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Sami - Interview 06

Brief Outline: Sami, 18, has always been overweight and has suffered with depression. She finds it difficult to lose weight and feels she hasn't had much support. Although she is comfortable with her weight, she is hoping to reduce it. Ethnic background: White British.
Background: See 'brief outline'.

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It all started when Sami went to her first school at 2½ years old. She was a clever kid, and new her alphabet and all her numbers by that point, but she was never the skinniest kid – which made her vulnerable, and she was picked on and bullied every day from that first day, until she left school at 18. Sami has always had problems with her weight – fluctuating from being overweight to obese throughout different life stages, but she was never skinny like all the rest of the girls at her school.
 
Sami went to see the doctor – who told her she needed to lose weight because she was ‘fat’, but there was never any support or help from him. He didn’t tell her how to eat healthily, or how much exercise she should be doing, and she began to lose all hope. Day by day, from the age of 8, Sami’s depression got worse and she started to self harm, and even tried to commit suicide, yet still there was no help offered to her. After nagging at the doctor to listen, he finally put her on anti-depressants and referred her to counselling –which she had to wait 6 months for! Sami slowly learnt to talk about her feelings and understand how she was feeling, and most importantly, how to cope, without self harming. Sami fought her battle alone, until 3 years ago when she met her fiancée. He still doesn’t understand what ‘depression’ is, or why she feel like it, but he is supportive of her every single day.
 
Sami has learnt to like herself now, but she still has bad days where she looks in the mirror and can’t stand to look at what is staring back at her, but now she has support and help, and she don’t have to turn to sharp objects to sort out her head. Sami knows that she is still classed as obese, and has a BMI of 36.3, but she is comfortable with herself, and she knows that she has the power to change herself if she wants to. But if she did, she would be doing it for herself, and not for anyone else.
 
Sami finds it hard to lose weight because she loves cooking and she loves food, and she doesn’t know how to increase her exercise within her hectic lifestyle. Sami has now started a degree in Dietetics, because she would like to help people make the changes in their lives, which she had to fight to have some help with. Sami will be trying to change the way she is, but she is hoping that she might get some support from her doctor and the rest of her family. Sami decided to do this study because she wanted people to realise that weight loss is not always simple, and that there is a person behind the flab! ‘We have feelings too!’ Weight is such a sensitive issue in the public eye at the moment – with obesity levels rising, and government targets being set. Sami would like to be one of those people who people can look at and say, “She is happy with her weight – so why shouldn’t I be. You are worth it, we are ALL worth it.”
 

Sami says that despite trying most diets in an attempt to lose weight, she has come to accept the...

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I realise you know I’m quite chunky all over but that’s what makes me, me. And no matter I’ve been on every single diet known to man, for the entirety of my life trying to make myself slim, but to be honest that just makes me really unhappy ‘cos I’m always calorie counting, always looking at packets, and everybody else is just there enjoying, they can eat as many burgers as they like, I only have to look at a slice of cake or a burger, and I put on about a stone. It’s, [laughs] it’s just the way that our family works, everyone in our family is large, I just have to accept that, you know, the amount of fruit and veg I eat is also important, I suppose, but no matter what I eat I’m always me, and I know I’ve got a big tummy and a huge arse, but, you know, that’s me, and somebody loves me for it so, I don’t have to change for anyone now.
 

Sami hated herself and started visiting websites and chatrooms about self-harming.

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Yeah, when you’re really down and depressed inside you don’t want to hurt other people, so you’re like, “Oh yeah I’m absolutely fine, what are you on about? You’re making it all up. I’m absolutely fine.” And you like rally round and you make out you’ve got loads of friends, like, “Oh yeah, so and so called me, we’re going to go out for a drink.” Or, “We’re going to go out and grab a coffee or something like that.” And then I would end up going out, pretending to meet someone, and actually I’d just be on my own. And I’d just spend a couple of hours out in town on my own, just making sure that my Mum thought I was leading a normal life. So you know, just always smiling all the time. Texting people when you’re not actually texting anyone at all, you’re just constantly doing something with your phone, always on MSN talking to friends. I used to use chat rooms quite a lot, try and make some new friends. But generally weren’t in this country because then I didn’t have to meet up with them and, you know, incorporate them into my sad life.
 
