Julie gained weight slowly over time, which she became aware of after retirement. Motivated to manage her diabetes and her stomach problems, Julie reduced her carbohydrates, fats and dairy. Julie has lost weight gradually, and feels more confident and mobile. Although she has not received support from healthcare professionals around her weight, Julie encourages doctors to tailor their advice to the individual, considering health and lifestyle factors.
Julie is 73 and is a retired events organiser. She has 1 adult child, and is white British.
More about me...
Although Julie was overweight as a child, by the time she reached adulthood she was a healthy weight. However, after having her daughter at 36 Julie started to feel tired. She went backwards and forwards to her doctor for tests, and was eventually diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. In her 60’s, Julie was diagnosed with diabetes. She was not surprised as there is a history of diabetes in her family, but was “annoyed” after having her concerns dismissed by a nurse when she went for blood tests in the past. Although Julie was not particularly overweight at this time, she has become more concerned about her health in older age. Indeed, after retirement Julie noticed she had gained weight over the years. She feels retirement allowed her to take steps to manage her weight, “you need space in your life to sort of see what’s happening”.
In addition to diabetes, Julie has developed stomach problems in recent years. This prompted Julie to cut down on certain foods, including dairy, fats and carbohydrates. Although she was losing weight slowly, Julie was still tempted by unhealthy snacks. After getting a referral from her GP, Julie went to a weight management group. Although she doesn’t always find the classes helpful, they encourage her to remain disciplined, “I just needed that, someone to tell me not to do it”. Julie’s diet now includes vegetables, fruit, pulses, lean meats, and eggs. Julie has the occasional biscuit or chocolate, but when she fancies something sweet tends to opt for fresh fruit, or crispbreads with low sugar jam. Julie tries to avoid buying unhealthy foods, and eating out, as she knows this will “break my control”. When she does go to restaurants, Julie eats something beforehand to help her willpower. Julie also finds that keeping fresh, healthy food in the house makes it easier to avoid unhealthy options. Julie tries to exercise for around an hour a day, walking, swimming, and doing weights at home.
Julie has found it easier to maintain a healthy diet since living alone, “I don’t have to cook for other people”. Indeed, Julie has lost some weight over the months, and has been told her diabetes is now well controlled. Julie feels more confident in her clothes, and more mobile, “from the vanity point of view it’s rewarding but from the mere physical freedom point of view of being able to move more easily…It’s just that freedom that I enjoy so much”.
Julie has not received professional support around her weight, and in the past has questioned advice offered by healthcare professionals around her diabetes and her diet. Julie encourages healthcare professionals to tailor support to the individual, “I think you need to really sort of understand the person’s problems and lifestyle and because what will suit one, won’t fit the other”. Whilst Julie feels the availability of carbohydrates and sweet foods has contributed to weight problems in society, she is also concerned about the pressures on people that lead to weight gain, “some people haven’t got enough money to spend on things. Others have got emotional problems”. Julie feels weight loss must, “come from within”, “start to be aware and start to think of it as a puzzle and how can you solve that puzzle”.
Julie feels her health and her weight are now largely under control, “as long as I keep eating… low fat, that controls my weight and as long as I keep eating very low carbohydrate, that controls my diabetes”. However, Julie remains motivated to lose more weight in the future due to health concerns “I’ve seen what happens if you don’t take care of your health if you’re diabetic”.
Julie has had the time to work out what her weaknesses are and develop coping mechanisms. Avoiding temptation is key for her.
So I think it’s it is, you know, you have to be very, you have to be aware of nutrition, but you also have to be willing to actually follow the path and that takes I live alone, I can do that. I’m not tempted. I don’t have to cook for other people. I find it much easier living alone being able to control my health than I ever did when I was married and had kids, you know, and all this sort of stuff. I don’t, I purposefully don’t go out to eat a lot. I never arrange to meet friends at a, at a restaurant, you know, going out to eat is not one of my pleasures in life because I know it’s going to break my control.
So, it does happen, and I do it and I do break my control, but I know that that is a danger spot, so I don’t do it. And I think it’s also knowing your, knowing what your weaknesses are, knowing that you are going and not saying, “Oh I’m going to try not to have…” No, you will have it. I will. If I go out to eat, I will have a pudding, I know that. So, don’t, there’s no good trying to tell me, talk myself into the fact that I’m not going to have it. The best thing is not to go to the restaurant in the first place, you know.
