Is Being Overweight Actually More Healthy Than Being Slim?

I read this article today in The Guardian which suggests so. But when you read do bear in mind that it is written by a fat is fine activist who believes that some of us are just designed in a way that we naturally carry fat and that doesn’t mean we are not fit and healthy, it’s just a body shape thing.

I’ve long suspected that some of us are just naturally fat. Just like we accept that some people are naturally thin, those who can not gain weight, but we are less accepting of the concept of people being naturally fat.  I even came out with a theory that within primitive society some of the village folk would have been naturally fat so that in the event of famine or a longer than anticipated hunt, those people would be able to last longer, feed the village babies for longer and just keep things ticking along long after the skinnies had flagged.

A couple of things sprung to mind as I read this article and the first was excuses. I know it’s going to be seen as harsh but I know that I’ve used all of the excuses in the book for remaining fat… and I was what could be termed a healthy fattie. I have never had the usual weight related health issues that we hear of in the news, in fact I have a few friends who have not had them either and so we do have to question if they really exist. Yet the research suggests they do. The problem is, I don’t think the health risks with fat lie in the here and now while we are young I think they lie in the future and whatever we want to say to dress it up, if the only thing affected by fat is our mobility then that’s enough to worry about. Mobility becomes a major issue in later life for many and fat doesn’t do a lot to make us more mobile. It’s a struggle to get up from lying to sitting and sitting to standing for most fat people, even the fit healthy ones like me and the young ones. I know when I’ve really regretted being fat the most is when I’ve had surgery and I have undoubtedly struggled with recovery more than a slim person would have,  mobility being one of the biggest issues. I’ve worried that in older age my weight would impact on my enjoyment of life due to this issue alone. That’s without even going into the data on cancer and diabetes and high blood pressure.

But we are good at making excuses and fat people, like smokers and drinkers and gamblers are guilty (I am guilty) of finding reasons not to change and of convincing ourselves that we are happy and healthy and I really do envy those who are truly happy and who do not have concerns for their future health and mobility but I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t ever motivated to lose weight to look good, for me it really all has been about health and mobility, it’s been about feel good, emotional and physical. As the author of this piece implies that I’m in denial and I’m just a victim of media induced stereotypes regarding body shape and I don’t really want to lose weight for health reasons because I’m already healthy, I’d have to take exception with her opinion. I am not doing what I am doing to conform to a physical stereotype at all, I want to feel ‘right’ and I don’t feel right just yet and certainly didn’t feel right when I was 150lbs heavier than this.

I take exception to fat bashing, I really do and do feel that it is the last permissible discrimination but we shouldn’t be bashing each other. Fat people who can’t lose weight down treading the efforts of those who are doing it and questioning the motives and those of us who can lose weight making sweeping judgements about those who say they are happy to be fat. Yet we do. We take sides in the fat debate even though we are fat. I’m guilty and I don’t want to be but when my motives are attacked I go on the defensive, I’m a human being after all, fat or not.

Anyone following me knows I have a rough final goal of hitting a higher end normal BMI and maintaining around there. I’m almost there and I know I can get there I know that even though I have kidded myself I’m naturally fat and that I can’t ever be slim as excuses in the past along with the ‘happy as I am’ mantra… although if I’m honest I don’t believe I’ve ever said I was happy as I was when I was fat, I’ve probably said I’m just going to accept that this is who I am but I don’t even think I’ve believed that. I’ve always been aware of the potential impact on my health. I may not have diabetes or cancer or heart disease but I did have heart burn and indigestion and IBS and anxiety and depression and irregular painful periods and a whole list of other ailments which are not so readily associated with being overweight. I know lots of overweight people who are happy with their weight but complain of all or some of those same conditions while stating they are healthy and I know that those conditions can be cured with a good diet, weight loss and improved fitness. I know this because I don’t suffer from them anymore.

Anyone who follows me also knows that I don’t like BMI for the very reason that it doesn’t take into account everything, especially people who have stronger, dense more heavy muscles and those who just weigh heavy. I come from a family which weighs heavy, tall, skinny size 8 ladies weighing 11 stone are not unusual in my family so I know that BMI is not ideal as a measure. BUT, this is where I have complied with ‘the norm’ and sold my fat soul to the devil in that it IS the measure used by doctors, by life insurers and health insurers and as such if I want a good deal I have to comply. That’s not necessarily a good thing but I need to be out of that obese zone for more reasons than health and appearance, I don’t want to be obese and here we lead into another issue… when does fat stop and obese start?