And so why did you want to keep all this secret from your Mum?
 
Because my Mum suffers from depression as well, and I didn’t want to make her any worse, and I’ve always had the feeling that your family are there to support you whenever you need them, but to be honest I thought it’s my battle, I’ve got to fight it myself, they don’t need to be involved. And so I’ve always had that, “I’ll keep everything to myself.” I’m always quite a shadowy person, I don’t tell anyone anything, my feelings are always kept to myself.
 
But then if I was really down and depressed that day, I’d go on a self harm websites, I’d look at eating disorder pages and stuff like that and, like pictures of suicide and self-harm and just like, stuff like that.
 
There’s graphic pictures on there of how to do it, step by step guides, ways to hurt yourself emotionally, physically, all that, there’s like loads and loads of poetry on there, which teaches you how to hate yourself even more, on the self-harm website there’s nothing good, absolutely nothing good. It’s all a downwards spiral. There’s loads of stories from other people that have experienced self-harm, those who have written their suicide plans. There’s even chatrooms where you can form suicide pacts, so, not good.
 
And so how were you using these sites?
 
I was using them graphically not to show my pictures, but to see how other people had self-harmed. I also did join a suicide pact at that point when I was about twelve, however a couple of years’ later I realised that it was a silly idea and I got out of it, but it was a group of four or five of us, all in a suicide pact from Australia, USA and here in England that when one that, something got too bad for all of us then we would because all commit suicide together.
 

Working and doing well at school made Sami determined to achieve more.

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In all of my schools, at my second school there was quite a ‘model’ image - everyone wanted to be you know the catwalk model - and they were so skinny, they were so tall, they always wore high heels to school even though, you weren’t allowed to. They were always plastered with make-up, and I was at that stage where I really couldn’t be bothered. I was just getting picked on so much, I thought what’s the point in me wearing make-up and high heels, because nobody’s gonna look at me any different? So I was just there in my normal men’s shoes (because I’ve got huge feet) and no make-up on, hair tied into a plait, and then just really studious, and you know - a bit of a loner to be honest. But you know, working made me happy and that’s what I think they didn’t understand, and that’s why I got picked on even more.
 
So you were quite different in lots of ways in a sense?
 
Yeah totally. I think without you know bigging myself up, I was one of the most intelligent people in the year, but that probably is because I put the most effort in.
 
Because I was not interested in boys, I was not interested in make-up, or high heels, or trying to get into clubs when we’re only 15 years old. I was just... I had a completely different outlook on life. I just wanted to get somewhere with my life and prove everyone wrong that, you know, a fat person can actually do something good to the world. Like my motto, ever since I changed and ever since I’ve been to counselling was, “I will change this world, I will do something that is gonna make me be remembered.”
 

Sami was bullied verbally by boys at her primary school then physically by girls at her secondary...

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When I was about four it became quite prominent that I was always being picked on about my weight. And I stayed in that school until I was eight years old, it was a mixed school, then I always used to get picked on by the boys all the time, all the time. It was never the girls, just the boys. Then when I was eight, nine years old, I switched to my first proper school, and it just continued there really. Boys were picking on me all the time, and as we grew to about twelve, thirteen, girls became bitches, really bitchy, and just then that’s when it started getting really bad like, I would get quite a lot of physical abuse as well. Getting kicked and punched, and just taunted really. I always used to spend break times and that on my own, or I used to spend it indoors just studying extra, and that’s when my passion for school came in really. But ever since I’ve always been fluctuating with my weight. I’ve never been a skinny girl ever, ever since I was a little girl, I always used to be quite big boned my Mum used to say. But no, I’ve gradually put on weight through my entire life and no matter how many diets, no matter how many fads.
 

Sami ate just one apple per day for 6 weeks with bad consequences for her health.

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I’ve been on every single diet known to man, for the entirety of my life trying to make myself slim, but to be honest that just makes me really unhappy ‘cos I’m always calorie counting, always looking at packets, and everybody else is just there enjoying, they can eat as many burgers as they like, I only have to look at a slice of cake or a burger, and I put on about a stone.
 
