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Rachael - Interview 17

Brief Outline: Rachael is an A-level student and says she wants to lose weight for the right reasons which in her case are to prevent health problems. She has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which, in turn makes it difficult to lose weight. She is also concern about diabetes and heart disease. Rachel is a size 20/22 and would like to drop to a 14/12. Ethnic background: White British.
Background: See 'brief outline'.

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Rachael says that she has always being big and that for the majority of the time it hasn't been that much of a problem for instance, she has never experienced serious bullying and can’t remember any occasion in which she was excluded from an activity because of her weight. Moreover, Rachael explained that when growing up she always kept physically active by doing swimming, dance classes, gymnastic and for about ten years she was a cheerleader. Rachael also feels that she has being very lucky with the friends she has and described them as understanding and supportive.
 
Rachael thinks that she has a healthy diet but that her portion control is her real problem. She says that when younger she used to snack but now she keeps herself busy and has little time to think about food. Rachael explained that there was one occasion in which she lost weight by skipping her school dinners but says that it is an unhealthier way of going about losing weight. Now she tries to eat less but admits that she still sometimes has an unhealthy relationship with food particularly when she feels left out due to her food allergies or when someone makes a nasty comment about her size. At those times she eats something sugary to cheer herself up.
 
Rachael used to see a dietician quite regularly when younger but after her 10th birthday she has only being contacted by them a total of five times. On her last appointment they advised her to eat five smaller meals a day rather than three larger ones. She hopes this regime will help her lose weight. Her main reasons for wanting to lose weight are her medical concerns. At the age of fourteen, Rachael was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and she doesn’t know whether it is hereditary or whether it was caused by her weight but it makes it difficult to lose weight. Also Rachael knows that the bigger you are the worse the symptoms. She is also worried about diabetes and what excess weight does to your heart.
 
Currently Rachael is a size 20/22 and would like to drop to a 14/12 and is working towards getting the excess weight off through eating right and doing exercises. She also believes that it is not a good idea to force the body to be thinner than actually is able to be.
 
Rachel pointed out that one of the main disadvantages of being a bigger size is her inability to go shopping with her friends in fashionable places and of having to go and buy her clothes in shops geared to older, oversized ladies.
 
 

Rachael would think of herself as 'obese' even if she lost weight because it's a label she's always been associated with.

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That is definitely a word that I’d use to describe myself, ‘obese’. Especially like because when I went to go to the dieticians when I was younger, because of the way it works and it’s all in like a big wave. When you’d marked me on it, I’d be nearly off the scale, when I was a kid. So you know it’s kind of… that’s something that I’ve always remembered that I have always been ridiculously obese.And to be honest I don’t know even if I lost weight, I’d still think myself as obese, because it is something that I have always been associated with.You know. There’s being ‘overweight’ and there’s being ‘obese’. And I know I’m obese. You know. There’s no two ways about it to be honest.   
 
I once did get a compliment because - I can’t remember what we were talking about – but he said… and I went, “Oh yeah, well that’s because I’m really fat.” And he went, “From where I’m from, you’d be thin.” I was like.... [but] he meant that as a compliment. And I thought, “Okay.” But you know it’s just something that you do. I do consider myself to be obese. And I think I’d have to lose a fair bit of weight just to be considered overweight.  
 

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.  
 

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.
 

Rachael talks about her ideal size and which celebrity-look she prefers.

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I think dress size wise I'd love to be a size ten or twelve but I think I'm meant to be a size fourteen or sixteen, you know. I don't think that I'll ever be really thin because I don't think my body expects me to be really thin because, I know, I know it's a bit cliché but I've got big bones. I actually do have big bones, I've got massive wrists.
 
But you know, again, I think that a size fourteen or sixteen is a healthy weight considering. I'm relativity tall, and so I think that it would be quite a normal size for me to me a size fourteen or sixteen. It's not perfect you know, but what is? What is classed as perfect? I think, like celebrity-wise a right size would be something like Myleene Klass or someone like that you know, who has got curves in the right places but isn't like someone like Nicole Richie who’s like that big, you know.
 
But you know I think a lot of the time especially in the media, you've got things where you have one minute, “Oh so-and-so is too thin, she must be anorexic and got bulimia and those, these horrible things are happening to her.” And then next week it's, “Oh my lord look at the size of them, they're like beached whales. No!” So you know, the media is always swinging it one way or another. And they'll never be happy. 
 
 

Rachael thinks the media is sexist in how it represents celebrities and that the focus is always...

