Those three little words

September 18, 2013 § 9 Comments

I’m going to be in trouble with my friend, Clive Simpkins, for saying this, but in case you hadn’t noticed, I am fat.

Does that make you uncomfortable? Let me say it again.


Are you cringing a little? Squirming in your chair as you read it? Good. My perception is that it always makes people uncomfortable when I say those three words. Call yourself fat and people will use words like ‘voluptuous’, ‘curvy’ and even ‘Rubinesque’. They’ll tell you that “men like women with a bit of meat on their bones” as if being fat is a ploy to attract a mate.

People think I’m being negative about myself, that I am exaggerating, but really, I’m not. Objectively speaking, I’m fat. If you worked out my body mass index (BMI) you would find that I’m squarely in the obese category that has medical professionals adopting their sternest faces and warning you about lifestyle diseases. And it’s not because I’m muscle-bound, before you leap into that defence. I really am fat.

You see, I’m lucky. I’m fairly tall, and my fat is quite evenly distributed, so I can carry it well. I even had to persuade a cardiologist once that I really was fatter than I seem. He hauled out his calculator, punched in the numbers and had to pick up his jaw from the floor when he realised I was right.

But it’s an interesting thing, being fat. People like to offer you weight loss tips as if they have found the Holy Grail and all you need to do is emulate them. And they make massive assumptions. For example, I complimented an acquaintance the other day. She’d slimmed down a lot, and I commented that she was looking lovely. I didn’t even ask, but she told me. “You know,” she said. “I just don’t eat junk. Nothing special.” And that’s the most common assumption – that if you’re fat, you must eat a lot of junk, that you load up on sugar and take-aways. And then the fat-shaming begins.

Well here’s the thing, fat-shamers. You can congratulate yourself all you want; pat yourselves on the back for the clever comment you made about that person who’s fatter than you are, but there’s nothing you can say that will make us feel worse than we already do about ourselves. Nothing. We are way ahead of you.

Do you honestly think we like feeling clumsy and awkward and ungainly and wobbly? Do you think we look in the mirror and like what we see? Do you think we don’t spend endless energy worrying about the fact that we’re fat? Or hating ourselves because we are? Trust me, we do. And you can fat-shame us all you like: your cruelty is nothing like the inner dialogue that goes on in my head, trust me. Next to me, you’re a, um, lightweight.

I know what you’re thinking – that I’m in denial about how much I eat. I must be overeating if I’m as fat as I am. So here’s the skinny, if you’ll pardon the expression: I have an egg and toast for breakfast, a sandwich or a salad or soup for lunch (when I remember) and some lean meat and vegetables for dinner. Plus a mini-rusk at 11am and a piece or two of fruit during the day if I’m peckish. I cook everything from scratch; no readymade meals for me. I rarely drink sodas – diet or otherwise. I don’t drink fruit juice. I drink tea and coffee, with milk, and water, and have the occasional glass of wine. I don’t have a sweet tooth, so there’s no regular bingeing on chocolate or sweets, and while I bake a lot, I alsmost never partake of anything I bake.

I could use a bit more exercise, I know, but in terms of what I eat, I don’t think I’m eating nearly as much as you imagine I do. And that’s not to say I never have a packet of crisps or a chocolate, but I can probably count those instances on my ten fingers over the course of a year. Honestly.

The thing that really pisses me off about the fat-shaming I see is the arrogance that accompanies it. And when I read the ‘jokes’ that people have made online, where fat-shaming seems to be rife, I confess I wish obesity on the joke makers. Obesity that won’t shift, no matter what they try. Obesity that wobbles and bulges and pushes out of their clothes no matter how cleverly they shop for something flattering to wear. Obesity that sees them injecting themselves with mystery formulations in an attempt to try the latest ‘magic bullet’ when everything else fails. Obesity that sees them subsisting on air and water – and that’s on the day they’re allowed to cheat. Obesity that makes them want to stay at home and not go out and socialise, for fear that people will talk about them after they’ve left: “Gosh, she’s put on so much weight!”

Wishing that on someone is not one of my finer moments, I admit, but there you have it.

And believe me when I say that I’ve tried enough diets (and been writing about health for long enough) to know that they are all, without exception, a complete scam. I put on weight on Weigh-Less and Weight Watchers. I’ve been on diets where you had to weigh a tomato, for crying out loud – one of the healthiest foods on the planet! I’ve been told not to mix my proteins; I’ve drunk shakes and supplements and injected myself and food combined and been weighed and measured and prodded and poked until I couldn’t stand it anymore. And you can Paleo me and LCHF me until you’re blue in the face – they are all fads, and they are unsustainable in the long run, and you are doing your metabolism a great disservice.

So here’s what’s working for me, finally, after all these years. For the most part, I’ve stopped dieting; stopped using up so much of my creative energy thinking about every morsel that passes my lips. Every now and then I have a mild panic – and force a lowest-calories-possible-salad down my throat when all I want is a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich. And then I watch the backlash as my body rebels against my brain and I eat three times the calories I’d have ingested if I’d just had the sandwich to begin with. And it’s a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of process, but I eat whatever the hell I want to eat.

No more obsessing about every bite and its fat, sugar and/or calorie content. No more beating myself up over the spoonful of cheesecake I had or the bacon and egg when I ‘should’ have had the muesli and yoghurt for breakfast. Some days I eat more, some days I eat less. And slowly, incrementally, the weight is coming off.

With any luck, that trend will continue. With any luck, some day in the future, I won’t be fat anymore. Or perhaps I will. But I refuse to diet anymore.

Until then, I have a simple request. Please just leave my fat friends and me alone. We’ll be over here, kickstarting Boeings and looking for new clothes at rent-a-tent until you can learn some manners.


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§ 9 Responses to Those three little words

  • I decided a while ago that it is much easier to come to terms with the shape that I am than try to change it. And much healthier in the big picture.


  • Jackie Hayter says:

    Oh my word. You say it SO well! It’s like I thought out loud, and you wrote it down! Maybe a little more eloquently than I can, but still..


  • Rene says:

    I have discovered the holy grail…good genes.

    But seriously, the only time I ever pick up weight is when I try to diet or get so busy that I skip meals. It seems like the more I eat the more I lose. And fruit makes me pick up weight as well.


  • Rare event this, so make a note of the date. One day before full moon. So that could account for it. I have nothing to say. I sat here trying to think of something chirpy, wise, sarcastic or comforting to say – but my Muse has clearly left for Plett. Sigh.


  • Kit says:

    So eloquently put. You’ve confirmed my suspicions of diets and food fads in general. Long may the eating what the hell you like work. I’m sure stressing about food is bad for everybody, even if you’re stressing about only eating healthy foods, or affording an all organic diet or whatever.


  • Just been made tearful by that Mandy Collins… for the second time! First it was the Mandela blog ( sincere, moving)… now it’s the breathtaking access to her interior thoughts and struggles with body image. Poor Body Image , the tool of choice for every Westerner, who refuses to risk self acceptance. Mandy’s bravery shines a very searching light on all of our interior/exteriors. Every single one of us, big, small, fat, thin, we all carry judgement in our hearts, first about ourselves and secondly about others. We all fear that we aren’t “good enough “in some or many areas of our lives. Do I deserve love? Am I a perfect mother/father? Do I earn enough? If we are thin, we fear being fat. If we are fat, we fear thin people projecting their fear onto us.

    But in terms of self acceptance, Mandy isn’t just fat, she’s HUGE!


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