At the moment I’m in the overweight category on the BMI scale and anyone following me knows how much I wanted to get into this category more so even than the normal band. No longer being obese, morbidly obese or super morbidly obese was to me a really big deal for my health and happiness not for my appearance. At this point I am super fit, super healthy and super happy so I guess I should stop and just content myself with being overweight yes? The problem with that is I don’t want to stop living healthy and eating healthy. I want to do it for life and the consequence of that is that I lose weight because I am overweight in spite of the fact that I’m happy and healthy and fit and I don’t have any health problems whatsoever.

There will come a point when I don’t lose weight anymore, it’s not like I am starving myself, I eat a lot and some of that is fat, I’m a butter, eggs, full fat dairy consumer, hard cheese is a staple for me yet I’m losing weight because I am carrying excess fat that is not natural for me at all, it’s entirely unnatural and that’s why even though I am not calorie counting I am losing weight. I can’t kid myself any longer, the proof is happening to me every day. Will I have a breakdown if I stop losing weight and am not within a normal BMI? No of course not, I’ll accept that’s my ideal weight and I’ll settle there, I’ll accept that I’m meant to have a thicker waist and slightly chubby cheeks and I’ll be happy with that knowing that I’m healthy. I won’t care that I can’t wear a size 6 dress, that doesn’t bother me at all, I’ll know that I’m where I’m meant to be and I’ll be satisfied.

People who are overweight and happy with their size and who are convinced that their weight is having no detrimental effect on their health are possibly correct but obese people telling themselves the same thing are maybe not being totally honest with themselves. As much as people like me are challenged as being deluded by the author of the piece, I’d say obese people who think that their weight is not going to have an impact on their physical health are deluded. I think that’s fair, we’re entitled to a bit of retaliation when under attack especially when broad sweeping accusations about our motivations are made.

Overweight and obese are not one and the same thing. It might be healthy to be a little overweight and my fat person in the village theory would hold with that, but to be obese is not to be healthy, I really don’t believe that and I think we need to differentiate between the two. I know you can be obese and not have the big nasty life enders that we hear about as I’ve done it but I also know that being obese is not being healthy, there are a whole host of health issues, physical and mental which accompany it which only get talked about when the weight starts to come down. That to me is denial.

We all want to be normal, the problem is we don’t know what normal is. Overweight people who are happy with their size feel normal, slim people who are within a normal BMI feel normal, obese people who are struggling with weight loss say they feel normal… as long as we are honest with ourselves about what our idea of normal is then we’re all happy and shouldn’t be judging one another or making assumptions about motivations to lose weight or to stay fat. The choice is ours. Happiness is the most important thing in life and if some people are happy being fat then that is wonderful, I was never happy being fat, I experienced happiness as a fat person but I was never happy with me, not deep down. I felt I was missing something, cheating myself of something, endangering my life and that’s why I lost weight, not because I wanted to look good in a bikini or to attract a man.

The article reports findings which support the ‘fact’ that being overweight can help you live longer and is actually a healthy state and if that’s really the case then I’m going to be a happy bunny to reach my normal a little sooner than I planned. This kind of research definitely will help me to be satisfied if I settle ten pounds or so above the dictated normal for my height and will confirm what I already know, that being healthy, being happy, being fit and well is possible if you are a few pounds over weight and you might even be the village saviour if the food all runs out. What I worry about is that this article will encourage people to be happily obese and unhealthy, maybe not now but in the future and that it will detract from their quality of life.


Introducing Katie Hopkins… you may not thank me for this

The beautiful Katie and her happy, vibrant, healthy children

You may or may not have heard of British lady Katie Hopkins. I’m not too sure what she does for a living now but she is very opinionated and is probably best known for having strong views which could perhaps be described as “niche” in that the majority of people are offended by her or outraged by her or just simply flabbergasted by her comments. She shares these on social media but for some unknown reason is also given air time on national television all too frequently. I don’t watch the shows she appears on, it’s not the sort of TV I watch, it’s more the day time nothing better to do TV shows where Katie gets to peddle her particularly  harsh views. She clearly knows that having extreme views is shocking and that shocking behaviour gets people noticed. I hate to think what her children will turn out like, they look such a miserable bunch of souls.

She came to public notoriety when she was on the UK version of The Apprentice which during her season descended from genuine ‘get a high flying job with famous entrepreneur’ show to a reality show for wannabes looking for an easy way into the public eye where they could be adored out of some need to replace love and attention lacking in childhood.

