Health and weight

Ella - Interview 01

Age at interview: 17

Brief outline: Ella, 17, is a student. Over the past year she has lost weight and dropped several dress sizes by following the WeightWatchers points system. She's almost reached her target size and feels more confident about her body. Ethnic background: British Israeli.

Background: See 'brief outline'.

Audio & video

Ella, 17, is a student in sixth form and is hoping to go to University to study criminology. She currently lives with her mum. Over the past year, Ella has lost weight and dropped several dress sizes.
Ella says she was always a “chubby” child and gained weight gradually over time, even though her parents tried to limit what she ate. Her family have been encouraging her to try to lose weight for some time, and sometimes Ella would get defensive and upset if anyone tried to talk about her weight. Although Ella told people that she was happy as she was, she says now, looking back, she wasn’t happy. Ella has had a few periods where she’s felt less happy than usual and says that keeping a check on what she eats is harder at those times when she wants more comfort foods like pasta and mashed potatoes.
Ella felt that her mum had quite a lot of control over what she ate while she was growing up by preparing all her meals and packed lunches and making sure she ate healthily (a proper breakfast and five portions of fruit and vegetables a day). Ella says they rarely ate crisps, chocolate, sweets, or fast food, but thinks that coming from an Israeli background where the culture is based around food may have played a part in her weight gain. At times, Ella has found it difficult because her older sister and many of her friends are what she describes as “thin” – even though they seem to eat a lot. Ella says she can’t eat things like chocolate or cakes regularly because she would gain weight, and she puts this down to her having a slower metabolism to her friends and has had to learn that she can’t eat the same as her friends and family.
Ella didn’t experience any problems at school until she started a new school aged 13, where she felt she didn’t fit in with the other girls. Although she wasn’t actually bullied, she felt excluded and would often eat lunch alone. She changed schools and although she says she’s much happier at her new school, she thinks that because it’s a girls’ school, there will always be some pressure to fit in.
Ella decided to try to lose weight when she started to find it difficult to buy clothes from high street shops like Top shop, where sizes range from 6-16. The summer before she started sixth form, she started going to WeightWatchers – she says she was the only young person at the meetings, but that everyone was really friendly. Although Ella had tried to lose weight before, she says going to WeightWatchers helped because you can monitor your progress and you get support from other people in the same situation. She also likes the WeightWatchers points system because it means she can sometimes eat the things she likes from time to time, like chocolate and she still goes to restaurants but chooses items from the menu without cream, butter or oil. This way, she doesn’t feel like she’s on a diet. Ella says her mum has been really supportive while she’s been trying to lose weight, prepares low fat, low calorie meals for them both.
In the beginning, Ella says she lost weight quite quickly, but then it slowed down. Ella thinks she’ll always have to watch her weight and that it might even get harder as she gets older and her metabolism slows down. Ella doesn’t really like exercising, although she does go swimming, and she thinks it didn’t really help her to lose weight in the past. Ella’s advice to other young people who want to lose weight is to join a group because you get lots of tips and it helps to keep you motivated.

Ella says being a bigger size can make you feel self conscious, for example, about sunbathing, and especially about eating, because people assume you must be greedy. She feels much more confident about her body now. She thinks her appearance is more important than her actual weight and describes her figure as “womanly” with “big breasts and big hips”. She’s aiming to be a size 12 or less, but wouldn’t want to be a size 8 because she thinks that wouldn’t suit her curvy shape.


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