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Ria

Age at interview: 73
Brief Outline: Ria was a healthy weight until her 40s. She gained weight drastically after the death of her son, where she began binge-eating as a source of comfort. Ria has several health conditions, which have been related to or affected by her weight, including type 2 diabetes, blood pressure problems, and depression. Ria feels that dealing with obesity requires health professionals to consider new approaches, and emphasizes the importance of education.
Background: Ria is 73 and has 2 adult children. She is a retired probation officer and is white British.

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Ria was “relatively slim” until her 40s. She had a busy lifestyle, and didn’t have to diet. With the menopause, Ria started gaining weight, and after going up a dress size, decided to diet. Shortly after this, Ria’s son was killed in a motorbike accident. In the 6 months after his death, she gained 3 stone by binge-eating as a source of comfort, “I have become almost addicted to food, and I wasn’t before. And I think that that is the crux of the thing”. Ria suffers from several health conditions, which have been related to or affected by her weight, including type 2 diabetes, blood pressure problems and depression. Indeed, Ria is aware that carrying weight around her middle can put strain on her organs. Although her weight gain has also made her feel conscious of her body image, concerns over her health are the main reason Ria wants to lose weight.

Ria has tried many strategies to lose weight in recent years, including going to a clinic for people with eating disorders, dieting, and joining slimming clubs. One successful diet Ria managed to follow was a regime where she took supplements and reduced her carbohydrate and sugar consumption. She did this to manage her non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition she developed as a result of her weight gain. Similarly, Ria was motivated to try alternative methods of losing weight after her diabetes diagnosis, “I was absolutely horrified.  And they implied that you were kind of stuck with it… And I was thinking, 'Well, if your body's kind of produced that, surely it can get rid of it again’”. In order to try and control her condition, Ria went to a vegan health retreat. Here, she lost 17 pounds in 3 weeks, and felt healthier physically and mentally. Although she has kept off some of this weight, Ria has gained some back again, and feels she needs to lose 3 stone.

Dieting is hard for Ria because her weight gain is caused by binge-eating, which is difficult to manage, “I can do any diet at all during the day, and I would say I have quite a healthy diet… in an evening, watching the television, I start to get depressed and upset, feel lonely. I start to eat and I'll just eat and eat and eat”. Ria feels that if she stopped binge-eating, she would be a healthy weight. This is a struggle she deals with on a daily basis, “I don’t do it every evening. I have a battle every day, or nearly every day”. However, Ria has found that keeping off some of this weight has been easier since her mental health has improved, which has made her “less inclined to do evening bingeing”.

Ria feels that the obesity problems in the UK are caused by poverty, and a lack of education on nutrition. The availability of unhealthy food and culture of snacking also contributes to this. However, she questions whether GPs are in a good position to deal with weight issues, “you get the little bit of advice; referred to somebody else, or a prescription. You know, there's not a lot you can do in ten minutes is there?” Ria feels disappointed by the help she has received from healthcare professionals, “I don’t think I've had very much support really from the NHS”. In the past, a practice nurse offered her a diet sheet, but she would like to see an “ongoing service” offered to individuals. Ria suggests that “they need to rethink the whole sort of public health message”. The obesity levels in the UK should be treated by a new approach, modelled on a reduced carbohydrate diet, and underpinned by a group support program “to educate people as to what is actually going on in their bodies, then to give them the tools to deal with it”. However, where weight issues are caused by addiction, this is particularly difficult to deal with. Ria isn’t sure how she can lose weight successfully in the long term, “I've gone out there, I've done the research, I've read the books, I've bought the supplements, I've been to this, that and you know, I really have tried very hard, and it's still killing me”.
 

After losing her son in a motorbike accident, Ria put three stone on by binge eating.

After losing her son in a motorbike accident, Ria put three stone on by binge eating.

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So, there I am in 2010, I've decided to go on a diet because my daughter's getting married and, you know, this is all getting a bit too much. And on the June the thirtieth 2010, my son was killed in a motorbike accident.

Oh, sorry

Completely out of the blue – there one minute, not the next, yeah. In the six months after that I put three stone on by a sort of binge eating. And when I say binge eating – ludicrous things – you know, family sized tubs of ice cream in one evening. I used to eat Horlicks out of the jar with a spoon, and I could eat half a jar of Horlicks at one go, and it kind of made you feel sick, but I was never actually sick, so I didn’t have bulimia. I just had this binge eating thing.

 

Ria thought the diabetes course she was referred to was too basic for her level and she found the trainers patronising.

Ria thought the diabetes course she was referred to was too basic for her level and she found the trainers patronising.

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The other thing I did was I went... they sent me on a course called X-PERT patient.

Oh yes, yes

And it was absolutely dreadful.

Really?

Dreadful. There's a room full of people, most of whom had Type 2 diabetes, not Type 1.

Oh, you are Type 1?

No, Type 2

Oh OK

Most of whom are older, most of whom were overweight and unlikely to be doing much exercise I would think. During the break they offered us biscuits, and the two people who were the trainers were incredibly patronising, and I just... I went three times and I just could not cope with it anymore. They were holding things up saying, "These are..." something like, "This is pasta. Which of these is carbohydrate?" and somebody would say, "Oh, potatoes," and they'd say, "Brilliant" like that. Well, I have a Masters degree, and I did try to suggest that it was perhaps not being done in the right kind of way but…

Yes, it was appalling. But also, I didn’t feel... they were still talking about how having a certain amount of carbohydrate. I mean granted, they were talking about low GI and high GI, so you know, which a lot of people there didn’t know anything about. And I was thinking, you know, if you read that book you'd be far better informed than going to those classes.

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