Well my most successful one which was in the deepest pit of depression was the starvation diet, where I didn’t eat anything but an apple every day for six weeks. And I lost nearly three stone doing that. But as soon as I started eating again straight back on plus more. I also did no protein diets, no carbohydrate diets, [sighs] I, my biggest weakness is chocolate [laughs] I eat so much chocolate it’s ridiculous. I quit chocolate for about a month, and I lost weight but I was incredibly unhappy. And I thought, you know, you know, I’ve got to have some chocolate, I don’t care if I’m slightly heavier, so. But the main diet for me was the starvation diet, but, you know, that does absolutely no good to your body at all.
 
And I learnt the hard way because I got serious problems with my stomach and stuff, then when I started eating again my body wouldn’t digest the food right. And I ended up with like diarrhoea and stuff like that, it was just so painful, and I used to have, I’ve got really bad stomach cramps every time I eat really heavy food now because it just got so damaged at that point.
 

Her year of counselling completely changed her life for the better.

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And was counselling, did you find counselling helpful?
 
Absolutely. It changed my life completely. I learnt to talk about everything that I needed to talk about, and some days we would just go in, I had an hour session every week, sometimes it would just be like talking about what I did today, absolutely nothing about my feelings at all, it was just ‘Me time’ for a whole hour. And some days I’d sit there, I’d just cry, sometimes we’d sit there and just listen to music or whatever, and it was really important for me to get to know me and, you know, I really developed myself through that whole year. And I really, I do miss it, but now I realise that that’s the thing that changed me for the better.
 
Because I had someone to talk to which I never did before.
 
And how do you think it changed you for the better?
 
Well I learnt to talk to everyone, like I wouldn’t be able to sit here and talk to you now unless I’d been there, oh, what else, I have spoken to my Dad, I never used to talk to him about it all,  but now I can sit there and I can speak to him, I say, “This is how I’m feeling, this is how I want you to deal with it, ad this is how you should be feeling right now if you are my Dad.” And he’s learnt that, he’s taken that on board now there’s a lot more like compassion between us, like it’s really cool, like I can sit and speak to him if I need to. Whereas I wouldn’t even sit in the same room as him alone like three, four years ago.
 
My relationship with my boyfriend is a lot better now. Like, I can open up to him a lot more. When we started dating I was like really secretive and depressive all the time. And now we just have so much fun, it’s fabulous. We’re coming up to our three year anniversary next week so that’s brilliant. So I’ve learnt to love me and I’ve learnt to love him as well which is good.
 
I was not interested in boys, I was not interested in make-up, or high heels, or trying to get into clubs when we’re only 15 years old.
 
I was just; I had a completely different outlook on life. I just wanted to get somewhere with my life and prove everyone wrong that, you know, a fat person can actually do something good to the world. Like my motto, ever since I changed and ever since I’ve been to counselling was, “I will change this world, I will do something that is gonna make me be remembered.”
 

Sometimes Sami feels happy with her size but other times she wants to lose weight. She says it must be her own decision.

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I realise you know I’m quite chunky all over but that’s what makes me ‘me’. And no matter I’ve been on every single diet known to man, for the entirety of my life trying to make myself slim, but to be honest that just makes me really unhappy because I’m always calorie-counting, always looking at packets, and everybody else is just there enjoying. They can eat as many burgers as they like, I only have to look at a slice of cake or a burger, and I put on about a stone. It’s just the way that our family works, everyone in our family is large, I just have to accept that, you know, the amount of fruit and veg I eat is also important, I suppose, but no matter what I eat I’m always me, and I know I’ve got a big tummy and a huge arse, but, you know, that’s me, and somebody loves me for it so, I don’t have to change for anyone now.
 
Do you want to try to reduce your weight?
 
Absolutely yeah, I mean there are some days when I absolutely hate… I look in the mirror and think, “Oh my God. You need to lose some weight girl.” And there are some days when I think, “Oh, you look quite cuddly today.” You know? And I do want to lose some weight, but I want to do it in a healthy way, I don’t want to lose it by starving myself. Like I’m just, you know, increasing fruit and veg, I’m increasing my exercise levels, you know, instead of slobbing about in bed all the time, I just get up and do something, you know, but it would be me choosing to do that instead of somebody telling me to do it.
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