Sean - Interview 37

Age at interview: 20
Brief Outline: Sean said that he needs to lose weight and after searching the web for information he started a training routine that consists of running and cardio exercises. He tries to do it four times a week. Sean thinks that the NHS needs to do more to help overweight young people like him to get the advice and help they need to lose weight. Ethnic background: Black Caribbean.
Background: See 'brief outline'.

More about me...

Sean is 20 years old and is currently on a gap year before going on to university to study law. He works as a volunteer with a charity named Tower Hamlets Summer University as a youth ambassador and a peer motivator. The charity run free courses for young people during the summer. After he graduates he wants to become either a full-time lawyer, journalist or go into business.
Sean came to Britain from the Caribbean 5 years ago and says that since coming here he has put on weight because he walks less than he used to and is eating less healthy food. Back in Caribbean he used to snack on fruit and eat at home after school, but here he tends to go with his friends from college to buy lunch from take away places. He admits that he had a more active life when he was living in the Caribbean. When he started college here he found that activities like PE were not compulsory and that unlike Caribbean students here were able to opt out.
For several months now, Sean has been trying to lose weight. He is exercising and trying to eat healthier food. He went to his doctor hoping to get advice on nutrition and to find out where he could go to seek help with losing weight but his doctor provided him with information he already had obtained from the internet. So, he found his GP not that helpful and says that one of the problems faced by young people who are overweight is that there seems to be no help or support out there for them.
He thinks the NHS needs to do more preventative work with the overweight young people by providing the support and information that will enable them to lose excess weight. He says that there seems to be enough help for the people who have gotten too obese but not for young people like him.
Sean sees the need for a campaign to advertise what is available for overweight young people. He thinks that the NHS should start a texting campaign informing young people about weight management programmes in their area.
Sean has found useful information on the internet about how to motivate himself to get up an exercise but says that there are also plenty of other sites on the net that are only interested in selling you their gym equipment. It can be discouraging to be given the message that unless you have money you can’t do it properly. Luckily he found one particular site that encouraged people to use items easily found in the home as substitutes like cans can be use for weights.
Sean has gradually built up his exercise routine. He does cardio exercises and tries to run four times a week. At the beginning of his training he found that he could do just a few minutes before getting breathless but he has gradually increased his running time to 20 minutes. What motivates Sean to get fitter is the fact that he feels unhealthy and wants to change the way he lives. He hasn’t loss any weight but feels fitter.
Sean thinks that what is not helping him to lose his excess weight is the family diet. His mother cooks at weekends but the rest of the week they tend to rely on ready-made meals. He says that it doesn’t work to go running and then have a pizza for dinner. He basically has to eat what is in the house and sometimes the options are not very healthy
Sean has also identified eating too often when at home and spending too much time on his computer or watching television as the two main causes that have let him to put on weight.
Sean is hoping to lose 35 pounds. He went for an Army career but was told that he needed to lose that many pounds before they would considered him. So he thinks this is a good example of how excess weight can interfere with the things you want to do in life.

Sean discusses all the things he thought were responsible for causing his excess weight.

I don’t think it’s the portion that’s my problem. I think its like how often do I eat because I eat like, if I eat at 2 o’clock then like 2.30 or 3 o’clock I’ll be eating again, so I think that’s what happens. It could be the portion and how often you eat as well.
So you tend to eat quite …?
Quite often, instead of quite big portions at one time.
Okay so you eat a small amounts but …?
Not small [laughs] but medium, not large.
But if you eat at 2.30 then you go and eat at 3?
Yeah. Because I think it’s probably because I’m bored and I didn’t have anything to do. That’s why. I think the more busy I am, the less I eat.
So it’s a question of boredom also?


So when you are busy do you forget about food?
Yes. I don’t eat as much food but when I’m at home with nothing to do I’ll just eat and eat and eat and no exercise. That’s what used to happen.
It used to happen, yes? Because now you seem to be quite busy?
I think I spent too much time on computer as well, because when you are on the computer you eat a lot and the time flies and so you are not usually paying attention to what you’re eating and how often, afterwards. I think that kind of contributes to being overweight. Because I think many young people these days, tries, to spend a lot of time on their computers, and yes…
Computer and watching television.With take aways so… That plays a part in.
Roughly how much would you say you …
Spend on the computer?
… Spend on the computers and television?
About five hours on computer and then like I watch TV for about three hours.
And how often …?
Every day.
Every day?
Not the, it depends on what I have during the day, but if I’m not busy then that’s what usually my routine is, just watching, just being on the computer and watching TV.

Sean says a youth programme is helping him keep busy so that he eats less and feels better about...

