At the age of 9, I was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that on average 1 in 2,000 women live with. Although characterized by short stature and infertility, more uncommon characteristics of the disease include overweight or obesity.
You may be wondering how so?
One-third of all women with Turner syndrome are known to have an underactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism is characterised by a lack of hormone production, which slows the metabolism and can cause weight gain. Women living with Turner Syndrome are also at increased risk of developing type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Given that obesity is a key risk factor for diabetes, perhaps the most important, we have to make a more conscious effort’ to sustain healthy eating habits and to engage in physical activity (yoga, cycling, walking) on a regular, even daily basis.
How successful has my journey been so far?
My efforts to sustain a healthy weight have proved effective so far, and easier in my adult years perhaps. I cannot say, however, that the journey has been easy. As a child, I experienced stigma and discrimination for my height compared to peers. This not only affected my mental health but significantly impacted my relationship with food during my adolescent years. My weight fluctuated, and at times to an extent where I was even medically classified as ‘underweight’.
And my takeaway message:
The roots of obesity run deep. Although less acknowledged, genes can account for 40-70% of our risk of developing obesity. Genetic conditions even if not directly linked to weight gain, can influence one’s susceptibility to develop obesity indirectly by increasing the risk factors for the disease. Not only this, the sheer mental health consequences, and stigma one experiences can have significant consequences on one’s perception of body image and relationship with food.
I am very fortunate to have had excellent access to medical care here in the UK. Let us protect and raise awareness for women who go undiagnosed. Women often live without knowing they have Turner Syndrome, sometimes until they try to conceive. Even more so, the diagnostic procedure is incredibly complex, requiring a process of karyotyping, heart scans, blood checks, ultrasounds, and more. How many women in low-and-middle-income-countries (LMICs) are going undiagnosed, let alone where I live?
Perhaps you have not even heard of Turner Syndrome before?
The priority: we must educate and break the stigma around weight and height to protect our future generation.
‘Just eat less and move more’ - Living with obesity since early childhood, I heard this countless times. Unfortunately, as millions know, this is often not the case. My body seemed to resist weight loss at a certain point and the weight came back without fail. It was like waging a war with my own body.
Despite being a healthcare professional, advice from colleagues or senior physicians was always just ‘eat less, move more’. Help finally came through bariatric surgery. Lifestyle transformation becomes possible when your body isn't resisting your effort. I lost a portion of my stomach but gained back my life and health.
I've dedicated my career to helping patients with obesity to get evidence-based treatment for their individual needs. I also hope to educate my fellow health professionals to better support people with obesity. After years of delay, I finally got the treatment my problem required. I strive to ensure that my patients experience better.
My name is Grace and I'm a Registered Nurse. I have a high BMI and suffer from a few medical conditions. I am so privileged to have the support of my GP, Dietician and Practice Nurse who got me into a 3-month nutrition programme as well as muscle toning and bone strengthening sessions with the physios. I have also discovered the art of Choi Kwang Do. The style relies more on flexibility and fluidity of movement as opposed to the more rigid lines of some other martial arts. Although physical exercise is not the only factor, I thoroughly enjoy my training. It's important to gain that support around you in order to find the most suitable plan to tackle obesity, reduce your health risks and overall improve your wellbeing.
" In this age of internet and mass media there is so much information available on diet, fitness, and weight loss that it is difficult to know what is the truth. Everyday there is some new study available which contradicts our previous beliefs and understanding about losing weight. Every other day a new book is written propounding a new idea as the final breakthrough in weight loss. What people fail to understand is that obesity and weight gain is a complex process with multifactorial causes. There is no single method or diet to lose weight. Any successful approach to weight loss and specifically fat loss involves a combined use of multiple principles and strategies. At the same time these efforts should not be so complicated that they consume all our time and cannot be followed for long. Everyone knows that they have to eat less and exercise more to lose weight, yet very few people are able to do it. The problem is more a psychological and behavioral one, with genetics and environment adding to it." - from my book '100 Rules of Fat Loss' Working as a Weight Loss Physician (SCOPE certified) in Dubai this has been my main focus - to psychologically prepare my patients to lose weight. After evaluation, risk assessment, treating medical conditions, diet modifications and exercise, getting over mental hurdles takes most of my sessions and results in a high success rate. Physicians involved in treating Obesity should never neglect this aspect of treatment.
