“I have always wanted to lose weight and never could,” says Taylor Weekes, 11. “Adults can go to a gym but it’s hard for children to do that.”
Taylor has been verbally bullied at school about her weight since she was six. Although she has tried cutting down on food several times it never worked because she was unhappy. Like countless others, this led her to comfort eat. Taylor told her mother about the bullies and she advised her to ignore it, “but it’s quite hard to do that”, says Taylor.
Her mother found out about the programme and asked their GP to refer Taylor. It was only when Taylor appeared on BBC1’s Breakfast News programme as a representative of the initiative that her teachers became aware of the bullying and started talking to her about it. The bullying has stopped now that she has started going to the gym.
In two months Taylor has gone down two dress sizes. “I’m feeling much happier. I had been worried about my health: all the sugar going into your body isn’t good for you.”
She has achieved this by going to the gym sessions three times a week, giving up snacks in exchange for fruit and vegetables and eating smaller portions of healthier meals. Sweets and fast food are now rare.
Taylor says: “I don’t want to be skinny, I just want to be happy. I want to be healthy and not feel self-conscious going clothes shopping or swimming.”
A school trip to the Isle of Wight with a disco is imminent and, for the first time, Taylor is looking forward to this type of event. As a measure of how far she has come and how she has grown in confidence, Taylor will be wearing her first skirt for the disco – pink, flared and just above the knee.
And her higher sense of self-esteem is evident when she says: “Friends told me that when a boy at school heard about the skirt he said ‘I think it’s a bit too short for her type’. It makes me want to wear it more.”