Did finding a gene make
a difference to me?
I was diagnosed with the MC4 defect 12 years ago when I was 12 years old. When I was first diagnosed I was initially scared, I had just been diagnosed with a condition that I wasn’t aware I had so yeah, I was really scared. I was also very confused and angry at my diagnosis. How did I end up with this condition? Why has nobody spotted it before? Was there any cure? These are all questions I asked myself.
Along with the feelings of worry, fear and anger I also felt a sense of relief, relief at the fact that this was no longer my fault. For years I was blamed for my weight, not only was I blamed but my parents were too. They over-fed me, I was a greedy child, I was spoilt with food, I ate for attention – These were all the accusations from Doctors, Dieticians, Health Visitors and Psychologists over the years up until I was diagnosed with my condition. For once I had an answer for all the accusations. I had always known something wasn’t right, and my parents always knew something wasn’t right but nobody ever listened. I was an overweight child and that’s all they saw in me, nothing more, nothing less.
I was told that there was no miracle cure for the condition so in the years following my diagnosis I tried different weight loss drugs to help keep my weight down. Some were successful, when I was 16 I lost 8 stone on an appetite suppressant drug, but then the side effects of the drugs made me poorly so I had to stop taking the drug and over the next 2 years my weight crept up again. Through the up’s and down’s of my weight I learned to accept that my condition was part of me and that I could fight it as much as I wanted it wasn’t going to make no dramatic difference. I couldn’t stop it or cure it myself so I taught myself to try and live with it the best way I could. Through acceptance came new confidence. I always hated the way I looked. I was bullied throughout my school years for being overweight. At one point I refused to go to school because of the abuse I was getting on a daily basis. It was different now, my weight was not strictly my fault, it was in some ways beyond my control and I took that and turned it into something positive, I used that to develop a new identity for myself.
I tried my hardest to always eat as healthily as I could; I had never eaten unhealthy (though health professionals in the past argued this). You see I was obese, so that meant I was eating everything deep fried, swallowing family size bars of chocolate whole, and having McDonalds for breakfast, you know the usual ignorant and stigmatic assumptions that come with the label of obesity. My sister was brought up on the same diet as me, yet she was always a healthy weight, had no problems with over-eating like me. However this never raised suspicions among all the Doctors I’d seen over the years that commented on my obesity and blamed me or my parents for it. So at the age of 18 I decided that I would try to eat as healthily as I could, I wasn’t going to try and diet, dieting never worked. I had been on a constant diet since the age of 6. I couldn’t take any more of that. I started to accept my body for the way it looked, I stopped hiding my body with baggy clothes and wearing clothes that I wanted to wear. I started to take pride in myself more, making an effort with my appearance and by the age of 21 I genuinely felt like me. Three years have gone and I still love the way I look, I am bursting with confidence, have a great social life and I am in a loving and supportive relationship. I’ve even started to do some plus-size modelling. I’ve even won three modelling competitions these past two years. I still struggle with my weight, it has stayed the same for the past 2 year now, and I have a few health problems, including osteoarthritis at the result of my weight. It’s still hard coping with this condition, I feel alone a lot, sometimes it feels like I just have to ‘get on with it’, and I wish I had more support. I still face the ignorance from others, including health professionals and the outside world instead of seeing an obese child they now see an obese adult, and like when I was younger that is all they see.
At the moment I am considering gastric bypass surgery on the grounds my osteoarthritis is so painful and it’s getting worse. The only way I can make it less painful is if I lose a lot of weight. The only way I’m going to be able to lose all that weight is surgery. It’s a decision I feel very alone with, and again I feel angry, confused and fear. I wish there was another alternative, but it is the only option at the moment. If I could give any advice to others who have the condition it’s be patient with yourselves and other people, It’s going to be hard, and it is very lonely but be patient, not everyone understands. And to health professionals, don’t just see the obesity, see the person behind the obesity. We are different; we don’t want to be different. Please take that into consideration before you put us in the same box as everyone else.