Hello, I'm Glenda, a blogger from São Paulo in Brazil. I am 36 years old and my weight gain was progressive after an episode of physical aggression. I have lived with obesity since I was 23.
Through my experience I seek to inspire and influence women to love themselves as they are. My body acceptance process was long and difficult, but I learned to love myself, respect my limits and understand that happiness exists within me regardless of my body size.
I faced several challenges after gaining weight: getting a job, breaking chairs, not fitting in post-graduate desks, not finding clothes, having difficulty doing a tomography and living with judgmental glances.
For years I have been battling obesity in every way: fad diets, exercise, medication and I have not been successful with any treatment so far.
Unfortunately obesity is gradually bringing some physical consequences and I reached my limit at 170kg.
It has been very difficult to get around and perform simple everyday tasks and I recently discovered that I am pre-diabetic, with unregulated cholesterol levels and a herniated disc.
At this time I have been looking for more effective forms of control and I already consider bariatric surgery as an option.
As a little girl, I was never really aware of my weight, it wasn't an issue, but becoming a victim of bullying from virtually the first day I arrived at High School, meant I rapidly lost my self-confidence and turned to 'comfort' food as a way of dealing with it. The pattern continued throughout my teens, early adulthood, and well into my married life. There were periods where I was more in control, but I never really dealt with it and it could raise its head at any time. Of course, I tried diets, but they never worked - or should I say, I was never able to stick to them before something got in the way and the old habits returned. Then, in 2003, one of my older sisters took her own life, because her own battles with weight were just too much for her. After I'd come to terms with her loss, I found myself thinking that I needed to get control of my own issues and so I joined a weight-loss organisation to seek help.
At first, it worked - I did lose weight, eventually over 4 stone - I was so excited, thinking I'd finally solved the problem. But gradually, my weight began to creep back on and after experiencing family trauma old habits returned with a vengeance and so did the weight. Willpower would never be enough because it only ever works when life is going smoothly - as soon as anything rocks the boat; eating habits come back and with them, comes the guilt and shame. And each time it happens, it takes a little bit longer before you can gather the strength to try again. Worse still, you're surrounded by magazine articles, newspaper reports, and television documentaries telling you that obesity is on the rise; advertising diet after diet; hearing people say 'all you need to do is eat less and move more'; while inside, you're feeling like a total failure. It's devastating. But, as I saw what had been going on in my own life, and discovered that I could change how I felt by tackling the emotions and events that had destroyed my sense of self-worth, I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Little by little, I began to believe in myself again - and to love myself, maybe for the first time. And, as my self-belief grew, so did my confidence, and I began to enjoy looking after my body by giving it what it really needed. I am excited to see the difference it's making - excited to see others being set free from the desperate burden of guilt and shame they've been carrying, many of them for decades. I long to get this message out there - and I will do everything in my power to do so.
A story about my work as a counsellor working with people living with obesity.
One of my first jobs after leaving school was working in a bookshop. I look back on those days and it reminds me of how dangerous it is to make assumptions about people. I had a fertile imagination and I noticed within the five or ten minutes of an interaction with a customer I had made all sorts of assumptions. For example a lady may have put out her hand to pay. Perhaps she was wearing a sparkly diamond on her prettily painted finger. From that brief and superficial interaction I had painted a picture of her entire life. I visualized what her husband or partner looked like, what type of car they drove, what the interior of their house looks like, the type of furniture they liked, the food they ate, how many children they had or were going to have, the type of pet dog they had, the sort of holidays they had. I had decided because she had a wedding ring on she felt loved, desirable and happy.
