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Obesity as a lifestyle choice

Jane Shillingford weighs in

It is now almost thirty-four years since Susie Orbach wrote her seminal book Fat Is A Feminist Issue. A woman’s relationships with her body image (not least “Does my bum look big in this?” and “Have you sorted your bikini body for the summer holiday yet?”), weight and diet are probably of bigger concern to her than those with her partner, children and friends.

The arguments over bulimia, the obsession of the fashion industry with stick-thin models, and various campaigns to gain acceptance that the majority of British women are size 14 or above – some less successful than others – are never far from the headlines and media features.

Let’s face it, women are obsessed with female size – both our own and other people’s.

They even say scientific research has proved most women deliberately seek out at least one female friend who is bigger than themselves, just so that we can feel slimmer than them when we are going out socially.

All the above having been registered, if you asked me to identify one thing in life that irritates me more than any other, I would immediately cite those – usually women – who claim to speak for fatties.

For the most part, not only are they unrepentant about their substantial size, but they can be heard shouting from the rooftops at every opportunity that non-fatties discriminate against them and that the world needs to treat them with more respect.

Indeed, in particular, the world needs to learn not call them ‘fat’, because it’s demeaning.

What arrant nonsense!

There may indeed be a tiny minority of large people who are genetically or pathologically – in some way medically – unable to help the shape of their bodies but, for the most part, those claiming to act for fatties tend to swamp the airwaves and their newspaper interviews with bleats that “my size is not my fault’ …  this in a brief pause between scoffing doughnuts four and five from the large pile sitting in front of them.

Yesterday, on BBC1’s Breakfast Show, there was a feature in which a youngish 27-stone woman sought to explain her difficulties, including her chronically low self-esteem and poor self-image. [Said item had been prepared on the back of the news that some research body or another has determined that the recent government announcement that half of Britain’s population will be obese by 2050 is a serious under-estimate.]

The lady claimed that these invoked a vicious circle in which, constantly depressed by lack of progress with her latest diet, she took refuge in comfort eating which, of course, merely went to exacerbate the problem.

Her next point was that she couldn’t make the changes to her life she needed to make without a great deal more help. She stated that alcoholics and drug-addicts were granted all the (expensive) help they required whereas, just because she liked food, she wasn’t getting any.

She wanted to know why the government couldn’t do more for people like her.

[There was an answer to this, which nobody bothered to express, encompassing the fact that … she might not have noticed, but … there had been a global financial meltdown in 2008, that public spending had been slashed since 2010, and that there were far more pressing matters on the agenda than helping people achieve what they should be doing for themselves. Why is it that so many Brits, as soon as they have a problem, immediately expect the government, if not someone else, to sort it … and at no cost to them?]

By this point, I’m afraid, I was shouting at my television screen.

I’m not going to reveal all the adjectives with which I coloured my reaction, but the main thrust was a repeated tirade amounting to “Stop eating! … Stop eating! … Just stop eating, you idiot!”

I don’t know which type of fat person irritates me more – those that claim they wish to do something about their size, but then add that they just don’t have the willpower to stick to any dietary regime they are given or adopt … or those who espouse the Fat Acceptance Movement and rant on about how non-fat people discriminate against them, both overtly and otherwise.

This last group claim to be relaxed about the size they are – they’re not unhealthy, they’re just large, thank you – and are perfectly happy, or at least would be, if only the rest of us treated them with the dignity they deserve.

In my view, these people not only deluded but dangerous to the general population.

Obese people are inevitably bound to be many times more likely than the rest of us to suffer from every adverse condition and medical problem known to man. How on earth can they be happy to be deliberately placing themselves in that position by eating too much … and, not only that, but probably too much of the wrong kind of food as well?

Some of my friends complain privately that, by their chosen lifestyle, fat people are costing the NHS billions of pounds that could be better spent upon other, more pressing, needs.

I don’t adhere to that line, except perhaps in passing.

WaughThe writer Auberon Waugh, son of Evelyn, died exactly thirteen years ago this week.

I met him just once, at a dinner party, and found myself enjoying his company. I also enjoyed the column he wrote for Private Eye for many years, in which he took delight in expressing his sometimes counter-intuitive but always forthright opinions.

My gut instinct is that, on the issue of unrepentant fat people, Auberon Waugh would have ignored the negative and instead sought out a harsh but positive angle – as indeed I do on this subject.

I choose not to dwell on how much fat people are costing the NHS every year, but instead take heart from the fact they’re all going to die much earlier than the rest of us, thus removing any government need to allocate many more billions of taxpayers’ precious money to their pensions and no doubt what might have been very costly late-stage-of-life health care.

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About Jane Shillingford

Jane spent the bulk of her career working on women’s magazines. Now retired and living on the south coast, she has no regrets and 'would do it all again'. More Posts