If you think over-eating is something we’ve just recently invented in the West because we have an abundance of food, then you’d be wrong. Both humans and animals have always had the capacity to eat way more than they need to. It’s a survival trait, and goes way back to when mankind were hunter-gatherers. Before we were able to grow our own food or herd our own animals, humans had to make the most of any food they found, because they had no idea where their next meal would come from. Or if they’d ever get another meal. Those excess calories were stored as fat, for when there was no longer an abundance of food. So eating beyond what the body needs in a single meal is an ability we all have, regardless of how much we weigh.
They make movies about us and think it’s hilarious that we eat and wear big clothes. Comedians and radio ‘personalities’ find we’re the biggest source of humour because we don’t fight back. When they talk about a large celebrity, the inevitable ‘pig eating’ sound effects emerge in the background, and the entire studio laughs aloud. Fat people are the entertainment subject de jour, and everybody is getting on the bandwagon. All the while, people with weight problems die a little more inside, hating themselves, blaming themselves, and believing all the crap that’s said about them.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard somebody tell me that the best way to lose weight is to just do a little exercise, eat healthy food and the weight will simply fall off, I’d be kicking back on my private yacht right now, in the middle of a three month tour of the Greek Isles.
Even more annoying is when you meet people who do just that, and the six kilos they’ve been carrying around since their second baby valiantly disappears after just a month or two of effort! You look at people like that and feel the kind of deep-seated envy only those who carry extra weight can ever truly understand. But at the end of it all, you’re left with just one question – why? Why am I so overweight? Why do I find it so hard to lose weight? Why do some people find it easy? And why does everybody (including me) think it’s all my fault? (Okay, that was four questions, but bear with me).
For some of us, just getting ourselves off the couch to go walk the dog for ten minutes can be enough of a challenge on a daily basis. Doing it while wearing the biggest, oldest, baggiest clothes you can find only makes it that much more difficult, or in some cases, impossible. Throughout the western world, the media is forever going on about how overweight people just need to get out there and be more active – as though it’s as easy as clicking your fingers. It isn’t. Far from it. But while they’re waving that magic wand, there is little in the way of solid and practical ways in which we can do it – or plus-size exercise clothing to wear while we are.
Without doubt, one of the most difficult, painful and awkward aspects to living with extra weight is all wrapped up in the clothes that we wear. Clothes shopping for me is a little like walking on a knife’s edge, balanced between delight that I find something that I like and that fits me and that looks good and I can afford – and the opposite, where everything I look at is too small, too expensive, a dreadful colour, or more often than not, so old and frumpy I wouldn’t let my grandmother out in it.
The scientists might not know it, but our universe is actually made up of two different worlds: there’s the wonderful fantasy world of frothy make-believe, endless beauty and fabulous wealth which celebrities inhabit – and then there’s the real world the rest of us live in. For most of us, aspiring to that seamless, cool and exciting world is a given – especially when it comes to looks. I mean, who doesn’t want that set of perfect pearly oh-so-white teeth, or that marvellous cascade of glossy, thick hair? Of course, those celebrities always go on about having to put up with the paparazzi following them around – but that’s a small price to pay for looking so amazing all the time.
There’s a wonderful old peace-lover’s saying: the pen is mightier than the sword.
In this modern age of war and terrorism, it can sometimes be hard to believe that there’s anything out there more dangerous or destructive than a bomb. But history has shown us again and again that ideas – and the words used to express them – can have more widespread, devastating and profound consequences than any explosive.
So there I was, my head pounding, nose running, chest raspy with a cough that might, given another few heaves, actually remove one of my lungs. I was sick the way only sick people understand, dragging myself out of bed only – and I mean that literally – so that I could go to the doctor and get some drugs to make me better. Nothing else short of a world war would have seen me outside of the bed covers, and even then…
For some of us, reading an official definition of obesity is, well, a little insulting. It’s not like we don’t know that our bellies are bulging and that our favourite jeans from 10 years ago are 10 sizes too small for us now.
But I like to look at it from a slightly different angle: if I was diagnosed with a serious illness, one of the first things I’d do is go and learn as much as I could about it. I prefer to understand the beast that has hold of my body – or my life – so that, at the earliest opportunity, I can outsmart it, or at the very least, come to terms with it. (more…)