Like sometimes you feel really depressed, you don’t want to go outside, you don’t want to see anybody, and then like, other times like you feel a bit more confident in yourself. I feel that food has a lot to do with that as well. Because like when you eat you feel, I think when you’re depressed you eat, and when like, when you are beginning to feel like less depressed the food could be like a comfort.
So its comfort?
Comfort eating isn’t it? Okay. Were there other things going on in your life at that time, or you are feeling now?


You don’t need to tell me if you don’t want to, its just…
Yes, yes, like family problems.
Okay, okay, so that was contributing to you….
Eating. Okay. Has that eased up a little bit?
Yes, a lot. Like no I’m trying to eat less, trying to be like talk about my problems, rather than trying to bury them in food. I try to like something different, rather than try and eat food to like hope it will go. I think food is like very dangerous coping mechanism.
I don’t eat as much food but when I’m at home with nothing to do I’ll just eat and eat and eat and no exercise. That’s what used to happen.
It used to happen, yes? Because now you seem to be quite busy?
How often are you doing things with your youth programme?
Well right now we’re kind of busy because we’ve got the summer coming up. So I’ve being doing it two times a week and for the whole summer it will be like everyday. Yes, so right now I’m kind of busy but not as busy as I could be. But I’ll trying to exercise more so… 

Sean hoped to get detailed advice about exercise and weight loss from his GP but found what he needed online.

When I went to my doctor he was a bit. He just said I need to like just take it easy, like wear running shoes, the information he was giving was something I could find on the internet. It was something I already know, so …
Can you remember what he said to you?
I told him, like I’m trying to lose weight if he has any advice for me, and he said that I should rest between exercising and stretch before, wear comfortable shoes and yes, that’s it.
What advice were you looking for?
I was probably hoping he’d tell me like, give me like advice on nutrition and probably give me information where I could seek help with losing weight. But he wasn’t that helpful.
Do you remember the websites you looked at or…?
What I found useful was the information about running and like how a big in a could start running and like increased the distance and turn my run far that was really useful. What else did I find useful was information about diet and so on like if you run you shouldn’t be eating certain foods because that could make you bloated and it could decrease your performance while exercising.


What else was useful?
Yes, there was information about how to get, how to get motivated like, how to motivate yourself to get up in the morning and go running. That was useful. Like how to get the will power to get out of bed.
Tell me that again? Because that’s very interesting. If you can remember anything about it.
I said information about getting, motivating yourself, and getting the willpower to get out of bed to go running in the morning. That was useful.
Do you remember or what did you do, what did you think, how you motivate yourself?
It’s like setting goals, like for one week, I would like try to run five minutes without going over that, and then the next week I’d try to keep bearing up on that time, and try to just be confident in myself.
Okay. So you were building up your routine, your exercise routine?
Yes. I can run for run for ten minutes non-stop now. But first I used to get tired after one minute and had to stop. I used to have a pain in my stomach. That’s why I went to the doctor to see about, and he said it’s just like, that’s normal, for runners, for beginners runners, to have that pain. 

Sean developed his own exercise programme that he does at home and along the river path near his...

And now you run for ten minutes?
How often do you run?
I try to do at least four days a week. Four days.
Do you run on streets or where do you go?
Usually, there’s a place in London called [road], which is like a back, which is a, its not on the streets. It’s like a back road, like where runners and cyclists and dog walkers use.


So apart from running what else do you do?
I do sit-ups and stretches and so on.
For how long do you do that?
I try to do like 20 sit ups and push ups also.
30 minutes doing, 40 minutes twice a week so four days running, two days doing cardios.


So, you have been doing this for how long?
I have been doing since January on and off. 

Sean was more active in the Caribbean because PE is compulsory in schools there.

And what about the level of physical activity. Were you more active before?
Well that’s the thing. I was more active [before] because I think students in the Caribbean - like PE is compulsory, you have to do it - but in England it’s like you could opt out and it’s not compulsory in college either so … that’s the thing I think in college they advertise that you can join clubs and so on, but when I went there wasn’t any clubs at all.
There wasn’t and the gym, it was just exclusive to people who are doing sports studies and so on. So you had to book and appointment, and like when you go, they say that, you cannot use it because there is a class being held there right now so it kind of puts you off from going back. And there wasn’t much people in the college that take part in sport activities as well.

Schools should make school dinners healthy but also appealing to young people.