Katie considers herself to be very posh and is perhaps deluded into thinking that sophisticated is its natural accompaniment, like a stuck up person’s BOGOF.  But Katie is far from sophisticated, sophisticated people are demure, reserved, intelligent, satisfied and confident. Katie is clearly fame hungry and in need of attention. Perhaps she didn’t have very good parents. Yes that would explain a lot. 

So Katie is known for bashing poor people and fat people among others. She has undertaken her latest publicity stunt highlighted in this article from a really trashy UK tabloid. To prove that fat people are just lazy greedy folk she has purposefully gained 4 stone in weight (56 pounds or thereabouts) so she can show how easy it is to lose it again.

This is how stupid this self professed intelligent woman is. The first thing she should understand without ever embarking on this attention seeking trip is that she has put herself in a temporary state of behaving out of the ordinary, by over eating and not exercising for a couple of months. She has temporarily changed what is normal for her. She’s had to change what is normal for her in order to gain weight and all she will be doing is what dieters have been doing for years and years and that is returning to what is normal to her and the weight will come off of course it will. Just like when a yo-yo dieter returns to what is normal for them and they regain lost weight.

We really must be more clever than Katie to realise this. Katie probably thinks that all fat people are stupid too, she thinks most people are stupid, including people who name their children after locations/places… her own child is called India.  

Katie cried because “fat people made her do this to herself” when she had to overeat and I was glad, because people like Katie with their ill thought out, vitriolic bullying of people who struggle with their weight makes them do just the same, eat and cry. Idiots like Katie Hopkins make people fat. It is good to hear she is having a taste of her own medicine, although nobody made Katie eat and gain weight, Katie chose to do it because whilst she is not hungry for food, she is hungry for attention and fame and money.

It’s not going to be difficult for Katie to return to what is normal for her, we stupid fat people know that. What would be difficult is if she had to continue to live in a way that was not normal for her forever, which is what dieters have to try to do in order to lose weight. They don’t spend a couple of months changing their lifestyle and everything is OK, they have to adjust to a totally new way of living forever.

The other thing Katie is missing of course, is that for many fat people, food is not consumed out of greed, some fat people actually eat healthy food but way too much of it, some fat people even exercise and are quite active and believe it or not fit and even healthy. Katie is too blinkered to be aware of these facts, they mess with her black and white, simplistic, prejudicial brain. She can’t see that for some people overeating is an eating disorder which needs more than a couple of weeks on a diet to overcome. In that sense, having some emotional hang up which makes her cleave to the modern day version of ‘celebrity’, she has more in common with some fat people than she realises. Whereas she uses a need for fame to mask her deep seated emotional issues fat people use food to mask theirs.

Katie comments that it is not nice feeling fat, so surely even her challenged operational brain cell can figure out that lots of fat people are not happy with the way they are and so remaining like that is hardly a conscious choice.

Of course what everyone is secretly hoping (some not so secretly) is that Katie struggles to lose the weight. That would be poetic justice, but that won’t happen as she is rich (as she keeps on telling us) so she can buy healthy food and she can go to a gym and have a trainer and spend time between writing vitriolic tweets (not sure she does much else) focused on losing the weight while someone else looks after her children and takes care of her home. As Katie also bashes poor folk, I’d be more impressed if she managed to lose the weight and provide for her family on a really low income, with no access to gyms and trainers.

Katie will not fail because she would look the fool that she is and the documentary would have proven nothing, so we should take it that she has succeeded in proving her point because Katie will not let her mask of confidence and arrogance slip, heaven forbid we should see the pathetic creature longing for love hiding underneath it all. It’s all a front masking a very weak, insecure woman who hates herself so much she has to be someone else, someone who even she doesn’t like. For that I actually feel some sympathy for her and wish she could just be happy and learn to love herself for who she is without needing to be famous and stop embarrassing her children who are going to suffer as a result of their mother’s campaign to be the most hated woman in Britain. If only she was sophisticated enough to understand what she is doing to them.

Katie might be what she considers attractive (a matter of opinion) but what happens in her mind makes her ugly, she is spiteful, vain and makes a living out of being horrible to and about other people when she really has no pedestal to stand on other than one she has imagined for herself. She has taken fat hating to another level, blaming fat people for what she’s done to herself. Fat people didn’t make her do this, or if they did then Katie has more issues than we initially thought. Her hunger for fame and money did this to her, not fat people.

