Alongside the positive messages were jibes about her new figure.
“Don’t lose any more weight, you look ill.” “Where have your boobs gone?
They’ve disappeared!” “How on earth have you managed to lose so much
This negative commentary has, Georgi says, been a constant feature of her post-weight-loss life, since she shed 10st following bariatric surgery in 2018, dropping from a size 26 to a 12-14.
“I assumed people would be pleased for me,” says Georgi, 28, an early years
practitioner from Swindon.
“Many have been, but I wasn’t prepared for the intense scrutiny and criticism I’ve also experienced. Suddenly everyone has an opinion on how I look and how I lost weight.”
In May this year, singer Adele unveiled her 7st weight loss in a rare Instagram post, which was met with an explosive social media backlash.
Formerly a size 18, and now a size 10 at 5ft 9in, she was branded “fatphobic”, and even accused of betraying the plus-size community she was once the poster girl for.
“Adele doesn’t look healthy”, wrote one online troll, while another described her as looking “old and haggard”.
Some even went as far as cruelly speculating her weight loss could be the result of a gastric band – an accusation that many who lose a lot of weight also get trolled for.
Likewise, earlier this year, TV presenter Scarlett Moffatt spoke out about the online abuse she suffered after losing 4st before releasing an exercise DVD in 2017.
“I got trolled really badly for being too thin, people telling me I’d gone too far and was a bad role model… It just felt like a wave of cruelty from every angle,” she said.
The experience left her in such a dark place she admitted calling the Samaritans.
While “fat-shaming” is now, thankfully, becoming increasingly taboo due to the body-positivity movement, at the other end of the scale are women being subjected to slim-shaming.
Research published earlier this year revealed a growing number of women are keeping their dieting secret for fear of being labelled “anti-feminist” – with more than a quarter of those aged 18-34 staying quiet about trying to lose weight.
The same poll suggested out of the 17million women who’ll attempt a diet this year, 7million will try to hide it from at least one person.*
Dr Elle Boag is an associate professor in applied social psychology at Birmingham City University.
She explains: “Being slim has long been sold to us as the holy grail of the female body, and yet weight loss is not always treated with the positivity that might be expected.
The rise of social media has fuelled an elevated sense of entitlement to pass comment on peopleDr Elle Boag
“Adele was viewed by the plus-size community as a role model. When she lost weight, she was seen as having sold out,” says Dr Boag.
“Some women feel betrayed, interpreting her new body as her saying: ‘Actually, it’s not OK to be bigger.’
"Others may be motivated to criticise her because they have tried but
failed to lose weight, too.”
Dr Boag says ordinary women are also increasingly experiencing this backlash as “fat-shaming” becomes less acceptable, so attention turns to thinner women.
“It’s human nature to compare, contrast and criticise, but the rise of social media has fuelled an elevated sense of entitlement to pass comment on people.
"Some people simply don’t consider how it might affect someone, while others just don’t care.”
The reaction to Adele’s decision to slim down resonated with Georgi. She first began to put on weight in 2012 when she was prescribed high-strength steroids for fibromyalgia.
Then a size 10 and a healthy 10 1/2st at 5ft 8in, she piled on the pounds as a result of the medication’s impact on her metabolism and comfort-eating while stuck at home.
“Even when I came off steroids in mid-2013, poor eating habits, such as having huge bowls of pasta and packets of biscuits, had become the norm,” she says.
“Within three years, I was a size 20 and over 19st. I was caught in that clichéd vicious cycle of emotional eating and self-loathing.
“That year, in June 2015, I married my husband Robin, 28, and that was the final straw.
"I’d been so self-conscious on my wedding day, feeling too ashamed of how I looked in the photos to even display them in our house, I knew I had to do something.”
So in 2016, her GP referred her for bariatric surgery, putting her on a two-year NHS waiting list.
“By then I was a size 26 and weighed 22st. My GP agreed that a sleeve gastrectomy, where 75% of the stomach is removed, was the best option for me.
"She said I’d cost the NHS more in the long run if I wasn’t helped to lose weight now,” says Georgi.
“I was nervous – it was major surgery and there was a small chance I wouldn’t survive it – but also relieved.
"Robin was really supportive. He was worried being overweight might kill me, and we both feared it would stop us conceiving in the future.”
In May 2018, after months of medical tests and psychological evaluations, Georgi had her surgery.
“The first couple of months afterwards were very difficult. Not only was I in pain and vomiting blood initially, I also had to re-learn how to eat now that my stomach was the size of a toddler’s.
There were people who felt it was OK to quiz me about my surgery, with some even referring to it as ‘cheating’Georgi Phipps
"If I ate too much, I’d be sick, and I had to carefully plan my meals to ensure I got enough nutrients, as well as take supplements.
