Susie Birney

ECPO Secretary

Languages Spoken: English

Country: Ireland

A woman with curly hair smiling in front of a wall.

Describe yourself in 3 words:

Loyal Supportive Particular

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I have an eating disorder called ARFID (Avoidance restrictive Food Intake Disorder) which I mistakenly believed was the only reason for my obesity.  I enjoyed many sports when young and nearly reached a black belt in karate until I injured my knee and had to stop a lot of activities.  I always wanted to be a physical Education School Teacher but it was a difficult route education wise and teaching children swimming became my hobby instead.   One of the jobs that I have enjoyed was as a Dublin Taxi driver for 10 years. Driving and talking for me is easy to do.   From the decline in health and meeting peer support members I became an administrator in 2010 for the weight management service support group and I firmly believe this was my turning point of stopping the self blame. Sharing lived experiences with other people who live with obesity and knowing I was not alone.  I became a patient representative with the Association of the Studies of Obesity Ireland. I joined the then EASO patient council as an Irish representative in Europe. When this council became ECPO I was honoured to take the role of Secretary. I am now a founding volunteer member and Executive Director for the Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity.   I share my experiences of living with obesity to raise awareness of the lived experience and stop weight stigma.

Where do you live:

North Dublin City

What are some of your interests:     

Swimming is my passion, I swam the famous Dublin City River Liffey Race 4 times. I am a qualified swimming teacher and lifeguard for over 35 years.   I did a tandem skydive for charity in 2016.   When my health allows me to, I enjoy going on motorbike rides with my partner on the back of his bike.

What is your personal experience with obesity:

I began to gain weight in my teens and there began years of losing and gaining more.   Despite many treatments and therapies including cognitive behaviour therapy, neuro- linguistic therapy, mindfulness, my health deteriorated in my mid-thirties with diabetes, umbilical hernia, PCOS, depression to name just a few.   I had bariatric surgery in July 2015 and my diabetes, including retinopathy, was reversed on the day and so far has remained that way. My health and quality of life has improved vastly, however I regained and I have continued on further treatments.   Without the multi disciplinary team and ongoing monitoring from my endocrinologist I do believe I would not have the quality of life that I have now.   Living with obesity is something I am aware of every single day and I can only manage with the help from professional healthcare providers and our peer support network.