But, it’s not all bad for people who struggle with eating disorders. She is doing something to help us and that is highlighting the issues faced by people who struggle with their weight and she is generating some supportive comments, not for her, but acknowledging that losing weight is not simply about returning to a healthy lifestyle for some, it’s about much more than that and her publicity stunt may have gained her more alienation from the public but it has also raised some awareness, sympathetic awareness of the plight many people face when they are battling an eating disorder or for people who are trying to recover from a health problem which caused a weight gain.

For further reading about the documentary she has made charting her weight gain and loss (more fame seeking… I wonder if I should make a programme about the mental issues of someone who needs to be famous?) here is an article from the Independent

Tags & Categories: Mental Health

I have dabbled with blogging specifically about mental health before as I have suffered depression, grief depression and post traumatic stress disorder in the past, and still suffer with anxiety which manifests itself more as agoraphobia and an overwhelming incapacity to engage in life. Mostly I’ve not known what was wrong with me at the time, or that anything was wrong with me and I’ve never sought help, I was one of the lucky ones who just battled through it and healed myself to a degree and I’m just getting better every day at the moment but know it can pop up and bite back. I would never be complacent about being ‘over’ a mental health problem but I do believe in healing the brain just as we can heal other ailments. I’m trying to keep my brain healthy and use relaxation, exercise, hydration and a good diet to keep my mental health in check as well as this blog which allows me to vent the things I would not normally allow to escape and would keep rattling around in my head where they just do more harm. This is my talking therapy and some of what I let out never makes it to publication, it doesn’t need to, simply expelling it from my mind frees me of thoughts or memories which may have troubled me.

I’ve also blogged about how I feel obesity is a mental illness or at least an emotional condition, similar to other eating disorders and similar also to self harming. I strongly believe that obesity is not always simply about poor diet and lack of exercise believing instead that they are tools which help us to self-destruct. I get it that some people get fat because they just eat poorly and don’t move enough but I’m referring to people who have battled obesity since childhood. People who have fought a life long battle with food, who have used food to mask a sadness or something lacking in their life, to throw up a fat shield to keep them safe from the big bad world or certain people in it, the pain of abuse or abandonment whatever… for some obesity is a mental health condition and I truly believe it is for me.

I’m not making excuses for being fat I’m finally finding a way not to be fat anymore.

This is why I have never beaten it, this is why I have struggled with it since I embarked on my first diet at the age of 6, this is why I have yo-yo’d in weight from being slim to being over 300 pounds, from a 15 stone 15 year old to a UK size 10 to a UK size 28 and everything in between more times than I can recall.

I have always approached solving my problem from a physical perspective, looking at the chemistry and biology of calorific intake and usage, focusing on food, the very thing which I use to destroy  myself. It’s like sitting a suicidal person in a room with a ton of books on how to kill yourself and samples of nooses and forcing them to focus on that and nothing else and expecting them to not want to hang themself. Dieting has been about deprivation, about self chastisement, guilt, euphoric highs filled with happiness at weight loss and terrible depressive lows at weight gains. It’s been about failure, self loathing, comparison, awful food, judgement, embarrassment, ridicule, pain, frustration, sorrow, anger and misery.

It has never been about addressing my emotional issues with food, my mental issues, why I use food the way I do, why I feel the need to make myself fat to protect myself, why I have to periodically shrink away into this huge blubbery body and secret myself in its folds only reaching out to grab more food to make my safety pod ever bigger while I suffer and die a little more in the hell I’ve encapsulated myself in. It hasn’t been about why I feel the need to make myself feel less and less of a valid person and more and more of a failure, a freak and a non-human unworthy of love, affection, happiness, success , achievement and even life.

I set a mental health category some time back when I blogged specifically about mental health but lately I find myself increasingly clicking on that category when I’m writing about weight loss, about exercise breakthroughs, about my life events because this is what tackling obesity is all about for me now… my mental health. I know that if I take care of what is going on in my head my body will be easier to change. More than my physical health improving my mental health is improving by leaps and bounds, I’m happier, I’m calmer, I’m less anxious, I don’t feel tense, I breathe properly, I sleep properly, my mind is clear, I don’t forget things, I am more attentive, I am relaxed, at ease, not afraid, confident, motivated, inspired. It’s not a physical thing at all, it never was, it’s always been a battle in my head but I’ve never taken that battle on in my head before. I’ve heeded mental prompts, probably my brain crying out for relief from self-destruction but I’ve been fooled into believing the battle was happening in my mouth, in my stomach, in my belly, in my bowels, under my skin when all along it was happening in my head, the one place I never thought to address this hellish condition.

