Helen Redhead, 30, had always been the ‘fat girl’, until she lost 5st.
‘I was eight when I had my ﬁ rst period,
Before, for example, if girls from work were
and almost overnight I went from
going out, I wouldn’t be invited, because I’d
being an active tomboy to being
cramp their style. But now I’m invited to
excluded, because of the way I looked.
everything, because my look ‘ﬁ ts’. The funny
It might sound extreme to say my life
thing is, I don’t want to go any more; I no longer
changed forever then, but looking back, my
have that overwhelming desire to be accepted.
problems with my body image and with food
Thankfully, the people who know me well
It changed not only her life – but other people’s attitude towards her
seem to have started when I hit puberty.
Helen with ﬁ ancé Dan,
– Dan, my family and close friends – have
Words Catherine Jarvie Photographs Andrew Montgomery
The teachers at my primary school wouldn’t
before her surgery
never judged me by how I look, and nothing
let me go swimming, for example, because
has changed in my relationships with them.
I was overdeveloped compared to the other
a problem, solve it – and his reply was always
What’s also been hard to get my head
girls (I was wearing a size 36D bra by the
the same: ‘Wel , what are you going to do about
around is how I view the weight loss for
time I was 10), and would always put me to
it?’ One day, it ﬁ nal y sunk in and I decided to do
myself. My whole life used to be centred
one side and try to stop me playing with boys.
something to stop my size ruining my future.
on food. I blamed it for everything that was
I was ostracised and felt very, very different.
Over the years, I’d tried every diet going;
wrong. Now, if I have a bad day, it’s because
When I moved to senior school, the
I’d even tried diet pills. That was a disaster.
I’m having a bad day; it’s not because I’m
bullying started, because my height and big
My hair started falling out and I began
overweight. I’ll go for a walk, or try to talk
boobs made me stand out. I started to eat as
having panic attacks.
myself out of it, but I’m rarely tempted to
compensation and, as I got bigger, (I put on a
I looked into some options on the internet
reach for the cookie jar.
stone a year from 12 onwards), the fat jibes
and contacted Dr Ashton at the Healthier Weight
Now, I don’t eat bread, because it swells
started. I had no friends at all, until I was 15.
and I don’t crave big meals, as I simply don’t
By university, I was 5ft 8in and weighed
have room for them in my smaller stomach.
‘I was wearing a
about 14st 7lb. If you’re overweight, people
I still get a surprise when I catch sight of
in restaurants look at you in disgust, as if to
myself in a mirror, or window, and see a slim
say, ‘You could do without that meal’, so food
person looking back at me. Sometimes, when
time I was 10’
becomes a guilty pleasure. I would buy cakes –
I’m shopping, I automatically reach for a
like pavlova and banoffee pie – and eat them
Centre, in Birmingham. He recommended that
size 18, instead of a 12. But it’s taken me
on my own late at night. Food was my comfort,
I had a gastric lap band ﬁ tted. It would force me
22 years to learn that behaviour and it’s
but it was a catch-22 – the thing I used to
to restrict my food intake and, mean that I’d
going to take me a long time to forget it.
comfort me caused my problem.
ﬁ nally be able to lose weight and keep it off.
Dan and I are getting married in Mauritius
People would say to me, ‘You have such
Having the lap band inserted was anything
next year. Before the surgery, I wouldn’t have
a pretty face’, as if that was compensation for
but an easy option. I had to undergo an
considered it – the idea of everyone looking at
being fat. It was upsetting, but from the time
intensive diet beforehand for 10 days, to
me would have been too much – but, now, I’m
I was a teenager, having a perfectly made-up face
prepare my body for surgery. And, for three
looking forward to choosing a dress and being
became a mask to hide behind. By the time
months afterwards, I was restricted to liquids
pampered. I won’t be worried about having to
I left university, I couldn’t handle how I looked.
only – soups, protein shakes – as my body
hide behind make-up or anything else.’
At work, as a nurse, I felt undermined
adjusted to the band. But it was worth it. I’ve
Helen had her surgery at the Healthier Weight
because of my size. At my biggest, I weighed
lost 5st over 15 months and ﬁ nal y look ‘normal’.
Centre, 0800 073 1146; healthierweight.co.uk.
17st, and if patients referred to me it was
The biggest change, however, has been
You should always consult your GP before
never as ‘the blonde one’, but as ‘the fat one’.
my attitude to other people and theirs to me.
considering any surgery
Weight problems are always considered to
be your own fault. I became used to people
treating me as if I was lazy and stupid.
Funnily enough, I never had trouble
● Gastric banding (as
ﬁ nding boyfriends, while I was fat. But I was
stops 30 per cent
experienced by Helen)
so grateful that anyone found me attractive,
I’d get together with any guy who showed
me attention. I made a few mistakes that way.
● Gastric bypass
When I met Dan, my current boyfriend of
two and a half years, it was different. We got
talking in a pub and he says that within the
ﬁ rst half hour of meeting, I’d made some self-
deprecating remark about my weight. He just
ignored it. We’ve been together ever since,
and he’s never judged me about my size.
But I would often complain that I was unhappy
and B-12 and lead to deﬁ ciencies.
with my body. Dan’s very practical – if you have
Red Xxxxxxxxx 2005
Red February 2007
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