Fight obesity – and tell bullies to “kiss it!”

Shannon Walton relaxes in her living room in Sheffield, England, in 2014.

Bullying is relentless.

When Shannon Walton was in middle school, she started hearing comments about her weight as she walked down the hallway: “Oh, look at her.” “She’s fat.”

She would go out more to avoid the stress of school, but she did not find respite. The kids would play her soccer ball and then pretend they didn’t mean it, she said.

“Someone threw a golf ball in my leg once and I’ll never forget it,” said Walton, 26. “It looks like the golf ball is still on my leg because it’s a white mark, And then there’s a giant red buzzing around it.”

Walton, 15, is waiting for the school bus. “Prepare for the day before the bullying,” she recalled years later. “Many times I stood there being bullied and mocked by both sides.”

It was a difficult time for Walton, who was diagnosed with a condition called adrenal precocious puberty in elementary school. This means her body starts to develop earlier than her peers. Later in life, she discovered she had polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects the body’s ability to use insulin and often leads to weight gain.

“I’ve been overweight since I was very young,” said Walton, who lives in Sheffield, England. She remembers that as she grew up, her weight was related to her age. “When I was 14, I had 14 stones (196 pounds),” she said. “When I was 15, I had 15 stones (210 pounds). It tends to go up like that.”

It doesn’t make sense to her.

“I’ve never been a binge eater. I’ve never been a binge eater. I’ve never been a true secret eater,” Walton said. “My mom always cooks really fresh food. We were never a family that was always eating takeout or fast food. So my weight over the years, it’s kind of like I don’t understand why I’m gaining weight.”

In 2015, Walton took a selfie with her brother Kieran and mother Lorraine at their home in Sheffield. “My family has always been supportive of me,” Walton said. “Me, my mom and my brother are like three peas in a pod.”

Walton is enjoying summer vacation in Spain.

At some point when she was about 14 or 15, Walton said enough. She’s fed up with people who make her feel bad, and she decides she won’t let them bring her down or stop her from doing what she wants.

“Growing up, I could eat at McDonald’s and people would say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t eat that; you’re too fat. But you’ll eat salad, and you’ll be snickering because you’re overweight for eating salad,'” she recalls road. “I got to a point where I thought, you can’t win, so I’ll do whatever I want.”

Photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith documents the transformation and Walton’s journey to becoming a woman, who grew up overweight and started a project to tackle obesity, “The Big O.”

Traylor-Smith said the issue “completely took over my teenage years.” “Being overweight is like I’m not good enough; I’m not a good enough person. That’s how I feel. So this project has been a challenge, look at it. Why do I feel this way? How do you move on? If I have There must be a lot of people who feel that way.”

The old textbook once belonged to photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith, who had the word “fat” inscribed on it as she also struggled with her weight and confidence. “I’ve included these and other images from my teenage archival material to illustrate why I started this work on teenage obesity,” she said. “This is my story, and it’s about Shannon and the world. The stories of 124 million children.”

This excerpt from Trayler-Smith’s teen diary shows her unhappiness as she battled her weight in the 1990s. “If I don’t lose weight this week, I might as well kill myself,” she wrote. She hopes that by sharing her story with Walton, others dealing with the same problem will know they are not alone.

Over the years, Traylor-Smith has photographed many British teenagers struggling with obesity, bullying and self-confidence.

Walton was the first subject, and her fearlessness inspired a photo book, “Kiss It!”, which they hope to publish soon if they can get the last bit of funding they need via Kickstarter.

The title of the book comes from Walton’s tattoo on her back, a message to the bullies who have mocked her for so long.

“To be so raw and real in front of the camera, I think it’s unusual,” Traylor-Smith said. “Most people know about cameras, and she just doesn’t, we just have this amazing connection. So that’s what got me thinking if I’m going to write a book, maybe it should be about a person and really go deep.”

Walton is set to spend a night in town in 2018. “My weight itself didn’t bother me; it didn’t stop me from doing anything,” she said. “It didn’t stop me from going out and drinking in town. It didn’t stop me and my friends from going out. … It upset other people, not me.”

Walton has a pair of bright red lips on her back tattoo that reads “Kiss it!” The original tattoo was for her years of bullies and critics, and Walton added lips for emphasis Her new attitude to life.