I’ll continue to always click that mental health category whenever I post about my fight with obesity, my triumphs, my challenges, my food wins and disasters, my exercise successes and frustrations and I’d encourage anyone else who is fighting this awful life sapping condition to do the same. The more we link obesity and mental health the more people might start to see that this is not about greed, gluttony or a lack of regard for how we look or for our health. This is about sickness and instead of sufferers being humiliated and mocked and regarded as lazy, greedy pigs we need to wake up and start giving it the attention it deserves and helping other sufferers to fight this while they are young, but fight it in the head so that they  never have to suffer years and years of yo-yo dieting which inevitably leads to misery, self loathing and becoming heavier and heavier.

If you can sit and eat a big meal and then munch your way through family sized bars of chocolate, family packs of crisps, everyone’s dinner left overs, sandwiches, four helpings of breakfast, whole packets or boxes of biscuits you have a mental health problem, trust me, you are not greedy, you don’t have a big appetite, there is something going on in your head that it making you destroy yourself and you need help with what is going on in your mind not what is going on in your stomach.

The only people who benefit from the food focused battle are the multi-billion dollar players in the diet industry. They don’t want to cure you they want you as a life long customer and I’ve never come across one yet which offers me counselling, support with the mental and emotional elements of over eating or which told me I have an eating disorder. They all just serve to reaffirm the greedy lazy fat person stereotype and I’m not denying that type may exist but for some of us it runs a lot deeper than that and we owe it to ourselves and others like us to make that link between obesity and mental health clear. That way help might be more readily available to those who need it and don’t have the strength to tackle this alone before they have to resort to life threatening surgery or before they die too soon having been denied the life they deserved and so badly craved.

Hurt Feelings

This really lovely insightful personal post caused me to think about my own approaches to people I’m close to hurting my feelings.

Not many people I’m close to purposefully hurt my feelings, I don’t think they dare, I can be a pretty formidable character, that’s not to say nobody ever has. My birth family (I like to make the distinction between the family I was raised in and the family I created) find really unique ways of cutting me without even trying and it’s not usually that they say anything nasty (they did when I was a kid), but they can be hugely insensitive which is one of the reasons I can’t be bothered with them in my life anymore, they don’t even mean it, they’re just incapable of empathy as many who are selfish to the core are.

When I read the above post I tried to recall boyfriends or husband or anyone ever saying anything bad to me directly related to my weight and could only think of two things really, both of which made me chuckle. I’m not very tolerant of bad vibes or insults and tend to not give a chance for an apology or forgiveness, I move right on and leave bad vibes behind.

This is not always a good thing, it means I can appear flighty and also that I maybe don’t give things enough of a chance and walk out on things way too quickly, I’ve always had the approach that if someone upsets, offends or annoys me they’re not worth my time and they’re out on their ear before they get another chance. It probably comes from years of putting up with it as a kid and wishing I could just call it a day and get out of there instead of being forced to be around such negative people all of the time.

Of course there are exceptions to my rule, my children, a husband would get more room for error than a boyfriend, work colleagues although I’ve also been known to give them short shrift at times and my students, I have to give them a chance but then most of these people are nice and don’t need forgiving.

So my examples related to my weight forgive me while I indulge myself on my trip down memory lane:

There was a guy I was dating, I was on another diet, I wasn’t big, he’d said I didn’t need to lose weight but none the less I was trying to. I stayed over at his one weekend and I’d taken a small Galia melon for my breakfast, I cut it in half, offered him some, he declined and so I started to eat it.

“Michelle, are you eating a whole melon?” he asked (it was tiny and it was a melon)

“Yes, it’s my breakfast, it’s all I’m having, better than a bacon sandwich why?” I replied.

“I just thought you were on a diet and it seems a bit much eating a whole melon, a bit piggy” he commented.

I put my  melon down, picked up my belongings and left, didn’t speak, didn’t answer his questions about what I was doing, didn’t go back, didn’t answer calls (no texts or emails in those days) and when he turned up at my house a couple of days later I announced that he was history, I’d eat a whole box of melons if I wanted to and he could go to hell. Door slammed, no opportunity for apology, end of relationship. Funnily enough I saw him at a  party about a year later and I was with a new boyfriend and he was with a girl and he introduced me to her “This is Michelle, we used to go out a while ago”. “Yes”, I added “Everything was going great until he criticised my melons.” the confused faces were priceless.

The only other time I can remember is when I was dating this guy, he was suave and I’d already decided he was maybe too suave for me. I don’t like smooth operators much but he was filling a gap at the time. We’d gone to this lovely wine bar, it was a really lovely warm summers evening and we were in Richmond, London. The bar was situated by the Thames and we were out in the beer garden with all of the other pretty young city dwellers enjoying the weather and the early summer evening riverside atmosphere. I was feeling amazing, I recall it so clearly perhaps because he peed me off so much.

