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Myra

Age at interview: 65
Brief Outline: Myra has always struggled with her weight. She suffers from several health conditions, which have affected her weight. Several years ago, Myra lost 4 stone for an operation after joining a weight loss support group, through changing her diet and avoiding certain foods. Although Myra has since gained a stone, she hopes to continue to lose weight for health reasons and to feel more confident in her appearance.
Background: Myra is 65 and is a retired librarian. She is white British.

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Myra has always struggled with her weight, which has made her feel tired, breathless, and unconfident in her appearance. Myra suffers from several health conditions, including endometriosis, pheochromacytoma, osteoarthritis and abdominal hernias. She has also had breast cancer in the past, as well as knee and hip replacements. Myra feels some of the treatments she has undergone, including hormonal treatments, chemotherapy, and steroids, have contributed to her weight problems. Before her hernia operation, Myra was told by her doctor that she needed to lose 4 stone. Myra joined a weight management group, and motivated by her health, lost this weight, “I think when you’ve got an impetus and a real goal of, you’ve got to do it otherwise, you know, this surgery wasn’t going to happen, I found I really could do it”. Myra has since put on a stone, but has otherwise maintained her weight loss.

Myra’s eating habits have changed since she started losing weight. She eats lots of fruit and vegetables, and avoids too much bread and fat when cooking. She cooks meals in bulk, and freezes leftovers. Myra also finds using a smaller plate helps her reduce her portion sizes, and when eating out, tends to avoid desserts or cakes. Nonetheless, Myra has found it hard to maintain healthy eating patterns at times, as she enjoys sweet food, and sometimes comfort eats, “I am very aware that I can slip back into eating biscuits, eating cakes, eating chocolate and I think after this last surgery, you know, you just want things that are really easy”. Indeed, Myra finds it hard to avoid temptation when shopping, “If I didn’t buy them then I wouldn’t be able to eat them, and I tell myself that. But things creep into your basket, don’t they?” Myra has recently been inactive following her hip replacement. However, in the past she was a “keen walker”, and has enjoyed going to the gym. Myra hopes that she will be able to build up her exercise regime now she is in recovery.

Although in the past, Myra’s GP told her “it’s really easy to lose weight. You just have to eat less”, he has become more sympathetic over the years. Myra has also found the nurses in her practice have been supportive over her weight, but generally healthcare professionals have not offered her specific advice on how to manage it. Although Myra suggests eating habits have changed over the years, and unhealthy snacks and junk food are much more readily available, she feels other issues contribute to weight gain. She encourages healthcare professionals to discuss weight issues with patients, but also to be aware of the variety of reasons why people gain weight, “I think they need to understand that it’s not always easy and it’s not always as easy as just eating less. There’s more emotional stuff going on and that for some people it’s quite painful talking about it”.

Myra hopes to continue losing weight to feel more confident in her appearance, and to improve her health, especially her osteoarthritis, “I’d like to just feel better about myself and, and also health-wise, I mean it’s really important isn’t it”. Myra recommends that other people struggling with their weight try weight management groups, “you can’t do it on your own… most people I think would find going to some sort of group helpful because you get a huge amount of support and, not only from the leaders but from other people who are going through the same thing as you”.
 

For Myra, Endometriosis led to weight gain while a condition called Pheochromacytoma led to weight loss.

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I was really healthy until I was about thirty and then I had some gynaecological problems and they discovered I’d got endometriosis. I mean, I have always struggled with my weight to a degree. Very sweet tooth, you know, comfort eating. All the usual things. [m] But they discovered I’d got endometriosis and that involved sort of all sort of hormonal treatments which weren’t very nice and that, I think that probably had an effect on my weight. I had, later on, I had breast cancer and had to have chemotherapy which was really hard and I think that probably, I think that probably, I think the chemo if I remember rightly I did, did put on weight because you don’t know what you want to eat, and you just feel sick, so you just eat, probably eat all the wrong things.

In, about ten years ago, they discovered I’d got a really rare condition called Pheochromacytoma which is difficult to say, and I had to have both of my adrenal glands removed. Prior to being diagnosed, I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly able to control my weight and it was really, I was really not having a problem and it was because the, the glands, the tumours were producing loads of adrenaline, so I was just on a, on a high and really, and, you know, so my body was really going at 90 miles an hour. And my weight was really good, you know, and I had other, all sorts of, I used to get really, really hot and really, horrible effects but my weight was really good.

 

Myra was told that she needed to lose four stone, which she achieved, before having a hernia operation.

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When I had the surgery for the hernias, the doctor then, I think because it was a very expensive operation and they really had to make sure you were totally committed to it, they, he said to me, “You need to lose four stone.” And that was about three years ago, and I joined Slimming World and did it, did, lost four stone and I’ve lost, I’ve made, and I think when you’ve got an impetus and a real goal of, you’ve got to do it otherwise, you know, this surgery wasn’t going to happen, I found I really could do it, you know. Really stuck to the diet.

 

Slimming World encourages portion control and allows some ‘treats’. Writing down what she eats, filling up on fruit and veg and using bowls instead of dinner plates have helped Myra to lose weight.

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I find it quite helpful sometimes to write things down what I’m eating and you have things in Slimming World called, ‘Syns.’ I can’t remember quite what it stands for, so you’re allowed a few treats. If you write them down that’s really helpful because you, otherwise you forget that you’ve had your treat this morning and have it again in the evening.