The book follows Walton through the ups and downs of her adolescence and tries to put the reader in her shoes.

“I believe making healthy choices, whether it’s food or anything in life, starts with you feeling good about yourself,” Traylor-Smith said. “When you’re overweight, you’re told you’re fat, you’re lazy, you’re greedy, and there’s a huge stigma around, that’s not where any of us would make health decisions, I believe. …

“This program isn’t saying it’s okay to be obese. I’m not saying it’s healthy. I’m saying there’s a difference. There’s a balance between body positivity and fitness, and I think we need to find that balance.”

Walton said she’s always wanted to help people understand what it’s like to be overweight.

“It’s not just about going to the gym and eating less. Sometimes it’s a medical condition. Sometimes it’s in your genes,” she said. “And, just because people are fat, doesn’t mean they’re miserable.”

Shannon wears makeup at her home in Sheffield.

“I remember this photo,” Walton wrote on the project’s 10-year mark. “I’ve been waiting for my friends to meet me before my trip to Meadowhall (a shopping centre in Sheffield). I feel good in my clothes and look forward to a great day.”

Many of the photos in the book show Walton’s early years, when bullying was especially severe and she was at one of its lowest points. But from the beginning of the project, Walton emphasized to Traylor-Smith how important it was to her to show the full picture of her life: happy moments with friends and family and empowering moments.

“I’m a very happy, lively, talkative person. Usually you can’t shut me up,” Walton said. “I do find people think that because you’re overweight, you’re miserable. But that’s not always the case.”

It’s hard for Walton to look back at photos of herself when she was young, sad, and lacking in confidence, but she appreciates them because it accurately depicts what she was like at the time.

“And then through the photos over the years, I think you can see how confident I am and how my life has subsided,” she said.

Walton curled up on the bed. “Naked bliss, my own room, my own space, my own shape,” Walton wrote. “But also another day in the dark world I live in. Think about the life I want to live and the friends I’ve always wanted.”

“We are all women of all shapes and sizes,” Walton wrote in the photo. “If I wanted to stand dry in my underwear in a public locker room, I would!”

A fitness calendar saved by Walton in 2013. “We’ve all been there…to write a workout or diet chart to ‘hold on’ when we actually post it and execute it for a day or two,” Walton writes. “To motivate — or try to stop people from chatting Are we going to lose weight?”

Walton, 16, came to her school prom night. “One of my favorite pictures,” she wrote. “I’ve been building this day for over a year. Knowing that everyone is going to look at each other’s clothes and knowing that I can’t hide. It shows the real me, laughing and joking with my friends. This is how I imagine me The look of the prom is also why I built the confidence to go to the prom.”

Today, Walton says she’s happy with her life and she won’t change anything.

She works in a hospital and will soon qualify as a nursing assistant. She is engaged to James, a man she met in her youth who was actually her first boyfriend. They lost contact for several years and finally reunited.

She has a personal trainer that she sees once or twice a month and hits the gym whenever she gets the chance.

“The personal trainer told me that I wasn’t actually eating enough, and what happened was because I wasn’t eating enough, my body was storing all of our fat,” says Walton. “So she increased my calorie intake and I’ve lost 3 stone (42 pounds) since then.”

Walton on vacation in Spain in 2018.

Walton still gets occasional comments about her weight, usually on social media where people leave rude comments. But the hateful words she said no longer bothered her, and she offered advice to anyone who might be going through what she was going through.

“Don’t let other people’s opinions control what you want to do. Don’t let your weight define you as a person,” she says.

Walton became good friends with Trayler-Smith, and Trayler-Smith said she would love to continue photographing her.

“It has been an honor to see her grow into a beautiful young woman,” Traylor-Smith said. “I know she’s still battling her weight and doing the best she can. But it’s a very beautiful thing to see her in a happy place.”

Walton, 14, in 2010. This is the first photo of Traylor-Smith taken of her at her home in Sheffield.

In 2020, Walton spent time in her back garden.

Walton took a walk in the Peak District National Park during a family outing in 2017.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, we can help. In the US, dial or text 988, Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, Connect with a trained counselor. International Suicide Prevention Association and friends all over the world Have contact information for crisis centers around the world.

Abby Traylor-Smith Raise funds via Kickstarter The production and publication of the “Kiss It!” crowdfunding campaign ends Thursday.

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