I’d had a good day off work, booked a holiday and was feeling excited and relaxed having had a pamper session with a friend that day, the first time I’d experienced waxing to remove body hair. Ouch but so smooth! I had a good tan from a fabulous summer and I’d taken to playing tennis for fitness and had had a really energetic game that morning which had left me feeling pumped for the day. I was a busty size 12 then, size 10 bottom (my slimmest ever apart from when I was emaciated from my time in the cupboard, see part 2 in my journey to fat). My hair was long, having grown back nice and lush and it was a lovely golden blonde tinted lighter than usual by the sun. He was 6’2″, mixed race, swam for fitness so had a body to die for, broad shoulders, slim waist a fab set of lean muscles, he was a doctor, well traveled, interesting, intelligent, sexy and fun… perfect but for his slippery smoothness. 

We were seated at an outdoor table, opposite each other. There was another table behind my date with two delightful looking guys who I had clocked looking at me as I’d swung my long, lean legs over the bench seat and had returned their smiles. (Gosh I was such a flirt).

We had a  bottle of crispy, chilled white wine and had a lovely conversation, flirting outrageously with each other, sexual tension was so tight if a fly had landed on it it would have exploded. Even so I’d been having some eye contact with the guys behind him not that he had noticed, I don’t think he could have imagined that anyone in his company would have eyes for anything but him. I couldn’t help myself, call me a tart, I had every right to be at that time, after my escape from hell and I wanted play things not anything meaningful. I had to feel in control and powerful when it came to men so that I could retrieve the shattered parts of myself.

Then it happened, he leaned forward towards me and took my hands and I leaned forward to him sensing he was going to say something for my ears only and he actually did it, he said “You know darling, I could really give myself to you if you lost a little bit of weight”.

Oh boy! What a mistake-a to make-a as they say. I was flabberghasted but kept my cool on the outside. The cheeky b*******.

I smiled sweetly at him and said, in my sweetest voice “Oh really, that’s so cool” and then changed my tone slightly and said “And what makes you think that I’d want you? In fact, there’s a skinny assed bitch over there [nodding over his shoulder] go try your luck, I’ve got my eyes on someone who appears to like me just the way I am. See you around… darling” and with that I extracted myself from the picnic bench type table and moved to sit on the table behind him “Mind if I join you guys?” I asked “My company back there was getting so slippery I think I was in danger of sliding off into the Thames” and we all laughed as they waved me into a space at their table. Suave guy couldn’t do anything really, I left him a bit powerless (as was my intention) and the guy I met that night from the other table turned out to be one of my so far life long friends who has loved me through fat and thin.

Everything happens for a reason as they say. So yeah, I’ve experienced it but I’ve not dealt with it so well depending on how you look at it. 

Shopping and the fat brain psyche

Got a day off as my classes are on an excursion and I didn’t have to go. I went into work but I got so far ahead of myself over Easter there was no point in me hanging around and so I came home to write about my successful week.

I’m going to venture into town in a bit, something I rarely do. I hate shopping with a passion. Well, that’s not strictly true, I hate shopping malls, they are awful places and I hate supermarkets but I do like shopping in little quaint high streets and curiosity shops and I’m glad they still exist even though they are up against it to prevent themselves becoming a thing of the past.

But I bought my daughter a Pandora charm bracelet some time ago and she loves to add to her collection. She has a big day tomorrow and I wanted to buy her a good luck charm to add to her bracelet. I know each addition means something special to her, we were instructed never to buy a charm ‘just because’, they always have to have a meaning and attachment to something significant. She is one of the most sentimental people I know but would never admit to it.

I know she wanted me to go with her tomorrow, not to hold her hand but just for company on the journey and to chat to about how things went on the journey back. She’s not a baby, she’s independent in so many ways she just enjoys my company which is a gift because the last person I’d want with me when I was preparing for something remotely stressful or important would be my mother.

I know that by buying her a little addition to her bracelet she will feel a sense of me being there, she will look at it and have a little play around with it and it will be a reminder of how I’m rooting for her from a distance. Besides anything else she will know how much courage it took for me to go to the Pandora dealer to buy it and make it far more valuable to her than its monetary worth.

I feel so exposed in shopping malls, everyone looks perfect, like they dressed up especially to go shopping. I know that isn’t the case but that’s how everyone seems to me, I must skim past the fat ones, the less than perfect specimens of which there are probably many.

