As I write this it’s the evening of Christmas Day, and although we’re a Jewish/Pagan multifaith household, and we celebrate slightly differently, we’ve all eaten ourselves into a stupor over the last three days. So my weight is on my mind right now. I can feel my clothes getting a little tighter, and I know I’ll have put at least a few pounds on by the time everything settles down.
I’ve been overweight since I was eight, when I became chubby. At the age of eleven I went to WeightWatchers (the old system, which in my opinion was a fairly good one) and I was then slim from the ages of thirteen to eighteen. At eighteen I left home and went to University, and dieting or healthy eating was the last thing on my mind. By the age of twenty I was overweight again, and by twentyfive I was fat.
I’ve had three children, and my weight has gradually increased over time. My heaviest ever weight pregnant was probably around eighteen stone with my middle boy. My heaviest ever weight non-pregnant was fifteen stone one. I’m currently around the fourteen stone mark (maybe a bit more by now!) and to put that into perspective, I’ve five foot three and a third, and should be, apparently, between eight and ten stone. Other statistics include age (42 in March), dress size (18 ish, depending on the store) and bra size, well, I buy a 38C because I’m actually a 40 b and a half and that’s a really difficult size to get hold of:-)
I am fat. Chubby. Plump – very plump. Curvy, lumpy, cuddly. I have a smallish bust for my size, an enormous behind, two spare tyres and legs like tree trunks. All of my skirts and trousers have elastic waists. But I can buy clothes that fit me, and I think suit me, my husband loves me and my children and my cat could not care less what shape or size I am. I don’t appear yet to have any obvious health problems associated with obesity. I would like to lose a bit more weight – I’m finding a low carb diet works slowly for me and doesn’t have any problematic side effects (in fact it has none at all). But my weight does not define me.
So to all of those organisations and publications who are constantly shoving the message in my face about how evil obesity is, how we should all be on a more healthy diet (most of them with conflicting advice on what exactly a healthy diet is), how we should do some exercise every day (most of them with conflicting advice on exactly how much is necessary to make a difference), I have one thing to say.
SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP.
I am not a stupid woman. After years of experimenting with different ways of eating, I’ve found one that makes me feel good, not deprived, and not hungry, and enables me to lose weight slowly. I stick to it as best I can in the face of people who are as evangelical and passionate about their view of what constitutes a good diet as any religious fanatic. And yet, somehow, I’m still fat. Still somewhere between 40% and 50% more in weight than the authorities who are supposed to know their stuff are telling me I should weigh.
There are many reasons for this. I enjoy eating, a great deal. I like the good life, and eating and feeding my loved ones brings me a lot of joy. I don’t much like many forms of exercise or sport, although I’ve recently discovered a liking for yoga and the ABBA Dancing wii game. I have a full time job and three children, not to mention the demands of managing my depression, so I’m always busy, usually tired, and sometimes exhausted. A healthy diet and exercise plan is often the last thing I have the energy to worry about. I also have insulin resistance, one of the symptoms of which (please note – symptom, not cause) is the tendency to put weight on very easily and to find losing it a lot harder than for people without this syndrome.
I’m sure I can’t be the only person to have noticed that when you go into a supermarket, you are usually faced immediately with rack upon shelf upon display of cakes, doughnuts, chocolates, sweets, and generally all of the kinds of food that no diet in the world thinks of as a good idea. And that it’s almost impossible to get a fizzy diet drink in a cafe, restaurant, work canteen, petrol station or any supermarket smaller than the big four, unless it’s diet coke (useless for me since one whiff of caffeine and I start climbing the walls).
All in all, I reckon I do my best to keep reasonably healthy in the face of a huge amount of pressure, obstacle and distraction, not to mention psychological and cultural issues – I’m a Jewish Mother, for goodness sake. With all of that, in the world we live in, I’m just set up to fail. The fact that I’m not actually the size of a house is a huge triumph for me.
I also think that it says a lot for the success of the human race, or at least most parts of Western civilisation, that we have enough food available for a large proportion of the population to be ‘overweight’, and that times of famine for substantial areas of the world are few. And I am aware of how lucky I am that I have access to enough food to make me fat, and I give often and with fervent thanks to charities helping and supporting those less fortunate than myself. How has this abundance become a source of confusion, guilt, conflicting messages, rather than a cause for celebration?
So to all those who think that everyone should conform to a ‘normal’ weight, and all those who think that everyone overweight should be on a diet, and all those who think that fat people are greedy or lacking in self discipline, and all those who think it’s their place to preach about how obesity is evil and force their views upon those of us already doing our best in the face of enough conflicting research, ill-formed opinions and marketing pressure to drive the most stable person insane, I say to you once again:
JUST. FUCKING. SHUT. UP.