Roxanne Lines has been taunted about her size, seen her self-confidence tumble and, at 35, has struggled with her weight for more than 20 years.
She knows what it’s like to feel like ‘the fat one’ as a youngster, be teased at school and not be able to shop for clothes in trendy teen sections like all of her friends.
So Roxanne is determined to help men, women and particularly children and teens in her new role as a Slimming World consultant.
The Sarisbury Green mum recently became leader of a Titchfield group after joining the organisation and slimming down enough to wear a size 12 for the first time in her life.
‘I went from being an age 13 in clothes straight to a size 14,’ explains Roxanne. ‘While my friends were shopping for all the lovely teenagers’ clothes in Tammy Girl, I had to go to the adult section.’
Roxanne was a happy young girl with close family and friends and never reached an extreme size
But short and with a small frame, she was overweight at age 13 and size 14 and says this knocked her confidence. It also almost set her up for a lifetime of overeating and battling with weight.
So she’s delighted about Slimming World’s drive to help young people.
The organisation allows youngsters to join, along with their parents, from the age of 11.
‘There is no pressure on the child to lose weight and definitely no humiliation,’ says Roxanne.
‘They don’t follow the same eating plan as the adults, it’s tailored for young people. And it isn’t just about them going on a diet, it’s more about a lifestyle change, being more active and making healthy swaps.’
Slimming World has been offering young people free group membership since launching Family Affair in 2006. Adolescents join with a parent and with the support of their GP.
Roxanne says it’s important that slimming groups are part of the drive to combat the growing obesity problem among young people.
According to the National Child Measurement Programme of 2011/12, 22.6 per cent of reception age children are overweight or obese. By Year 6 (10 and 11 years old), that has risen to 33.9 per cent.
Public Health England has identified that overweight children are more likely to become obese adults and face increased risk of conditions normally associated with older adults like raised blood pressure.
Roxanne believes youngsters shouldn’t feel under too much pressure to conform and be slim. ‘I think there is a lot of pressure, particularly on girls, to look a certain way and that’s not good.
‘But at the same time it’s really important that children learn to eat healthily and cook properly.’
And she adds: ‘Even if you’re not thinking of the health issues, it can have an impact on self-confidence.’
The National Obesity Observatory has stated: ‘Being overweight as a child or adolescent has an adverse effect on a young person’s self-esteem, self- image and self-concept. Obesity has also been associated with depression in adolescents.’
Roxanne joined Slimming World after she and husband Gavin had their son Josh, now 21 months. She lost two-and-a-half stone.
She says: ‘I wanted to lose the weight but I also wanted my family to eat healthily. I don’t want an overweight child.’
She says she ate really well as a youngster because her mum is a brilliant cook. The family always had nutritious home-cooked meals, it’s just that Roxanne was a little fond of the cakes.
‘I was never massively overweight. It didn’t feel like an issue at the time but looking back it was,’ she says. ‘I wouldn’t get changed in the changing rooms after PE and I hated being noticed or having my picture taken.’
Kids can be cruel, points out Roxanne, and her nickname at school was Miss Piggy. She laughs about it now but although she wasn’t the biggest in her year, she says it was the thing people always picked up on.
‘If I had an argument I’d be called a fat cow. Gradually I started to think of myself that way.
‘By the time I was older, I was just happy to be in the background and never really wanted to be noticed.
‘If someone approached me in a nightclub I’d assume they were on a bet or trying to get closer to one of my friends. Actually, usually they were.’
She went up to a size 18 and says although she was never massive, her weight threatened to spiral. And although she wasn’t unhappy – and is anxious that teens don’t feel ostracised – she feels far more comfortable and energetic now.
Roxanne thanks her family for her change, saying that it was made easier because she’d always been encouraged to eat home-cooked food and create nutritious dishes.
And now she’s excited about helping other along the way to health and fitness.
HEALTHY EATING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Slimming World was one of the first national slimming organisations to offer young people free group membership when it launched Family Affair.
As part of the programme, the organisation developed its Free2Go eating plan, specifically for young people to encourage unlimited consumption of fruit, vegetables and other low energy dense, satiating foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish and carbohydrates.
The idea is to gradually limit energy dense, fatty and sugary foods but the emphasis is on healthy eating and increased physical activity rather than weight loss.
Consultants will not suggest weight changes or target weights for 11 to 15-year-olds.
However, they do have age specific BMI charts from the Child Growth Foundation that show healthy BMIs for young people.
They also take advice from the child’s doctor, with both doctor and consultant monitoring progress every three months.
Slimming World’s science team researches and studies a huge member database to identify trends and statistics to inform advice and policies.
Of course most people joining are adults and for members, the organisation works on the basis of food optimising.
A diet based on food optimising includes ‘free foods’ (most fruit and veg, very low fat dairy, fish, potatoes, rice and pasta), ‘healthy extras’ (milk and cheese for calcium, for example) and ‘syns’.
Roxanne’s group meets at Titchfield Primary School on Tuesdays at 5.30pm and 7.30pm.
For information on all local groups visit slimmingworld.com.