"I’ll have to do that for the rest of my life, because the surgery isn’t reversible,” she says.
“It was a massive learning curve and surgery definitely wasn’t a quick fix. I took up walking and yoga, too. Within the first six months I’d lost 5st.
“Along with the people who told me I was looking great, there were ones who felt it was OK to quiz me about my surgery, with some even referring to it as ‘cheating’.
"There was definitely a sense of being judged for not losing weight ‘naturally’,” says Georgi.
“I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for years and she was visibly stunned by my new appearance, but when I explained I’d had surgery, she said she was less impressed because I hadn’t done it myself, which was very hurtful.
"I was also told how ‘awful’ I’d looked when I was bigger.
When I was bigger, I felt invisible, but slimming down had given me a visibility I didn’t always enjoyGeorgi Phipps
“I’d become one-dimensional, reduced to my weight loss and nothing else. When I was bigger, I felt invisible, but slimming down had given me a visibility I didn’t always enjoy.”
Dr Boag explains while the body-positivity movement has shielded some women from figure-shaming, those who have lost weight are considered an easy target.
“They’re viewed as less emotionally vulnerable, because slim is assumed to
equal happy and confident.
"And if you’ve had the strength of mind to slim down, you’re seen as able to take it on the chin. The truth is, no matter your size, criticism can hurt,” she says.
Emily Dart has also experienced the confusion and pain caused by negative
reactions to weight loss.
The 37-year-old swimming coach from Redruth, Cornwall has lost almost 11st since May 2018 on a low-carb diet, slimming from 24st 3lb and a size 24, to 13st 4lb and a size 12-14 at 5ft 6 1/2in.
Yet she has experienced accusations that she’s setting a bad example to the young women she coaches.
She gained weight after giving up competitive swimming, and then being unable to work out at the gym due to a knee injury.
'HIDE MY BODY'
“I was eating a lot of carbs as if I were still swimming, and also I come from a family of bigger women, so have a predisposition to gaining weight,” she
“I hated having my photo taken and if I had to get in the swimming pool when coaching, I’d wear a T-shirt and shorts to hide my body.
“But more seriously, my weight had made me ill. I had swollen feet and ankles, heavy and painful periods, and I contracted cellulitis – a bacterial infection of the skin – three times in eight months.
"I spent six months on antibiotics and was also diagnosed with sepsis as a result of the cellulitis, which can be fatal. Doctors told me my poor health was caused by obesity.”
I only wish other people shared the positivity I feel about my new bodyEmily Dart
After researching different diets, Emily decided to try the high-fat, low-carb
Banting diet and two years on has transformed both her body and health, and is well on her way to her target weight of 12st 7lb.
“I’ve stayed disciplined, and have even been able to get back to swimming, which has made me feel so much healthier,” she says.
“I only wish other people shared the positivity I feel about my new body.
"A parent raised concerns with a colleague that my weight loss was setting a bad example to the girls I coach. I couldn’t believe it!
"Nobody had an issue when I was standing at the side of the pool morbidly obese, yet now I’m a poor role model?
"The parent was told that it was my business how I lost weight, and how much I lost.
"But I always try to be open with students about how I eat now, and that I’ve slimmed slowly rather than doing anything drastic.”
However, it’s criticism from friends and family that has hurt Emily the most.
UNWELCOME SIDE EFFECT
“A close friend told me I’ve taken my weight loss ‘too far’, and one female relative has repeatedly told me and I need to stop, because losing weight has ‘consumed’ me.
“I find it ironic that when I was overeating nobody told me to stop doing that, but now they feel they have a right to say I’m not in control of my lifestyle,” she adds.
Dr Lorna Richards, a consultant psychiatrist at the Priory Hospital, Woking, says the impact on personal relationships can be a very unexpected and unwelcome side effect of significant weight loss.
“If someone has always been the ‘bigger’ friend or partner in a relationship,
there is a misplaced perception that because they have changed on the outside, they must be different on the inside, too.
"It can lead to a distancing in relationships and even rejection, because people feel they don’t know them or can’t relate to them any more.
“Also, if someone else is overweight, seeing another lose weight can leave them feeling understandably envious, and that can fuel a critical reaction.”
For Georgi, who is now more than two years post-surgery, she’s still regularly reminded that not everyone approves.
She recently complimented a plus-size influencer on Instagram, only to be told by another follower that she was a “hypocrite” for having herself slimmed down.
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“I still think plus-size women are beautiful, but now I no longer feel welcome in that space,” she explains.
“There’s a lack of understanding that weight loss is often a personal decision.
“It’s a shame other people just don’t understand lots of women simply want to feel comfortable in their own skin.”
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