A new report has revealed that one in three slimmers has bought weight loss medication online
As she gulped down a brightly coloured tablet, Sarah-Jayne Walker felt ashamed.
She’d told her boyfriend she was taking a herbal supplement but the truth was she was risking her life by using diet drugs she had bought online.
“I hid what was going on from friends and family,” says Sarah-Jayne, 30, a therapist who works with people suffering from neurological disorders.
“I knew deep down I wasn’t in a healthy place and it made me feel very isolated because I felt I was carrying around a huge secret.”
I hid what was going on from friends and family
And Sarah-Jayne isn’t the only person who has resorted to drastic measures to lose weight.
Shockingly, one in three dieters has bought potentially deadly slimming pills online, according to a recent study by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Since there are no slimming medications licensed in the UK, except those available from a pharmacy or GP for tackling obesity, buying diet drugs on the internet is a risky business.
“In some cases the drugs never arrive and in others the tablets are delivered but have been made and stored in dirty, rat-infested warehouses,” says Linda Scammell, of the MHRA.
Sarah-Jayne Walker has opened up on her experience
Some supplements contain banned substances such as sibutramine, an appetite suppressant that can cause strokes and can be fatal.
“There are limited products available for obesity but these are for extreme cases. When they’re prescribed, the patient is told by their GP that the medicine has a profound effect on their body and there are serious potential side effects.
“Some medications that can be bought online claim they’re safe because they are made from natural ingredients but test results show that many contain banned substances.
“Sibutramine was a licensed medication but it had its licence withdrawn in 2010 because it was linked with serious side effects. You can’t get it prescribed in the UK at all but in other countries there isn’t such a strong safeguard so the pills are still in circulation.”
Although SarahJayne experienced light-headedness, vomiting and fainting while on diet pills, fortunately she did not suffer any more serious side effects.
She had struggled with her weight since her late teens. A keen horse rider throughout childhood, she had to give up her hobby due to a family break-up and put on weight.
By the time she was 19 she was a size 20, weighed 14st and felt self-conscious.
“I felt like a different person on the inside to how I looked on the outside. I assumed nobody would want to get to know me because of my weight,” she says.
Sarah-Jayne tried cutting out sweet foods, going on starvation diets and even living off cabbage soup but nothing worked.
By the time she hit her late 20s she was desperate and in 2012 ordered slimming pills online. “I was so tired of feeling rubbish about myself. I saw adverts online for diet pills claiming to offer dramatic weight loss from natural ingredients and decided to give it a go.”
Dieters say they were attracted by the anonymity of ordering online
More than half of dieters who order slimming pills on the internet say they were attracted by the anonymity of ordering online according to the study which was conducted by MHRA and Slimming World.
And this was the case for Sarah-Jayne. “I felt that if I ordered pills online I wouldn’t have to be accountable to anybody or answer any questions about my diet and exercise,” she says.
When the pills arrived she was excited to lose weight. “I felt like it was the first day of the rest of my life. And in the first few weeks I did lose a few pounds but it was nowhere near as dramatic as the reviews on the website claimed.
“Then within a week I started to feel very light-headed. I started having heart palpitations and tummy problems which I’ve never had before. It was really scary but I didn’t feel that I could go to my GP because I’d taken risky diet pills.”
Despite the symptoms, Sarah-Jayne carried on taking the pills on and off for a year but only lost 9lb overall. “When I look back it seems ridiculous. The weight loss claims on the website were too good to be true but in my desperate state I thought, ‘I just can’t live like this any more.’ I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror.”
Then in 2013 Sarah-Jayne and her partner James, 30, an IT consultant, decided to start trying for a baby.
It was the catalyst she needed to give up taking the drugs for good. “I knew my body wasn’t in a healthy place because my calorie intake was very low and I was taking these unregulated pills. I had to stop so I could have children.”
Sarah-Jayne stopped taking the pills and instead tried to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
In 2015 she and James got married and two years later they had a baby girl named Bethany-Rose, 10 months.
“I loved being pregnant. For the first time I was able to listen to my body and give it exactly what it needed because I wasn’t living for myself any more, I was living for the baby inside me.”
Sarah-Jayne says ‘it’s not worth risking your life to lose weight’
And she adds: “James and I want to create an environment where my daughter can enjoy food in a healthy way and I’m going to be honest with her about my struggles.”
After having her daughter, Sarah-Jayne joined Slimming World and started losing weight in a controlled way.
“My relationship with food is much healthier now. I understand that if you stop eating, your body goes into starvation mode.
“Since joining Slimming World I’ve learned to love cooking and sharing the food I’ve made with my baby and husband. I feel free for the first time in a long time.”
Now Sarah-Jayne is 2st lighter and wants to warn others of the dangers of buying diet pills online.
She says: “It can seem like slimming pills are the answer to your problems but it’s not worth risking your life to lose weight.” l For more information visit fakemeds.campaign.gov.uk