There’s so much glass too and so many mirrors just waiting to remind me of how huge I am and depress me and make the chocolate and toffee shop seem like the place I belong, comforting me with its rich vanilla and cocoa aromas, a little haven in a hall of mirrors.

I have a real problem with shopping malls but alas if I am to give my daughter a token of my support and love for her I have to brave it and try to not be affected by it. I think it’s been made worse by this awful pass time that people have now of taking photos of fat people and posting them to Facebook sites for everyone to be nasty and superior about. I try not to look at such things but they pop up in feeds and my students often talk about how cruel they are and it never ceases to amaze me how insensitive people are these days where nothing is sacred and everything is open for public viewing.

It’s so sad really, I’m thinking I’m not the only one, how obese people are made to feel or make ourselves feel unworthy of certain places or certain activities. That’s how I feel as if I shouldn’t be in the mall, it’s a place where people buy lovely things for their lovely selves and even though there are plus size outlets and even though plus sized ladies (and gents) deserve to feel good and wear make up and buy perfume and have lovely handbags and gorgeous sun glasses we’re made to feel we don’t belong in the shops which sell them.

Is it only me? Maybe it is I don’t know. Maybe it’s one of my own mental blocks. I just hate the places so much, I feel at my most ugly, my most exposed, my most vulnerable, my most uncomfortable in them. Maybe it’s my own low self esteem, my own sensitivity to being looked at, my own paranoia that makes me think anyone gives a damn what I’m doing or even notices me.

I feel like I’m heading to the lions’ den and I was anticipating coming back feeling as I usually do, totally miserable, to the point of hurt even and probably with a cake and some chocolate to soothe me. Then I thought to myself if I can just do this, if I can do it and picture in my mind what I’m going for instead of what’s going to happen there, if I can project forward to my daughter on her journey tomorrow feeling comfort when she looks at her pretty new good luck charm, if I can imagine myself feeling accomplished having even dared to go there at all, if I can cut out all of the bad stuff and focus on just doing what I and any other person has a right to do, going to the shop to buy something then I might be able to strengthen rather than weaken myself.

Instead of feeling like I’m heading to the lions’ den picture myself as some Indiana Jones or Lara Croft character, on a mission, a quest to get something no matter what, to brave the environment and avoid all of its traps, maybe then I’ll emerge from this experience feeling good rather than bad, strong rather than weak, accomplished rather than failed and what’s more without having to eat to recover from it.

I’m almost shaking with anxiety at the thought of going and am not even sure that I will make it, I might bottle it before I get there and text my son and ask him to pick her one up on his way home from school but then that wouldn’t mean so much. I’m just trying to prepare myself mentally, to breathe through the anxiety and just do it. I know I’m going to be almost hyperventilating by the time I get there and sweating, I get these flash sweats when I’m in a shopping mall, like an intense fever swept over me momentarily. I seriously hope that losing weight will take this fear away, it wasn’t always like this, although I’ve never enjoyed the shopping mall experience regardless of my size but now it terrifies me.

Crikey, you’re in the mind of a fat person, see how awful it is? I’m only going to the bloody shop!

Scales Arrived… boooooooooo!

Oh no. It’s even worse than I had deluded myself into imagining. I’m a good 3 stones heavier than I thought I was so forgive me while I go and weep and wail in a dark cupboard somewhere.

Actually it could have been worse… I could have died before I realised I needed to do something, now that would have been something to feel crap about. As it is I console myself in the knowledge that I’ve woken up and smelled the coffee BEFORE I knew how bad it really was.

I wanted to cry but when my son saw my horror he took my hand looked into my sad fat face with his deepest brown eyes and said “you are beautiful mummy, we are going to make you even more beautiful, I’m here to help you”

Oh my days, my heart burst and I spluttered out tears and stuff all over the poor lad.

He turned my despair to joy, looking at a beautiful part of yourself and feeling that overwhelming love is something that puts all else into perspective. I thank God he was there at that moment with me because it made me realise that I’m not proud of those numbers but I am so proud of the young man I made. I got something right. How could I have been so selfish to allow this to happen to me, to risk leaving them alone, with no mother? Gosh wake up call heard loud and clear.

Now we’re going for a walk on the beach and I don’t know if I’ll ever come back because my son said we’re not allowed to take money… for two reasons, 1. so that we can’t buy ice cream or fish and chips and 2. so that we have no choice but to walk back from wherever we walk to

Smart cookie this one, he knows his mummy only too well. I’ll be back later, sandy and exhausted and glowing from the fresh sea air and no doubt even closer than before to my precious boy.