I think it should be fresh. And I think at the same time while being healthy, it should be tasty as well, because that’s the thing that most young people complain about, that the healthy food that you are eating is not as tasty as the unhealthy food that they get from a chicken shop or somewhere. So I think the school should make the food healthy, but at the same time it should be appealing to young people.
What would appeal to young people?
I would tell them to like ask young people what they want, which may be like pasta. Or pasta could be healthy, depending on how you make it, but at the same time it could be very tasty like spaghetti Bolognese I think plenty of people, young people, young students like pasta so, I think that should be something that they incorporate more inside your school dinners. I think fruit and vegetables it would be a good idea for them as well. Like fruit salad instead of pie, chocolate or banana or something. I think they should mix it up and give them a healthy fruit salad.

Local services for young people should be advertised in places where they are likely to see them. Texting young people is also a good idea.

If the service is out there then I will be happy to ask my doctor, but I don’t know feel that there is a service out there that could help, that’s for people like me.
So if those services exist in your community, in your area, you are not aware of them?
No I am not aware of them.
So where do you think if there is a weight management programme for young people in your area, where do you think they should advertise those?
Well they could advertise it on, because just like bus stops on, they could advertise on bus stops, the local community where young people hang out. They could advertise on buses. They could advertise in local community youth groups. They could advertise by texting message… because like young people who signed up to different programmes could like, they could send a message to those young people. 

Sean and his family eat more processed food now they live in the UK because it’s cheaper.

I’m usually like open to other, I like to try different types of food. But at the moment I’m eating kind of unhealthy, so it’s not….
‘Unhealthy’? What do you mean?
Like pizzas. Processed food. That is not good for you. Or tinned. I suppose tins, because that is cheaper, and we do not earn a lot of money, so you have to like shop on a budget, which is not good for health at all.
So you think the question of money can interfere…?
Yes, definitely.
When it comes to quality food?
Yes. And like foods like vegetables I think it’s more expensive then like, buying healthy stuff is more expensive than buying unhealthy stuff.
Okay. Did your diet change when you moved from [the caribbean] to here?
Yes definitely. The food that I’m used to eat in [the caribbean] was more natural, like vegetables and so on. But now the food that I eat here is more processed, it’s like tins and… from the supermarket. They are already pre-cooked and packaged. So…
Okay so you think that the question of money comes into it?
Okay what about time?
Definitely time as well. Because my family’s really busy, so we don’t have time to cook, so we cook on Sundays and that usually goes through to until Monday or Tuesday and then during the rest, the final days of the week, we’ll like we buy pizza and so on, or order food. 

Sean says that people are sometimes made to feel guilty and responsible for their weight problem...

It seems to me that you are doing everything on your own, and motivating yourself to do things.
I think that’s why people don’t go to the doctors anyway. Because they, I think society as a whole, tries to make people feel that obesity is like its your fault that, like if you go to the doctors, why shouldn’t you go to the doctors, when you brought this on yourself it’s not like a disease like cancer, where you haven’t got a choice but I think people makes, but it makes people, like obese people think that. It’s their fault for being overweight, so why should people help them to solve a problem that you brought on yourself. I think that’s why most obese people don’t try to seek helped their problem.  

Sean says that there should be healthy weight advertisements on bus stops and places where young...

So where do you think if there is a weight management programme for young people in your area, where do you think they should advertise those?
Well they could advertise it on, because just like bus stops on, they could advertise on bus stops, the local community where young people hang out. They could advertise on buses. They could advertise in local community youth groups. They could advertise by text message… because like young people who signed up to different programmes could like, they could send a message to those young people.

Some websites try to persuade you to buy expensive equipment to lose weight.

There’s some websites that like recommend very, like expensive activities that you have to buy, like a machine to do this and a machine to do that. And there are some websites that tell you don’t have to buy a machine you could just do weight at home using what you’ve got and you can use tins to like work on your arms, instead of having to buy like dumb bells at store for like £20 to do it. So there’s some websites that are good with recommending like cost effective activities for you to do and some are not good because they recommend very expensive things that you should buy that you really don’t need at all.
How do you feel when you have this sort of websites recommending that you go and buy, and you spend hundreds of pounds on equipment, buying things that someone your age cannot afford?
Afford, yes.
What do you feel about it?
Well kind of upsetting because you feel like if you don’t have the money to buy them, what’s the point of working out because you are not going to lose the weight if you don’t have that, so what’s the point.
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The National Health Service should do more preventative work.

So what do you think, I don’t know, the health service, or doctor’s should do to help people who have concerns about their weight? Young people.
I think the health service should like try to, try to stop the problem before it happens, rather than try to solve it after it happens. So like people struggling with their weight should get advice on like what, what food they should be eating. I think there should be clubs for people who needs that little bit of help losing weight, but haven’t got the resources or money to join to the gym or something or hire a personal trainer or so. May be the government could like start clubs to help those people who like, it doesn’t have to be like going to a gym, it could be like, those people getting together in a park or playing tennis or a sport or so on every week, every week or two times a week and so on.
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