Friends complimented my weight loss until they found out I was dieting… and then threw insults even though I was obese

TWENTY years ago you’d probably never heard the phrase ‘diet culture’ – and counting calories wasn’t considered ‘toxic’, it was fun.

Embarrassing TV shows like You Are What You Eat and The Biggest Loser UK had millions of viewers, while tabloids were full of images of celebrities’ so-called bikini bodies, scrutinized for signs of weight gain.


Jennifer George, from Berkshire, who started losing weight in 2018, is now 11st and a size 12Credit: Lorna Roach
Jennifer, who weighed 15kg, was insulted when people found out she was trying to lose weight


Jennifer, who weighed 15kg, was insulted when people found out she was trying to lose weightCredit: Supplied / Jennifer George

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since the days of dangerous diets and size-zero models. Now gyms promote mental health advantages of fitness instead of how many calories you can burn on the treadmill.

But what happens when you really want to burn calories and, whispering, lose pounds? Where can you go? With expressions like ‘intuitive eating’ and ‘mindful exercise’, the current buzzwords, ‘wanting to lose weight’ can feel like a dirty little secret.

That was the case for Jennifer George from Berkshire, who started losing weight in 2018.

Jennifer, now 30, says: “The turning point came after I went to a friend’s baby shower. I saw a photo someone had taken of me with the mom-to-be and I looked huge. I was terrified.”

People asked, “Are you unhappy?”

Jennifer, who is 6ft tall, weighed 6.5kg and was a size 16. With a BMI of 34.2, she was obese according to the NHS calculator. So she joined a well-known weight-loss club, followed their diet plans and attended weekly weigh-ins. But she didn’t tell anyone.

“As the pounds started falling off, friends told me how great I looked. I constantly received kind compliments.”

But when she said the D-word, she quickly felt judged. Jennifer, now mother to ten-month-old Luna and currently on maternity leave from her job as a recruiter, says: “When I announced I was on a diet and paying to go to a weight-loss group, the compliments suddenly stopped.

“I quickly discovered that it’s a no-go to even talk about diets, let alone tell people you’re on a diet.

“People would ask, ‘Are you unhappy?’ and, ‘What are you on a diet for?’

“I was clearly overweight, but they didn’t see a problem with it.”

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Traditional diet groups have fallen out of favor in recent years.

In 2023, WeightWatchers decided to stop selling its products on its website, but in February this year its share value fell 25 percent after Oprah Winfrey announced she would be quitting the board and revealed she had been taking a weight-loss drug.

Another global diet brand, Jenny Craig, collapsed Australia and New Zealand last year after 40 years of trading, while meal replacement firm SlimFast saw sales fall 17 percent. Now, diet under siege

companies are trying to curb the habit, with the rise of weight-loss drugs believed to be the driving force behind companies like WeightWatchers trying to cater to people who need a quick fix.

It recently bought Sequence, a telehealth company that allows patients to obtain virtual prescriptions for the new weight-loss drugs.

Sima Sistani, CEO of WeightWatchers, shared company Fortune magazine: “We admit that we are learning that science has evolved and so we must.”

The irony is that I met my husband when I was 15, and he prefers me to be curvier.

But statistics suggest that the decline in dieting is also due to attitudes. Hashtag #bodypositive has almost 20 million Instagram posts and the global plus size fashion market is worth around £228 billion.

Jennifer believes this “body positive” movement may have caused the negativity surrounding her diet.

“At social gatherings, I braced myself for the inevitable insults,” she says. “I heard things like, ‘Oh look, you lost even more weight!’ They even doubted my relationship and said hurtful things like, “Is your husband behind this?”

“The irony is that I met my husband when I was 15, and he prefers me to be curvier.”

But she is not the only one who feels attacked because she is losing weight. Singers Adele and Lizzo are being labeled as ‘traitors’ because they lose weight.

In 2020, reality TV’s Scarlett Moffatt admitted she deliberately gained weight to discourage fans from buying her fitness DVD, after it was revealed her third weight loss was the result of a 700-calorie-a-day diet and boot camp rather than simply healthy eating and exercise program.

Jennifer says: 'The turning point came after I went to a friend's baby shower, above.  I saw a photo someone had taken with the expectant mother... I looked huge.  I was terrified'


Jennifer says: ‘The turning point came after I went to a friend’s baby shower, above. I saw a photo someone had taken with the expectant mother… I looked huge. I was terrified’Credit: Supplied / Jennifer George
Jennifer now


Jennifer nowCredit: Supplied / Jennifer George

Jennifer, who quit her slimming club after losing third place, admits she doesn’t like some aspects of the diet industry.

“I was losing weight, but very slowly. Was that intentional so I would keep going back? I also didn’t like standing on the scale in front of everyone.”

Jennifer, now a size 12, welcomes the body positive movement.

The thinking is that I need to embrace my larger figure.

“It’s fantastic that a bikini body now means a woman of any size or shape wearing a bikini,” she says. But she admits there are drawbacks. “If people don’t want to lose weight, that’s fine, but it means there’s no room for people like me who want to lose weight,” she says. “The thinking is that I need to embrace my larger figure.”

Jenny attributes her past weight gain to using food as an emotional crutch. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been heavier,” she says.

“My weight peaked in my mid-20s, when I used food as comfort.

“I worked long hours as a real estate agent and when I got stressed, I would reach for food.

“When I got into a relationship, we ate high-calorie meals together and I ate larger portions.”

Nowadays, Jenny refuses to weigh herself regularly and doesn’t have a scale at home. Last time she checked she was between 11 and 12.

As for those who don’t think she should diet, she has news for them.

“I would like to lose a little more weight,” she says.

“I’ll be happy if I’m half a stone lighter, that’s why I’m on a diet.

“When I look in the mirror I still feel plump around my thighs and arms – sometimes I think I’m still that bigger person at the baby shower.

“It took my brain some time to keep track of what I look like.

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“Friends who are trying to lose weight often message me for tips.

“But it is done one on one, at depth, we cannot talk about it.”

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