspace accounts, which concerned her at first but she doesn’t let them bother her. Holly has found the college environment more accepting of her size, partly because there is a more diverse range of people there. Holly doesn’t have a boyfriend at the moment and she believes this is because boys tend to prefer skinnier girls.
Holly says she wasn’t always happy with her appearance but has come to accept it more. She thinks it’s better to be happy how you are than to keep trying to change. Having said that, she says that if she could lose weight in an instant, she would.
Holly says that all the women in her family (except her sister) are big and would love to blame her genes for her size.
I don’t know, I think there, there are some sort of genetic implications, I mean all the women in my family have been large, but then again my sister isn’t, so, and then again it’s confidence. Some people have different eating habits that sometimes it’s the fact that people have high metabolisms that makes them sort of skinny and so on. Because it’s different with people, but I suppose they just have the situations where, where they’re living and, and if they, if they like chocolate then I’m sure they’d sit around and eat it all day. I don’t know, I think it’s, sometimes it’s an emotional thing where, you know, they comfort eat, and sometimes it’s just how they’re made. I don’t know.
And how about for you? What do you think it is in your case?
I think it’s a bit of both. I would love to say it’s all to do with genetics and I have nothing to do with it, but I know that what I do isn’t particularly healthy and therefore it’s due to me as well. So I mean I can still be the odd one out in the family and be the skinny one, but because I prefer to go and eat chocolate, and have a couple of... for a treat, then I do that, so I think it’s for me it’s just the fact that I’m stubborn and lazy and that I like eating my food. So yeah.
Holly dislikes the phrase ‘morbidly obese’ because it doesn’t help her confidence.
Did you actually work out your BMI then?
Yeah. Can’t remember what it is now, but it was in the, the end of the scale, you know the big red one that says you really need to do something now. And it’s been jumping between the last couple I think, and my doctor looked at it the other day, I think it was in the lesser one, whereas before it was in the larger one. But I don’t pay attention to it that much.
Why do you not want to pay attention to that?
Because I’m in the ‘morbidly obese’ category, and I wouldn’t consider myself that, I would say that I’m ‘overweight’, and I think ‘morbidly obese’ is not the term to put on it. And I think even if someone was that size – because if someone is that size they know that they’re overweight, they’re not going to be that stupid - but to say you are ‘morbidly obese’ isn’t a nice way to go about it. So I think because you know if you go down the scales there’s ‘underweight’ which I think someone these days would be quite glad to be called underweight because it means they’re so skinny, but there is no derogatory way to say that you’re underweight, if that makes sense?
It’s alright being skinny whereas before that would’ve been a compliment. So that’s why I don’t pay attention to them.
But can you tell me what the problem is with the term ‘morbidly obese’ and why you don’t want to be in that category?
I just think it’s the way it’s put, because as I was saying, there are people who are like me know that they’re fat, they know that they need to lose weight, but it’s just not a pleasant phrase. So I think if it was put differently maybe I might have paid more attention to it, and I know it’s sort of shock tactics and things, but still it’s, it doesn’t help the confidence if you’re called morbidly obese.
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.
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.
Holly overheard the nurses talking about the possible need for a bigger bed for her in theatre.
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].
Holly didn’t join in PE lessons in case she made a fool of herself.
And so was your size ever an issue when you were at school?
When I was still in primary school it was a case because you know, in PE lessons people wouldn’t really want to be stuck with me because they thought ‘Because she’s bigger she’s not going to want to go and run and jump all over these ropes and various apparatus things’. And because they were thinking that obviously I wouldn’t want to do it, because I knew they would be thinking that and then I made a fool of myself by doing it, so I just didn’t.
But when I was in secondary school, I didn’t go to any PE lessons at all. I always found some kind of excuse not to go. Even if it was a case of deliberately getting myself into trouble so I didn’t have to attend the lesson, which I did a couple of times, and yeah, it wasn’t the best way to go about it I don’t think.
Holly's male friends told her they'd rather go out with skinny girls.
On the topic of friends, what about boyfriends? And things like that?
Again it’s the way... the boys always like the skinnier girls and the size 8s and things. So the two boyfriends that I have had, one of them turned out to be gay which was interesting, I was a testing ground on that one, and so that doesn’t really help with the confidence, but people like, that’s the same as going to parties with friends, they would all attract various people and they would go off and I would be the one that was left on their own, which is one of the reasons why I never went. So yeah, all but one of my friends have partners at the moment, including myself, well I don’t have one but yeah. And they’ve just broken up with someone, so it is a case of yeah people don’t like larger people. You know, boys like the curves, and I’m sure they’d like someone with bigger breasts but you don’t get that in proportion to smaller size people, and so they go for the smaller size.
Is this something that you’ve sort of put two and two together kind of thing and worked this out for yourself, or have you sort of had a conversation with boys that that?
A bit of both. I have some male friends that I’ve said, you know, which would you rather; if there was, when we’ve been people watching would you rather go out with this person, or this person? And one of them… you know, her hair’s straightened, and highly covered in make-up, and very skinny and in latest fashions and someone’s what I will consider a normal figured person, and then they will choose the skinny one straight away. So yeah. So it’s a bit of both - bit of me just watching how it all works and me asking as well.
Health workers need to be tactful. Larger people tend to make you feel more comfortable during...
There’s ways to be more tactful. As you know, the doctors that I’ve had haven’t always been particularly nice about it, and they’re, they’re, I always find that the people that are larger are more nice about it, whereas, you know, one of my dermatologists, ‘cos I have eczema, and she’s you know a large person, and when it comes to appointments that, you know, a full body checks are down to you and her kind of thing, and I think if it was someone else, if it was the other doctor, I’d be really quite concerned about it, but because, because she’s larger and she doesn’t mind it, I don’t know I think, I always think the people that are larger are more friendly about people that are larger. So yeah, there’s ways to say things nicely, and although sometimes you need to go for the approach that says, “You need to do something about your weight now,” there’s, there’s ways to be nice about it.
Holly is tempted to snack because her Mum always has loads of food in the fridge.
So when it comes to sort of buying food and preparing food, who, who normally does that?
It’s either me or my Mum but because she’s a child minder there’s always there’s some kind of food in, in the fridge for the children, so we’re preparing meals all day, but they are for, for the children, so, they are set aside, we’ve got a certain part of the fridge that’s kids food, certain part of the fridge that’s, that’s our things. So yeah, it’s between us that we do it. So if someone’s making something and they go, “Do you want some of this?” And, “Yeah, okay.” We’ll always offer it around, but it’s between us, yeah.
So do you get much, well I presume you get quite a lot of choice then in terms of what you eat if you’re sometimes preparing it?
There’s not always so much choice because of the childminding. We have a set meal for the whole time, so there’s always the same things in the fridge, which doesn’t really help the whole diet thing because there’s, it’s the same things around all time. It’s normally not the healthier option. Because, you know, it’s the same with the kids, they’d rather have sort of pizza and beans or something than they would have a salad for tea. But, so it’s normally there, there unhealthy options that are in the fridge.