Voices: I lost 10 stone – don’t shame people like me for choosing ‘drastic’ weight-loss methods
“Eat less. Move more”. This is the phrase that rings in my ears every time I see a new weight-loss product hit the market. It’s the well-worn phrase of the judgmental and the ignorant. As if it’s that simple.
I speak from experience. For my entire adult life, I struggled with obesity, going up to as much as a size 28. When you are that large, it comes to define you – both in your own mind, as you obsess over how to change, and for every interaction you have in life. Every visit to the shops, every seat on the plane, every interaction with other parents, every social event, and every work meeting – you know everyone sees you as the fat girl.
Three years ago, I had bariatric surgery; a tool which has allowed me to lose 10 stone to date. It changed my life in many ways. Like with all things, it wasn’t a miracle cure. It was simply the first rung on a ladder which I know I will be climbing for the rest of my life.
And now we hear talk of “the skinny jab” Ozempic, which is most commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. It’s a hit on TikTok and other social media; and is being touted by celebrities, triggering widespread demand for it. It contains semaglutide, which regulates blood sugar, and also induces both the feeling of fullness and a chemical revulsion to food. Wegovy, which contains the same active substance, is the latest version to hit the headlines. It’s even going to be made available on the NHS and via slimming programmes like WeightWatchers.
Ultimately, I think these drugs are promising – particularly the diabetes one. I’ve looked into it to explore if it might be suitable to help me on the road to my eventual target weight. And that isn’t anything to do with my needing to eat less and move more; I move a lot (I am running my second London Marathon in April); I eat well, but I still have weight to lose and this would support that.
The criticism and assumptions made about people who choose this kind of weight-loss technique frustrate me. Of course, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. But one of the first things that comes into my head is that meme of a queue of people (generally speaking: large, “lazy”-looking people) and there’s another queue next to it with only one person in the line. Above the bigger queue there’s a sign saying, “Pills, surgery, quick-fixes” and on the other side it says: “Hard work and dedication”.
When any of these sorts of drugs come out or come to the forefront, that’s the kind of thing people start circulating: those memes; to fat-shame and make people feel rubbish about needing to seek help. As if larger people didn’t already join one queue before they tried the other.
A previous study found that people who are given the drug (which comes as a weekly injection) saw their weight drop by 12 per cent on average after 68 weeks. That makes me think that if you’re really obese, these kinds of medications are not the best solution at all. If you’re 10 stone overweight, the amount of excess weight you’d lose is not enough to make a great impact in your weight loss journey; and surgery in those instances might be the best way to go about it.
There are no quick fixes. If there were, there would be no obesity problem and the author of that quick fix would be the richest person in the world. If you look at surgery – or any medication you are given to support weight loss – it must be in conjunction with support for the wider or underlying issue including psychological assessments, support groups, nutritional plans, fitness plans and support from friends and family.
Such a complex problem requires a complex battery of solutions as well as much-preached hard work and determination. It’s hard to know what will work, but one thing we know never does: fat-shaming and bullying.