Now of course in reality I knew absolutely nothing about this lady. And it was of course silly of me to assume I knew anything at all about her. I sincerely hope she was happy and loved but it is possible she may have felt lonely or was abused. When it comes to people living with obesity they are vulnerable to assumptions made by their loved ones, the professionals they see, the media, and even strangers on the street. Tragically these assumptions are not kept private. They are often articulated and leveled at the person. The assumptions made are endless. They might be that the person eats too much, that they are lazy, that all they have to do is move a bit, that they have no self-control. They are told that their obesity is the cause of all their problems and the list goes on and on. These assumptions are usually, reckless, uneducated and factually incorrect. Even when they are made with best intentions they often are hurtful and wrong. What do we really know about someone's life and who they are if they haven't told us? If we do not put aside our own issues, judgments and assumptions we miss out on being able to really help our client and be there for them.
It is not for us to judge or assume anything. We have no idea if someone has suffered trauma, sexual assault, extreme abuse, childhood illness, immense loss and grief, or an illness that contributes to obesity. We don't know about the family interactions, the thinking styles of the person, we no nothing of their internal world no matter what we see superficially by their appearance. It is our role to keep our clients safe, hear their story, suspend all judgment and then we can work together to see how we can make things feel better for them. Just like my customers with the pretty painted nails and sparkly diamonds. I wouldn't have had a clue about her life. When working with people struggling with their weight it is essential I begin by assuming absolutely nothing about them and learn from them how I can best help them.
As a General Practice Doctor, for a number of years I ran a private clinic in my own home. However, after taking on a consulting role for an international slimming company,I had the opportunity to attend the International Obesity Congress abroad. There I met experts and was exposed to scientific developments in obesity. Although I had not previously specialised in obesity, I became interested in the field. As a general practitioner, I had little understanding of obesity, but I came to recognise how important it is that all medical professionals are educated in the science of obesity. I wanted to expand my education so I became certified SCOPE Health Professional through World Obesity Federation. I have since moved permanently into obesity medicine and have published two scientific studies into innovative approaches to managing obesity.
At 36 years old, I work at a creative agency, am a mom of four and I volunteer as a Patient Advocate on obesity. My experience of obesity didn't begin until I first became pregnant. I gained almost 100 pounds during my pregnancy, but assumed that it would be easy to return to my pre-pregnancy body. However, I suffered with severe postpartum depression, and medication, minimal energy and lack of sleep contributed to continued to gain weight.
I had never had issues with my weight before and I believed that if I just tried harder, I would be successful. I took part in every weight-loss craze available, but each time weight would go back on. Visiting my doctor, I was always told just 'eat less, move more' - Each time I heard these words I instantly felt like a failure.
It took a conversation with a trained nurse and diabetic educator to change my attidude, helping me understand that obesity is a disease not an aesthetic issue. By speaking to the right people, I understood about the different options available for managing and treating obesity. I now have a professional support team who listen and encourage me, and this has empowered me to take the next step on my journey to health and wellbeing.
My experience of obesity began in my childhood. Coming from a poor background I was brought up in environments full of carbs, where healthy food was considered expensive. Our built-up neighborhood had little space for activities, and poverty and poor eating meant I rapidly gained weight.
Growing up, I didn't face stigma. Instead, in Kenyan culture, I was considered healthy and these myths around obesity cushioned me. However, as a teenager, I began to notice my body. I started focussing on healthy food and physical exercise. Initially I was discouraged when I didn't lose weight as I'd expected, but at university, I discovered a love for body building and developed a successful project focussing on being fit, rather than slim. I am now pursuing a Masters degree in global health. I advocate for improved obesity education and healthy environments that help people focus on factors that may be within their own control, rather than have to manage obesity and stigma alone.