On Monday 28 November 2011 the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image began conducting an inquiry into the causes and consequences of body image anxiety in the UK, and what practical steps can be taken to address the issue; it appears that we need an inquiry for just about everything these days. On 16 January 2012 Susie Orbach, feminist and author of Fat Is a Feminist Issue, gave evidence declaring that slimming clubs lock their members into "straitjackets" of false hope and that we should all be accepted no matter what our shape and size. Although I get the idea behind the inquiry (there's no doubting body image is a huge talking point) I object to the idea that we should accept anyone no matter what their body weight; just last Thursday the NHS revealed in their Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet report that obesity is on the rise for both men and women. The fact is fat is not a feminist issue; it's a health issue.
I think that it's pretty obvious from my mug shot that I am a thin person. I have never been fat or worn clothes bigger than a size 10, controversial. However, until recently I was what I'd term an unhealthy thin person. I watched what I ate to be able to fit into my skinny jeans and did little or no exercise. Then, I got a place in this year's Great North Run, since this I have made a real effort to eat more healthily and get fit; and you know what, it's really bloody hard work. So far it's been cold, windy and involved a lot of vomit.
It would be much easier for me to keep to my dodgy diet of junk food and cigarettes but for my health that would be seriously bad news; and health, people, is what it's all about. I'm not just making a dig at all you that side on the cuddlier; being skinny isn't going to add years on to your life either. It is no healthier to have a plate of cucumber for lunch than it is a McDonalds, every day. This idea that it's part of the sisterhood to accept someone that's a size 22 or in contrast a size 6 is total bullshit. If you're that fat or that skinny then you have a problem. You have an eating disorder or disordered eating, if you prefer, and you are damaging your body.
I have witnessed people close to me struggle with their weight, desperate to lose a few pounds or even a few stone. My dad battled with the scales once he had stopped playing his weekend sports and suffered from depression. I know that there are reasons for some people finding it more difficult to control their weight than others, I really do; sadly it just means that you have to work even harder. Friends of mine have also fought against the wobble, I have seen them begin weight loss classes and then drop out of weight loss classes. I don't disagree with Orbach, in that they give their members false hope. I only know one person that has achieved their "goal weight". I believe that this was down to their own grit and determination, not because someone was forcing them onto a pair of scales every Tuesday. This person owes little to Weight Watchers, but deserves a massive pat on the back for their dedication and commitment. You have to really want it and she (in this case) did.
There's no denying that we, all of us, are struggling with warped perceptions of our bodies; women thinking that they're too fat but are a size 12 with a healthy BMI, men thinking that they need to exist on egg whites and protein shakes. None of us want to bring up a generation that is even more insecure and crazy than we are. How do we do this? Who knows? I personally don't feel that the media is totally to blame although like everything they play their part. Models in magazines have never made me want to drink hot water and lemon and hit up the Dukan diet; I can't speak for all women, obviously. I probably feel more affected by friends and acquaintances physical appearance. I always notice when they've gained or lost a few extra pounds and sometimes I even feel jealous. That jealousy isn't just about weight. I also feel it unfair when a friend gets a new car or handbag that I can't afford; I think that's (sadly) normal.
No man or woman should feel excluded or lambasted by society because of his or her size, but equally we must not get confused and pushed into believing that it's all about acceptance. Fat is no better than skinny, and I for one am bored of reading about anorexic celebs or people so obese that they can't work and need "rescuing" out of their own homes. Eating's a complicated issue and one which can't be solved overnight, but it's time for the nation to give itself a firm kick up the butt, sort itself out and get healthy. Because healthy will let you watch your children grow up, healthy will let you enjoy your retirement and healthy will let you meet your grandchildren, or at least give you the best chance of it.
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