You, you must accept, I think. I have accepted that where my weakness, I know where my weaknesses are. I know when I go to my writing group and they have a, a big tray of biscuits, I’m going to eat three of those biscuits, no problem. They’re going to go whoosh down like this. But I know that. But I know that that’s the only place I go in the month where that’s going to happen. I don’t, I know I don’t do that, if I, if I was going to a place like that every night then I would have to revise your thinking, you know. I couldn’t, I’d have to say, “No thanks.”
Or I always make sure before I go, if I’m going somewhere, if I’m going out to eat, I actually make sure I’ve had a meal before I go, so that I won’t be that hungry.
I won’t tell anyone. I’ll just say, “Oh, I think I’ll just have a little starter tonight, you know, or something like that.” But I make my own arrangements because I know what, what I’m like.
Okay, so no that’s very good because those are your rules in order to, to control your weight, maintain healthy weight.
Yes. I think you need to find out what your weaknesses are and be prepared to cope and find coping mechanisms. But I’ve only been able to do that since I’ve been retired because I’ve had the space to think and realise what’s happening. I never had that space when I was working and busy.
So and also, I’m probably less inclined when you’re working and constantly with people and everything. When I’m retired, I’m spending a lot more time on my own, so I’ve got this space to make rules and to, and to experiment as well, you know.
Julie describes the physical and emotional boost of losing weight.
And then see, you know, you weigh yourself or you feel better, or you don’t feel so full or, you know, your clothes fit a bit better or something. And the strange thing is although I’ve lost quite a bit of weight I’m still wearing the same dress, still wearing the same size clothes. They’re fitting me looser, but I’m still wearing the same size clothes. I can get into a smaller size now, but I’ve got used to enjoying having all that extra. I’m so pleased to put on a dress and find there’s all this extra space that I don’t want to go down to a smaller size. It sort of, it, it gives me a great boost to see my clothes loose, you know, [laughs] not fitting properly.
That’s very interesting.
Yes, rather than go down to a smaller size, I’m, which is maybe just fits right and maybe makes me feel a bit, you know, ‘Oh and perhaps I should lose a bit of weight,’ I’ve put on my big clothes that I’ve worn and they’re big and then I can see, oh gosh you look so much, you feel so much better and you feel better when you lose weight. You can move better. I walk faster. If feel, I don’t feel so, you know, it’s such an effort. You realise after you’ve lost weight, God it was such an effort with all that weight, walking from a to b. You don’t realise what an effort it is when you’ve got extra weight on you. It’s only when you lose it that you realise how you can walk more freely. You can feel your hips moving when you walk. Not just your knees wobbling along, you know. It, it’s the whole feeling of, and that feeling, I enjoy that feeling. I find that very rewarding, just that feeling of being upright and pulling, you know, having a stomach that doesn’t stick out and I always used to look, and my stomach always stuck out further than my bust and now when I stand up it doesn’t. My bust sticks out more and its little things like that that are rewarding for me I mean from the vanity point of view it’s rewarding but from the mere physical freedom point of view of being, of being able to move more easily. Feel my hips move as I walk, instead of just wobbling along on my knees. It’s just that freedom that I enjoy so much.
So there is a kind of emotional boost?
Since losing weight, Julie no longer feels so self-conscious about her appearance.
So there is a kind of emotional boost?
There is a reward regarding your self esteem and…
Yes. Regarding my self-esteem, I’m not so self-conscious. I know now that if I walk into a room I’m just, I’m fairly normal. I don’t have to sort of put necessarily pull my cardigan tighter or pull my jumper further down or I don’t have to sort of check my reflection and think, ‘Oh, you know…’ I’m just normal. I don’t have to think about those things. I’m just, don’t have to think. I can go into a room and talk to you or talk to anybody and not think about those things because those little things if you’re not confident they do come into your mind. So that’s one reward is not being self-conscious, but mainly because I, I like physical activity it’s the freedom of being able to move more easily, to feel my body moving as I walk. To feel that I, you know, it, it’s just the freedom of not having all that weight round me. It’s like taking off. It’s like you being in a, in a big suit that stopped you from moving and suddenly and now you’ve taken off that suit. You’ve put it over one side, that big rubbery suit and now you can move.
So it’s the body movement that you feel…
It’s the body movement particularly that is rewarding for me, losing weight. Being able to cross my legs and finding it’s quite comfortable instead of, like, you know, when you’ve got fat legs or whatever. But that I feel really comfortable, you know, my knees, one comes over the other. It’s little things, that’s one little thing that I find rewarding. So it’s, it’s, it’s the bodily movements that I find very rewarding.