Okay.

If you’ve written it down, you know, ‘Oh yes, I’ve, I’ve had that,’ you know.

So, it’s kind of limiting how many treats you can have.

That’s right, yes.

Anything else?

I think I think, those sort of having, filling up on, on fruit and veg and stuff like that.

Okay.

Making sure you have, because in some ways when you, I, when you’ve had a plate full of food, if half of it’s fruit and veg, veg then you’re as full as if you’ve eaten, you know, other things, so, I think the fruit and veg really helps.

Okay, do you have a portion plate, or did you have a portion plate?

Yeah, I, I mean, I tend to use pasta bowls actually because I think you eat slightly less if you have that rather than a big, big dinner plate  and then, you know, because they reckon at Slimming World that you should have a third of your plate as fruit and veg, well I probably have more like half actually. I tend to pile the fruit and veg, pile the veg on. So, I think, you know, portion control is quite important, and I think having a small, slighter smaller plate is, is helpful, yeah.

 

The first time Myra went to Slimming World, she weighed nearly 20 stone. She felt encouraged and inspired by the success stories of other group members and the group leader.

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Nearly twenty stone, okay.

Which wasn’t a nice place to be. I never, the thing that really helped me, the first time I went to Slimming World, I got on the scales and I said, ‘Oh that’s absolutely awful,’ and she said, “Myra, don’t worry, you’ll never be that weight again,” and I just found that so encouraging and I haven’t been. I’ve never got anywhere near that again, you know, and I won’t, you know, I won’t.

I mean it really helps that in the, in the group I go to, there are, there are people who’ve lost seven stone and who look absolutely wonderful and that is an encouragement, you know, and I think you get as much encouragement from the other participants, participants that you do from the group leader because they’re just, it’s just such a lovely group of people, you know, mainly ladies. You get the odd brave gentleman who ventures in [laughs].

 

Although Myra doesn’t talk to her family much about her weight, she has a good group of friends who are really supportive.

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Can you talk to friends and family about issues to do with weight?

Friends. Not, not so much family. I do to my sister a bit, but I think she thinks, ‘Oh Myra just eats too much.’ Because her attitude to food is so different to mine, but friends, yes, yes. My friend who’s lost three stone is ever so helpful and ever so supportive and she said to me recently, she said, “Look, Myra, don’t beat yourself up if you’ve put a few pounds on after having a hip done because, you know, it, a) the hip is probably heavier than the one they took out [laughs]…

Yeah.

…..but also you’ve been inactive and recovering.”

 

Myra finds the special interest Facebook support groups, including one for people with hip replacements, helpful in general, but not for diet and weight issues.

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Yeah, well certainly medical stuff I do. I mean people laugh and talk about, ‘Dr Google,’ don’t they, but I think it’s quite helpful. I do, I do, yeah.

Which type of websites?

One thing that I found really helpful which not, about, about medical things and probably weight as well is some of the Facebook support groups.

Ah, okay.

There’s one I found for people who’ve had hip replacements which I found really helpful because it gave you all sorts of useful information before you go in for it, the sort of stuff you’d need when you come home.

And also with the adrenal tumours, it’s so rare that the changes of finding anybody else and meeting anybody else who’d had it is almost nil. But on, on Facebook you find people who have the same issues as you, and yeah, I haven’t particularly used it for diet but for health issues, yeah.

Okay and you sort of kind of chat, do you?

Well people put, you know, often put something on and people come back and say, “Oh yes I’ve had that problem,” and yeah.

 

Myra finds the nurses at the surgery really helpful and has found her GP encouraging in relation to her weight before she had her hip surgery.

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I think actually the nurses at the surgery are really helpful. I mean the GP, he’s so busy isn’t he and he tends to deal with the thing and we have had conversations about weight and he’s, he is very helpful now actually.

In which ways?

Encouraging and saying, before I went in for my hip, he said, “Look, just try and because they said they were happy to do my surgery the weight I was, but if I could lose a little bit more and I did lose a few pounds, you know. He said, “Well why don’t you just really concentrate on it until you go into hospital,” and, you know, he tries. But I think the nurses have a bit more time and they do, they do referrals to Slimming World and Weight Watchers, so you get a few weeks free.

They were the ones who referred you to start with?

Yes, I think it was actually. Yes, it was Slimming World. Yes, I got my first twelve weeks I think free which is, you know, a great help, you know.

 

Myra suggests going to a group where you can get support from others who are going through the same thing as you.

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What would you like to say to people who are interested in losing weight?

I think, I think I’d say you can’t do it on your own and that you really need to, most people I think would find going to some sort of group helpful because you get a huge amount of support and, not only from the leaders but from other people who are going through the same thing as you and you don’t feel quite such a freak, you know.

Okay.

And I think people are frightened that you’re going to be, your weight is going to be read out in front of everybody and you’re going to be harangued if you haven’t lost weight and it’s, it’s not like that at all.

No?

I know it’s not everybody’s thing, you know, but, you know, the lady who runs our group says that if you if you’ve, you know, if you’ve had a bad week, she won’t let you go home until she’s made you think positively and think what you can do to turn things round and I think that’s really important, you know.

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