Two adult women looking at each other
© Obesity Canada

The author of this story chose to remain anonymous and the image does not depict the author.

I am a 46 year old woman. I live alone in a unit in Mt Hawthorn. I have 3 adult children that I am incredibly proud of and I have an interest in gardening, shopping and going to cafes with my partner. I also enjoy meditation and mindfulness.

I would like to help others or help others on their journey as I have lived experience. I want to have a say in improving the system regarding health, mental health and drug and alcohol issues. I am now in continual recovery as I believe recovery is life long and needs to be tended to on a daily basis. I wish to give back, learn and study more about these issues affecting people’s lives.

My weight journey

I’ve had a weight problem for much of my life since I was about 8 or 9 years old. I was placed on diets repeatedly and I repeatedly failed much to the annoyance of my mother who was very strict on my weight. I was often punished for gaining weight. (I have since made peace with my mother). This started a lifelong cycle of diets, binging, dieting again, extreme weight loss, extreme weight gain, Hospitalisation at my lowest weight for bulimia and extreme weight gain presently and because of my age I am seeing now what this lifetime of extremes has done to my health. I have many physical ailments that now include a very low metabolism, diabetes and back and joint pain. My life has completely been dominated by my weight and the severe mental health issues and family and relationship loss that come with this type of illness and addiction.

I have always felt not worthy and perfect like the women that you see in magazines and movies and I blamed myself entirely for not looking like them and getting a boyfriend. Even at my lowest weight I still felt this way. Because of these intense issues and as a way to control my weight and to get a break from my emotions, I took up drugs and alcohol. This has had a devastating effect on all my relationships with my family including my children.

My experience with the health system

My experience with the health system has not entirely been a negative one, although I have seen my medical notes once and I was described as an obese woman when I wasn’t presenting to the hospital for anything to do with weight related issues. I’m not sure what people have written in my notes over the years, though recently a radiologist wrote to my GP to say that she could not complete the scan she was doing because I was too fat! Also, when presenting at the doctor everything is ALWAYS weight related even if I’m only there for a cold.

In general my experience with health workers and hospital has been reasonable and my current GP that I’ve been seeing for 8 years now is excellent. I think most health care workers do want to help but I also tend to close myself off to shield myself so it’s possible that there is a lot of stigma that I miss. There is A LOT of stigma in the community and the media. I’m also very sensitive and do take things the wrong way.

I think the health system needs to look at the whole individual person, not just another obese statistic. Overweight people are human with many complexities in their lives just like everyone else and deserve to be treated as such and not to be made to feel ashamed, outcast or an object of ridicule and blame. No one knows what each of us has been through.

Obviously looking at the whole person sitting in front of the health care worker and really getting to know what’s really going on for the person whether this is physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, added stress, anxiety, relationships, mental health, spirituality, sexuality, community connection and therapies etc. Addressing these issues as a whole package instead of shaming and sending them off with pills and yet another diet would be very helpful to the individual. The whole media and advertising sector needs to change their standards also. Food is just food, the way an obese person eats and uses food are very complex ranging from addictive, emotional or physical ill health that can make them the way they are and shouldn’t be made to feel that they must hide away. For me poverty and isolation is an addictions best friend.

How I feel about my weight and the way it impacts me now

I hate being the weight I am now. It impacts my life each and every day from the minute I wake up until I go to bed at night. It is exhausting. As I live alone, I shun most relationships still and avoid going out although not as much I used to before my recovery started.

I have been very ill with depression and once lost all hope until I realised I did not want to die this way. I stumbled across some help and since then I’ve been on my recovery and self-journey which has been very long, but worthwhile. I do feel mostly at peace with myself now though and working hard within my relationships. I’m also with the NDIS and have two support workers who I see regularly. I still engage in the weight loss / and binging cycle, but I’m definitely not as hard on myself as I once was with a lot of prayer and spiritual work.