Julie did not find the group very supportive when she was struggling to lose weight
I’ve never sought any support and I’ve never got any support. I’m not sure, I mean apart from going to slimming groups which they’re not always that supportive when you say that you’ve really gone at everything you should have done and you haven’t lost any weight or you’ve only lost half a pound, they lose interest. They’d rather talk to the person who’s lost four pounds that week than the person who’s tried really hard and not lost anything because there’s nothing they can do and there’s nothing they can suggest.
I was losing half a pound, where everybody else was losing two or three and still, you know, they’d come to the class and say, “Oh, I was so naughty this week. I ate this, and I ate that, and I went out to eat and the thing, and I’ve lost four pounds.’ And I would say, “Well, I haven’t eaten all that. I’ve just had proper food. I haven’t had any potato. I haven’t had this. I haven’t had sweets. I’ve lost half a pound.” And, you know, they’d lose interest in you because, well, that’s not so exciting is it. So I don’t find them especially helpful. They’re only helpful in what I can get out of them not what they give me. It’s what I take from it. They don’t give me anything except, you know, for me it’s, it’s it helps my discipline but I haven’t had any support really, no.
Julie would have liked a more personalised and specialist approach than the weight management programme could provide.
I think having sort of someone to talk to about what I’ve eaten and how I’ve felt or whatever would be perhaps a way forward. I don’t always, I don’t always find the group help, it only goes so far because I mean my problems are different from the next persons and, which are different from the other persons, so there’s not time to go into, into depth about what you’re eating and why you’re eating it or, or whether I would be better to eat something else because, but you’ve also got to take into account what you like and enjoy. I’m not one for eating things because they’re, because they’re healthy and I don’t like them. You know, I like to, I enjoy my food so I like…..
But, you see, I’ve cut out things like gravy’s and I look on ingredients all the time to see what’s in food.
Okay, so you would like sort of a one to one with someone who can give you, tailor more,…
Yes, yes, yes…...
...tailor made advice.
…..and perhaps be somebody who knows about nutrition, knows about health. Knows about my conditions, my diabetes and recognises my need for low carbohydrate and, you see, when I went to Slimming World, the advice they gave to diabetics as well, just eat the, the non carbohydrate foods, but there was nothing to show you how to make something different or nice with, without carbohydrate. You know, there was no, I didn’t find any recipes that were specifically without carbohydrate.
Julie doesn’t really talk to anybody about her successful weight loss because she thinks they find it boring, or it makes them feel awkward if they are overweight.
Okay and do you talk to friends or family about what you are doing in terms of diet, maintaining and health….?
No, because nobody seems especially interested and it’s such a bore isn’t it meeting people and saying, “Oh well I’ve done this and I’ve eaten this,…” [makes snoring sound].
So, talking to my daughter well it’s like, “Oh stop nagging mum,” you know. Because obviously if I tell what I’m doing she’ll, that’s boring for her as well because that’s not on her list of dos and it’s not on her shopping list. So, it’s like, “Oh, mum do stop going on,” you know. So no I don’t talk to other, I sometimes talk to my sisters about it, occasionally. But I don’t like to talk too much about it because they don’t seem to have the same discipline as me and it makes them feel a bit awkward.
You know, like I talk to my sister the other day and I said, “Well, I’ll be out walking and I’ll probably being doing this, doing…” She said, “Oh, oh I sometimes feel like going for a walk and I can’t be bothered,” you know, and I feel as though I’m almost sort of bragging a bit or putting, making them feel awkward, so I don’t talk about it. Don’t talk about my weight or anything or their weight because I know they’re much heavier than me. So I don’t want to make them feel awkward.
So, I don’t really talk to anybody about it, no.
Rather than offering general diet lists, Julie thinks healthcare professionals should tailor weight management advice to the person’s preferences and family circumstances.
Okay and do you have any messages for health care professionals…
[Laughs] Oh, oh, oh.
…who want to help people with weight control?
Well, I think that they, they need to, it needs to be more personal rather than rules and, and regulations. I think you need to really sort of understand the person’s problems and lifestyle and because what will fit suit one, won’t fit the other. I live alone, what suits me won’t suit somebody who’s got three small children and they’re busy, and goes to work full time. So, I think that health professionals need to tailor their advice to the person involved and not have general rules.
I mean, the thing that annoys me is you go, you go to your health professional and they give you a diet sheet or they give you a list of foods and they say, “You can eat those, but you can’t eat those. You can’t….” It’s kind of, then you go away with this sheet and you think, ‘Oh, well, I don’t like that, you know, I’m not sure I like that,’ or ‘how am I going to cook this?’ or, or ‘how am I going to have that for myself and what shall I have for my children?’ I just think that it’s too generalized. I think that people need to be dealt with on an individual basis.