SARAH is stared at in the street and says she can't wear the clothes any other 15-year-old girl can.

Robert is called names and has had eggs thrown at him in school.

Hannah had a toilet door kicked on top of her in school.

Sarah says she "hides behind" groups of friends so her peers don't notice her.

The four teenagers all attend an after- school club run by Cobwebs, a Huddersfield-based charity for overweight youngsters.

They are part of an eight-strong group who meet to share experiences and feelings and, in some cases, receive counselling for the torment they have undergone.

"We aim this to be a safe place, where they can be like any other child and not have to think about being different," said Patricia Sadio, who leads the project.

"We don't tolerate any name-calling or bullying here. We talk about feelings, as well as healthy eating and exercise. Any specific worries they have can be dealt with at one-to-one sessions."

Next month, Cobwebs will publish the results of a new study, the first of its kind in Kirklees.

It has been commissioned by the Children's Fund Kirklees to look at the issues surrounding obesity.

The charity has weighed 2,000 children across Kirklees in an attempt to gauge the scale of childhood obesity in the area.

Attending a session at the National Children's Centre, off New North Parade, gives the visitor a snapshot of the way being overweight can affect a child.

Sarah, who is thinking about a career in youth work, would love to wear the fashionable clothes her peers can. Like any other 15-year-old she wants to look her best and enjoys experimenting with hair and make-up.

"My weight makes me depressed, angry and annoyed. People stare at me and I can't wear what I want to."

Sarah - who has already swapped schools because of bullying - is classed as an "anxious attender" and isn't in school at the moment.

Fourteen-year-old Hannah has also changed schools because of alleged physical abuse. She has a serious back problem, which means she finds if difficult to take part in many sports and physical activities.

Robert shakes off any jibes about his weight and says he is happy with himself. "Everyone likes me the way I am, but I know I would be happier if I could lose weight. I just take the name-calling, they only do it a few times and then they get bored," said the boisterous 13-year-old.

Cobwebs can be contacted by phoning 01484 483048, by email at or by letter to Cobwebs, PO Box 638, Huddersfield HD4 5XP.


* Obesity is rising among children, according to the Chief Medical Officer's 2002 annual report. In the five years between 1996 and 2001 the proportion of obese children aged six to 15 years rose by 3.5%.

* Four in 10 boys and six in 10 girls are not meeting the recommended hour a day of physical activity for children.

* Watching TV, playing computer games and parents' fears of letting their children play outdoors are blamed for the rise in obesity.

* The food industry should take a more responsible approach to the promotion of foods high in fat, salt and added sugars and balance this with healthier options including fruit and vegetables, according to the Chief Medical Officer.

* Action should be taken in the home, schools and as part of national campaigns to improve the diets of children and the "five a day" programme to increase children's intake of fruit and vegetables.

* Portion sizes are increasing compared with the 1970s and the supersizing of fastfoods and products is becoming increasingly popular. Some kingsize chocolate bars in the UK provide around a fifth of the daily calorie needs of a 10-year-old.