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It always seems to be women’s magazines that are always going on about weight. For some reason lads’ mags weight never seems to be an issue, you know, but I mean a lot of the time I think that in the media there are it’s always footballers, rugby players, people like that who are like the main stars. I mean, you don't really get that many, there's not that many like actors and singers, male actors and singers in the media that are getting like slagged off for their weight or what not. But you do have these footballers and ‘Hollyoaks’ hunks’ calendars and fireman calendars and you know, you do have this image of really hunky men who are every woman's dream, I'm sure. You know, you get this kind of like really stereotypical alpha male, really muscley, which the media portray to be every woman's dream. But, you know, you know that from the average people that you’re seeing, and the average girls that you're seeing, that, you know, it's not about whether you've got a six pack, it's about your personality at the end of the day.
 
You know, a lot of people just seem to bypass that these days, especially in the media.You know "We don't care if you're doing orphan work, we don't care if you're raising money for charity, you're two dress sizes too big we're going to slag you off", you know. It does feel like that and it does seem to overshadow some of the great things that celebrities do. But you know it never seems to be, it never seems to be perfect.
 
And do you think they’re healthy images that they portray; you know the male ones and the female ones?
 
I think with the male images it's very idealistic to be quite honest, you know. Not every boy is going to have rippling muscles, you know, but with women I think that they do show that being too thin is not a good thing, such as the famous pictures of Nicole Ritchie where she was wearing a bikini and it was like, it all looked like it was literally just hanging off her. But you don't get any pictures of like, what I would class to be fat celebrities being slagged off. They’re always like your size eighteen, sixteen sometimes even fourteens and that just seems absolutely ridiculous to me. You know, you’ve got an inch of fat and you’re automatically fat. It seems crazy. 
 

Rachael would like to be thinner so she could buy the same clothes as her friends.

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So yeah I'm not happy with my size. And I would like to be thinner so that I could go into a normal shop and buy the clothes that my friends are wearing. I could choose the fashion that I want to wear. I mean like this, this is a men's top, you know. Grant given it was because it was the only sizes they did for the printing that we wanted. But you know. It’s a case of a lot of the time I can’t go to normal places. I can’t go to your uber fashionable places. But the places where I go most of the clientele are like a lot older than me - you know they're like mid forties plus. And that's weird to think that, you know, you'll be, you’re wearing the same clothes as like your 50 year old neighbour or whatever. That's kind of weird, you know it does mean that sometimes you can't be as uber fashionable because you do have to be conscience of what you're wearing as well.
 
It’s not pleasant because you think, you just kind of think, "If I was thinner I wouldn't be doing this you know. Again it’s because I'm fat that I'm doing this." And it isn't nice. And it does, you are always thinking about it, especially in public. But like I said, if I had the choice I wouldn't be this size. But, again I wouldn't want to be really, really thin, you know. Again going on this quest for normality. To be honest I doubt I’ll ever really find it because normality changes so often.
 
How does that make you feel?
 
It does kind of leave you in limbo. You know you kind of think, well you know especially like if you’ve got friends like, "Oh I got this from this uber trendy shop." And then you kind of go, "Yeah, I didn't." You know you do kind of feel left out. And like even stupid things like going shopping with your friends, you have to go to completely different shops.
 
And, you know you have to separate, like I'm off into the plus-sized sections and stuff like that. And you think, "Why am I doing this? I'm 18 you know, I should be a healthy weight. I should be buying clothes that my mates are buying. I should be in there with the rest of them."
 
You do feel kind of like isolated. And you know like if you go out on a night out and all your friends have got like really short dresses and uber high heels. And you think and you’re still there in jeans and a nice top instead because you daren’t get your legs out you know. Something like that it isn't nice to be always marginalized and on the outside of things.
 
 

Even if you have developed a weight-related health problem there are always things you can do to...

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I guess it would just kind of be don’t worry about it because if you’re that determined to lose the weight, you will at some point. And you know puberty isn’t an easy thing to be going through especially when you’re this size you know. And you just, you do need to think about that. Also of you know deep down that you’re eating healthy… and that you’re doing enough exercise and doing the right things for your body. Then you know you’re going be doing something right and that is going to show at some point.
 
I mean sometimes you would … you may end up with things that are related to your weight like other health issues such as diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome. And you … it, it does hurt and you kind of think. “Oh.” Because I know when I found out I started crying because I thought my weight’s got the better of me. But you know. I think there is something that can be done and since I have been diagnosed new ways to lose weight and help relieve the affects of it, have come out. And you know, I think you can always make positive steps towards something. You know it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom and ‘oh I’ll going to be this size for the rest of my life’. You know. You can, you can each a healthy normal weight… if you’ve got the right mindset.  
 

Rachael thinks that her size means that female friends and ‘overweight males’ don’t see as her a ‘threat’.

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It's kind of weird being eighteen and never having a serious relationship because, you know, you do think, “Is that normal? Is that not normal? Am I, where do I belong in this?” you know. Is it normal for a fat person to have already had a boyfriend? Is it, compare it to a thin person who’s always getting male attention and, yeah, you get jealous about people getting male attention all the time. People seem to be, you know, cause I do have, all my friends, my friends are a very attractive bunch to be quite honest but, you know, and they’re always, there's always some love interest going on or, you know, there's always something happening and then there’s kind of like me that just floats around and it’s like nothing.
 
