Married for 40 years with two grown up children and two dogs, I have also just become a grandmother.
I studied Psychology at University and then qualified as a social worker. Ten years later, I trained as a counsellor, working for various charities and then in private practice for 23 years. I retired in 2018.
I have a lifetime’s experience of dieting (many times losing 5 or 6 stone at a time) and then feeling a failure for putting the weight back on and more. I thought it was my fault and I constantly berated myself.
The only place that I have experienced overt and direct weight stigma has been in the medical field. There have been occasions when I have been dismissed and told “You need to lose weight” instead of my problems being properly investigated. More recently, after developing arthritis in both knees and both hips to the point where I was severely incapacitated and in constant pain, I was denied any treatment because my BMI was considered too high. I was not even able to see a consultant. When I paid to see a consultant myself, he told me to get bariatric surgery before he would treat me. Eventually, I found a surgeon who was quite happy to operate on me, and had 4 successful joint replacements.
I joined OEN in 2020 because I was beginning to realise that I had internalised the weight stigma that is embedded in our society, to my own detriment. I started to read around the subject and the more I read, the more angry I became at how people with obesity are blamed and seen as lazy and greedy, when the picture is far more complicated than that.
I want to be a champion to spread the word that obesity is not our fault and that changing our body size is far more complex than calories in / calories out ( also known as eat less/ move more). I want to call out stigma and enable all of us to hold our heads up high. I want us to feel entitled to respect, and not to be discriminated against because of our body size or weight.
I am hoping that my counselling knowledge and skills and life experience will help me to communicate well with both medical professionals and with people living with obesity, especially helping the latter to break free from the guilt that is so often a part of living with obesity.
As part of being an OEN champion, I applied to become a lay member on the NICE committee updating the guidelines on weight management. This group is likely to be meeting for the next 2 or 3 years. I am hoping that I can represent the patient experience to the rest of the committee in a meaningful way.
There is a lot of work to be done in this field, but the most important thing for me is to make life for people living with obesity less difficult.