Health and weight

Mary - Interview 42

Age at interview: 49

Brief outline: Mary is the mother of 13 year old Kevin - who recently lost a lot of weight on a weight management programme - and 16 year old Sarah who developed anorexia aged 14, but has now recovered.

Background: Mary is a married mother of three children aged 13, 16 and 17.

Audio & video

Mary is the mother of 13 year old Kevin and 16 year old Sarah. Kevin has been experiencing problems with his weight for 7 years and recently lost a lot of weight on a weight management programme for young people. When Sarah developed anorexia aged 14, Mary noticed quite quickly and took her to the GP. Sarah and the family received therapy and Sarah has now recovered – although Mary believes she will always have some related issues. Mary’s eldest child has not experienced any weight related issues.
Mary says that Kevin’s weight gain has had the biggest impact on his self-esteem and social life. Kevin is very self-conscious about his body and has asked Mary if he can have liposuction. He was teased about his weight in primary school, and gets very anxious about activities such as swimming, changing in front of others, and staying away from home. Mary says Kevin has never been obese, but was diagnosed overweight, and is one of the bigger boys at school.
Mary feels guilty about what foods she allowed Kevin to eat, because he is a fussy eater and refused to eat fruit and vegetables; she has also felt guilty about working full-time and whether she’s made enough effort to help him – even though she’s tried lots of different things. Mary also says she still feels responsible to some extent for Kevin’s diet and exercise, but thinks he should start taking some responsibility too (he doesn’t want to). Mary says several other factors played a part in her son gaining weight' playing video games, lack of exercise, and having few friends nearby.
Mary says dealing with her son’s problems was very different to dealing with her daughter’s anorexia because she didn’t know where to go for help or what help she could get. When she spoke to the school nurse about Kevin, her son was referred for tests to see if there was an underlying physical problem, but when they found there wasn’t, she didn’t receive any further help or advice. She also feels that even when she got information, it has been difficult to change her son’s behaviour.
The turning point came when they attended a weight management programme. Mary says that even though it was very demanding (4 hours a week for 8 weeks) the programme was really good because they met other kids and parents in a similar situation, they learnt simple ways to identify healthier foods and to prepare healthy alternatives to favourite foods (e.g. pizza), and gave the children realistic goals. Mary says it was also helpful that they didn’t try to make parents feel guilty.
Mary feels that it would helpful if there was more emphasis in schools on health and weight issues and if more places were available where you could get support and information.


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