You know, and you do feel a bit put out and you do kind of think, “Still left on a shelf.” I'm only eighteen and it still feels like that, you know. But it's a case of you have to, you have to realise and you have to understand that, you know, some blokes just aren't going to want to go out with you when you're this size. And it does hurt and you do kind of think, you know, that kind of sucks because you don't want to think it but you know it's true.
 
The only vague, very vague male attention I've had is from other overweight males because, you know, I'm not that much of a threat. I mean, that's another thing that I always think of is that girls are quite good friends with me because they know I'm not a threat to them, you know, in like a relationship sense. You know, like a lot of my friends are in couples and the girls never ever see me as a threat if I'm like joking around with their boyfriend and being, you know, just like really matey with them because they know that deep down their boyfriend isn’t want to go out with a fatty [laughs]. It sounds harsh but it's true, you know, and so...
 
Have they said that to you then?
 
No, they’ve never said it to me but you can, you just kind of sense it sometimes. You know, you can sense that, you know, I'm not a threat to them because I am bigger than them and their boyfriends aren't going to want to go out with someone who’s physically less attractive, I suppose you could say, you know. But it is a case of I'm there and I'm never seen as a relationship threat, you know. I'm never seen as someone that could ruin someone's relationship, you know, because I'm just not seen that way. And I think that, that is partially due to my size because they don't think that, you know, a fat person’s going to steal away their man, you know what I mean.
 

Rachael says the dietitians were friendly enough and kept things light and casual at the...

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And how did you find them - dietitians, what was their attitude like I suppose?
 
I guess their attitude was pretty much  the same  every since I really seen them. You know. Like especially the last time the dietitian that I saw wasn’t particularly thin and she kind of went, “I don’t know if I should be doing this job?” You know. And they do, they do try to make light of it. And you know it’s not always just, “You need to lose weight, do it now.” You know it’s not like that.
 
They’re just there to offer a bit of support and advice. So you can look at things in like a different view.
 
But yeah. I guess the dietitians have always you know they’ve never been really nasty to me. They’ve never said anything that’s offended me. And they’ve always just tried to make things light and keep things relatively casual. So it wasn’t like too much of a major hoohah really.
 
 

Don’t remind your child about his/her weight all the time, support them and become a healthy...

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I guess to parents it would kind of be they just need support. They don’t need to reminded of it like all the time. You know it shouldn’t be seen as this ridiculously negative thing. And you know you shouldn’t start having a go at them just because they are the size that they are. You know because you should just learn to support them in whatever they’re wanting to do. And if they’re not really… well if you… if your child isn’t willing to like lose weight, yeah you’re going to have to start getting a bit a more serious. You need to start going, “Look I’m worried about you. I think you know I think it would be nice if we all started to lose weight and started to healthy as a family.” You know. I think it’s nice to do things like that as a family because that way, you’re not only helping your child, but you’re also helping yourselves.  
 

Rachael can't remember ever being thin.

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Well my name's Rachel and I'm eighteen, and I can't remember a single point in my life that I've been thin - I've always been a chunky little kid.  It’s very, very, very early that I was a normal size. I've always been an unhealthy size and that's always been quite apparent especially like to family and family friends and stuff like that. So especially like as I was younger they'd go like “Oh well, you've lost weight” and they’d see that as a positive thing. But I guess a lot of the time, my Mum was like “Ah you've lost weight you can have a biscuit.” But, yeah, so I've always been big, and for the majority of the time it hasn't been that much of a problem – like I never got really badly bullied due to my weight or anything like that. I mean obviously you get the odd person who likes to give a dig at you but you know it's just expected.  
 
That is definitely a word that I’d use to describe myself, ‘obese’. Especially like because when I went to go to the dieticians when I was younger, because of the way it works and it’s all in like a big wave. When you’d marked me on it, I’d be nearly off the scale, when I was a kid. So you know it’s kind of… that’s something that I’ve always remembered that I have always been ridiculously obese.And to be honest I don’t know even if I lost weight, I’d still think myself as obese, because it is something that I have always been associated with.You know. There’s being ‘overweight’ and there’s being ‘obese’. And I know I’m obese. You know. There’s no two ways about it to be honest.   
 
I once did get a compliment because - I can’t remember what we were talking about – but he said… and I went, “Oh yeah, well that’s because I’m really fat.” And he went, “From where I’m from, you’d be thin.” I was like.... [but] he meant that as a compliment. And I thought, “Okay.” But you know it’s just something that you do. I do consider myself to be obese. And I think I’d have to lose a fair bit of weight just to be considered overweight.  
 
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