PAMELA Turnbull has been called a lot of names in her life and they have hung as heavy on her mind as the extra stones she once carried around her middle.
“Fatty” was an everyday barb casually thrown her way as she hurried down school corridors, worse and more wounding abuse would be shouted across the street as she walked home from school.
“The bullying was awful. Even some of the teachers, especially the gym ones, would make fun of me. I was shy and felt like I couldn’t say anything.
“My mum was very worried because I wouldn’t eat breakfast or lunch, but then I’d binge at night to make up for it. It was a real vicious circle. And of course I wouldn’t go out anywhere. I was always in because I was fat.”
Looking at the 46-year-old now, full of life and confidence, a mother, a wife and a person who is a third of the size she was six months ago, who has dumped the size 28 jeans for a 16, it’s hard to imagine she was that cowed, bullied young girl; or the girl who once lost enough weight to feel confident enough to put on a dress and go out, but who went back to the kitchen cupboards, never to put on a dress again for another 16 years; or the young woman who became a virtual recluse and who had a nervous breakdown at 25.
But the “before” photos prove that she was all those things.
And she’s not alone in having been bullied and ostracised because of her weight. A survey by Slimming World has shown that around 40 per cent of their members have faced judgement, criticism or abuse from others because of their size. Being insulted by shop assistants, mocked by bar staff, left out by so-called friends, ridiculed by members of the opposite sex... they are all part of the frequent humiliations suffered by those who are overweight, the survey revealed.
Unsurprisingly these “weight hate” humiliations did not inspire those questioned to lose their extra pounds – in fact quite the opposite as they were left feeling ashamed, depressed and heading for the biscuit jar. A response which backs recent research by Edinburgh University scientists which found that over-eating was a psychological disorder and that people who are obese and struggling to cut down on food need psychological support as well as a good diet.
Pamela, a Scotmid worker from Pumpherston, and a Slimming World member couldn’t agree more.
“At my heaviest I was 21st 2lb, I was having problems with asthma, with my joints and bones... I could barely walk. Now I’m 14st 9lb and I feel fantastic. I’ve still got a few stone to lose, I want to be around 11st 6, but I don’t want to be thin. I’ve never felt better and I feel I’ve finally achieved something.
“I was depressed for a long time and that made me over-eat. It was comfort eating. The problem started when I was very young, in fact my mum thinks maybe from when I was four as that’s when my parents split up and I ‘went into myself’. I definitely remember being overweight when I was eight so I feel like it’s been all my life really.
“School wasn’t a good time, from primary all the way through. Looking back it was cruel. I was really hated myself, I’d never look in a mirror. Some people would say ‘but you’re a beautiful looking lassie’ but that certainly wasn’t what I saw or how I felt.”
She adds: “I lost some weight when I was 17 and then things went wrong and I blamed it on being slimmer, so that gave me an excuse to put on weight again. I didn’t want anyone [men] to take an interest in me. I became like a recluse. I’d go to work, come home, go to bed . . . that was my life. For ten years my life was like that.
“When I was 25 I lost my nana and grandad within 28 days of each other – we are a really small family and that devastated me. I had a nervous breakdown.”
Pamela ended up on anti-depressants and her weight continued to spiral upwards and out of control as she says she “just couldn’t find the will, the reason to stop eating. I felt pretty lonely most of the time. Life was going by fast and I was stagnating.”
However the anti-depressants began to work and she finally found herself going out again. But she still felt too unsure to think of a relationship. Then in 2002 her life changed dramatically.
“I was always someone with pen pals. I liked to write to people far away, who didn’t see me and couldn’t judge me, so when I could do that on the internet in chat rooms I really enjoyed it. I got friendly with a guy called Chris who was in Canada so that felt quite safe.
“But then his dad died, and his twin sister was in Bonnyrigg, so Chris said he was coming over and wanted to meet. Initially I panicked but I thought if it’s awful at least he’s hundreds of miles away.”
However on the day they met they spent 15 hours together “blethering” and six months later they were engaged. When they married it was the second time in her adult life she put on a dress.
“My weight didn’t bother him in the slightest, he loved me for who I am and that changed my life,” she admits. “He’s seen me at my heaviest, and is pleased I’m losing weight, but because of the impact on my health rather than anything else.”
Their son, Brandon, came along a few years later, and all was good in Pamela’s life – apart from her weight. “I made a start myself to lose it but it was so hard,” she says.
“I wanted to do it for myself but also for Brandon. My health was suffering and I want to be around for him, not just to look after him but to be able to play with him rather than being tired all the time. So I joined Slimming World in Broxburn which has been great – as has the support from my family and friends. But the big difference for me was finding something to eat I loved as much as chocolate.”
That something is, perhaps surprisingly, salmon. “I don’t think I could have lost the weight I have without salmon,” she laughs. “Working at Scotmid we had a shipment of Harbour Salmon fillets and I decided that I would give it a try. It was absolutely gorgeous. I ran back to the shop and cleaned them out completely. I started eating them four times a week, and within four weeks I had lost 40lbs. I was hooked.
“I’ve got quite a sweet tooth but if you were to place a chocolate bar and a salmon fillet in front of me, I would choose the salmon in a heartbeat.”
In fact she loved the fish so much she wrote to the company Harbour Salmon Co to express her thanks – but also her problem in getting hold of the product. Many of the shops near her either didn’t stock it, or sold out as soon as it was delivered. The firm was so impressed by her weight loss that they decided to sponsor her by providing as much fish as she wanted. So from October through to December, the company shipped through 32 packs of salmon every month. “I really look forward to eating it and I am so grateful to Harbour Salmon Co for helping me. I feel fantastic and Brandon says it’s like he’s got a new mummy.”
She adds: “I still meet the people who made my life hell when I was young, and when they speak to me it takes me right back, but now I know I’ve done something, I’ve achieved something. My self-esteem has improved massively and I know I can do what I set my mind to. That’s been the best thing about losing weight for me.”
GETTING the right amount of fish in your diet is as important for your health as eating your five a day.
And the oilier the fish the better. Of all the different varieties available, salmon has received the most praise for being a nutritional marvel as it’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids, as well as being an excellent source of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, selenium and B12.
A 100g serving contains 231 calories, 25g of protein and 3.2g of saturated fat – but in oily fish this is a good thing as the omega-3 contributes to healthy brain function, a healthy heart and well-oiled joints.
Omega-3 is termed as an essential because the body cannot synthesise it itself and it must be obtained from the diet and fish have the most to give. So eat salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring or fresh tuna at least three times a week.