Obesity. Are we getting it all wrong?

I’ve thought about fat and being fat a lot over the years, I’ve met lots of people who have made me think differently and who have made me question things I had taken as gospel.

I wonder if we as a society are approaching this whole obesity thing in the wrong way. I think we really need to study obesity and break the obese into their various groups.

We are not one big lump of people who all have the same story to tell. We are not all couch potato gluttons who never move and what is more important, we haven’t all always been like this.

I think (and this is just my theory thrown out there) that there are three different types of obese people.

Type 1 – People who are genetically predisposed to be overweight but can’t see a visible genetic issue. Think of the one fat person in a family of skinnies (like me). I have a huge family of skinny and I mean skinny people. My siblings are like streaks of lightening, tall, willowy, can eat anything they like and do nothing in terms of exercise and yet they never gain weight. My parents too. So we look to the extended family for a link and remember my great aunt Fanny three times removed who was fat and so I must be like her. This type is active, doesn’t eat differently to other family members, healthy and fit but is plagued by a weight problem which can be controlled by strict dietary monitoring, specifically of certain self identified trigger foods.

Type 2 – People who are genetically predisposed to be overweight and the genetic link is obvious i.e. overweight parents, grand parents, siblings. There are fat families out there who were not fat because of poor modern diets. I remember fat families, only a couple of them but those parents had like mine been war children, they had been deprived of anything fattening and had a very healthy largely vegetable based diet. Yet they were fat long before sitting in front of the TV and ordering a takeaway was imagined.

Type 3 – These people are those who were born slim who have no genetic tendency towards being overweight but have become overweight through lifestyle choices.

Are we wrong as a society to lump all three types together and expect a ‘remedy’ that fits all? Indeed are types 1 and 2 fighting a losing battle which is making them become obese?

I do seem to notice just from years of observation that those people who were not fat as young people, became fat and then shed the fat through lifestyle choices seem to keep the fat off better. Perhaps because they were never meant to be fat.

What if then the type 1 and 2 were naturally fat? What if they were meant to be overweight, what if there were genetically predisposed people who were meant to retain weight, going back in time to when a fat person would have ensured survival of a tribe during  a famine or illness, what if being fat is about survival? Because if there was a famine around here anytime soon, I’m going to be here much longer than Kate Middleton or Kate Moss, my fat ass is going to be living on days after their bodies give up. It sounds radical but what if?

OK so those of us who identify with Type 1 or Type 2 know we have gone way over being a bit pudgy and carrying a few more famine survival pounds, but what if we’re obese (and I know lots of us can identify with this) BECAUSE we were trying or being made to lose weight that we should never have been made to lose? The yo-yo cycle is always going to leave us fat, we know that and we know it doesn’t leave us fat it leaves us even fatter than the last time.

Society makes us feel like freaks, our families make us feel like freaks (sometimes) our peers make us feel like freaks, we feel we have to do something, there comes a time when we diet and so it begins, the battle to be something that we really were never meant to be and all that battle does is make us obese. Not pudgy famine survival chubbiness but unhealthy obesity, fueled by the self loathing that society/family/peers have embedded in us.

It’s worth a thought. It explains why some people (and I’m one of them) can be critically ill for extended periods of time, nil by mouth, near comatose and emerge still overweight when others going through the same situation arise as skeletal figures. I’ve seen it happen and it baffled me.

Type 1 and 2 can sometimes become slim with a whole shed load of effort but maintaining it is a battle it will never come easy if you are in this category. You know these are the type who look at a cake and gain a stone, we all know them, we are them.

Sometimes they can’t become slim, that explains why a dancer in a world touring show who performs twice a day and eats along with her fellow cast members can end a 9 month tour still medically obese. It explains why two of my friends in spite of gastric bypass surgery and strict adherence to healthy diets still wear a dress size 20 and can not get any slimmer for love or money.

Are we just getting obesity all wrong? Do we need to understand it better before we demonise fat people and blame Coca Cola and Microsoft for all of society’s ills?

I’m just throwing thoughts out there, I could be talking out of my posterior (shrinking posterior mind you). I’m trying to make sense of this and of myself. I’m on a journey and I’m not leaving a stone unturned, I want to understand this monster that has blighted my life and I want to beat it into submission. I’m not trying to find a get out clause for me to accept my state, I’ll never accept my state.

Surely at the very least we really need to be recognising the difference between the emotionally obese and the lazy, poorly educated in terms of health and nutrition obese.