Being fat

picture from obesityfacts.co.uk
picture from obesityfacts.co.uk

India Knight’s column in today’s Sunday Times is about fat people. I commented positively on it on Twitter and got some response that amply shows how tender a spot overweight is.

India’s point is that overweight is something that can actually be reversed. She attacks the new “fat lobby” for wanting to completely disclaim any responsibility for their own situation. In California, a law prevents doctors from mentioning to their obese patients that losing weight could save their lives. These lobbyists want the same kind of law here. Furthermore, school teachers, nurses, dieticians etc., should not be allowed to mention it to the parents when their children are severely obese. They also lobby for the right not to be bullied or beaten up because they are fat. That’s obviously nonsense – bullying is everywhere and about everything and no law can prevent it. I can’t think of anybody who sanctions bullying – not India Knight either, although she writes that an extremely overweight person shouldn’t fall off his chair in wonderment when people stare at him. As to campaigning for the right not to be beaten – well, as far as I know, beating people up is illegal, no matter what the reason.

I’m not exactly a lightweight myself – a size 14 on a good day, 16 on a bad. I’ve been like this more or less since I stopped smoking 12 years ago. Before that I was thin as a reed. I have an end weight, not far from my present weight. I’m not ever going to weigh so much that I can’t buy my clothes in a “normal” clothes shop. And I don’t want to be so big that I become a burden to people around me and to society. Happily a new study has come out recently that claims that my kind of overweight is good. And I’m perfectly capable of curbing my eating for a period to shed a few pounds when I hit my weight ceiling. But it seems that I can’t be bothered to go the extra mile and lose the stone or two that would bring me down to a comfortable size 12. Point is, however, I know exactly what to do and don’t even need a book. For me it’s not about more veg, more fibre, less dangerous fats. It’s painfully simple. Eat less (& no wine). But unfortunately, it is just not that simple for the huge group of obese people who are a threat to themselves and to the health economy.

The number one problem with the whole discussion about obesity is namely, and India Knight fails to mention it, that obesity has become – like smoking – mainly a problem for the poor and uneducated. Whereas my overweight is the result of too great a love for cooking and good food (and I believe it’s the same for many roundish people of the upper- and aspiring classes) and therefore can be kept in check, their overweight is the result of a poor diet and total lack of understanding of the relationship between action and consequence in the food area. This kept well in check by the poor and uneducated’s preferred news sources and peddlers of confusion and fear, The Daily Mail, The Sun and Sky News.

Around me I see people with food/overweight-related health issues and I also see how they are usually in total denial about their own responsibility for their predicament. And furthermore, which is quite contrary to what the fat-lobby claims, mentioning that people could change their eating habits to get better is totally taboo.

What gets me more than anything is people who allow their little children to become severely obese and then won’t accept an offer of help. In my son’s old school (state primary) there was a girl in his class who was extremely fat. Her younger brother was the same – children of 8 and 6. The mother wasn’t particularly overweight and another mother told me that she had been on a diet, she’d previously been as fat as her children. How on earth can she put herself before her children like that? And my son informed me that they had some of the most unhealthy packed lunches in the whole school; and that’s saying something! Yes, the mother was working class and yes, their budget clearly limited. But bags of crisps, packets of cheese strings and packs of cookies are not cheap. And if she could put herself on a diet and lose 5-6 stone, what on earth prevented her from taking her children with her? Was she so dumb that she felt sorry for the children if they had to eat veg and no cookies like herself? I was told that there was nothing the school could do – not even preventing the mother from excusing the girl from PE!

Which is why I think that silence and “acceptance” in this area will not work. But I don’t believe in shaming either. I read somewhere that a school had decided to stop selling cakes at school events to curb obesity. That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve heard in a very long time. Obesity can only be fought by education and by taxing all prefab and semi prefab food with a sugar and/or fat content above x %. It is ridiculous that some of the very cheapest food items in the supermarket are also the most unhealthy! Jamie Oliver was right, right, right, when he tried to introduce proper food in schools and a love of cooking and ingredients. I have no doubt that for each person who learns to cook and to love and appreciate real food, there’ll be one person less to burden our health system with massive self-inflicted health problems. Have I told you about the boy from Dane’s old school who didn’t recognise a boiled egg?

The persons I mentioned above with food/overweight-related health issues all have one thing in common. They cannot cook and don’t have a clue about nutrition.

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Is feminism dead? Did we win?

Somehow I’m always trailing behind a bit. Yesterday was the International Women’s Day and I didn’t do a single feminist thing all day. Generally, feminism is not a popular subject, as my friend Nanna (Danish) so rightly pointed out to me recently. When writing today on Facebook about doing nothing feminist I got a reply from a (male) friend which completely sums it up; he wrote: Feminism is dead. You won. This is the opinion of most modern men. Some of them have the experience close to home of a wife, who earns more and “runs the show”, others – most – just cite the high-powered women they know and emphasise how they both cook, empty the dishwasher and pick up the kids from school. Or whatever. But this is completely beside the point.

  • Women are still trailing behind men when it comes to same pay for same job
  • Women still do the bulk of the house work in 90% of all Western households and 100% of all non-Western households – yeah yeah, guestimates, but not wildly off the mark.
  • Men are still the majority everywhere important decisions are made.
  • It’s still women who tend to the huge majority of their children’s needs, 50 p for cake day, packed lunch with love, school clothes clean, ironed, ready for next day, swimming kit ready on a Tuesday, pictures printed for showing “My Holiday” at school. Etc. etc.
  • Women in the so-called Third World are most often treated like dirt. How much is this on the agenda, when the high-powered are discussing foreign policies?
  • Young women see a distorted picture of themselves in the media.
  • Young men get a sick introduction to sex, if that introduction comes from porn (which it depressingly often does).
  • Women in power very often have to endure endless comments on their appearance, before they even open their mouths.
  • And so on and so forth.

So don’t give me that cr… about women having won. Clearly some women have come out on top, but what about the unseen bulk of the iceberg? I’m not complaining about my personal life, most of my woes are self-inflicted and I’m determined to put the rest right too.

Today I read a blogpost from a Canadian writer/feminist, who uses Gladwell’s Outliers to make her point. I agree with her, that Gladwell’s book suffers from being only about men. But the important issue here is that a whole new group of Western women now have a unique opportunity to actually get somewhere if they work really hard (Gladwell’s 10,000 hours). The Internet offers us that opportunity, because we can do this at home, in between the myriad of tasks that many of us perform each day. Read the post. Her previous post also refers to Outliers, but from a different perspective. If you have a child, who’s youngest in class, read it. She mentions a few female outliers, but I’d like to mention one more: Carla Fiorina. When, to say the least, I disagree with her political views (she endorsed McCain – imagine what went through Fiorina’s head when he nominated Palin!!??), I do admire her. Do you remember her downfall? I remember wondering why so many male commentators felt the need to gloat so much? She has just undergone surgery for breast cancer. Fingers crossed.

I recently read this lovely book review. The book in question is Backwards in High Heels and, clearly, according to the reviewer, India Knight, whom I admire greatly, is nothing like the notions you get in your head when you see the title. I have it on my Amazon Wishlist and I WILL buy it, I just don’t have time to read it right now. You should see the look on my husband’s face when another packet arrives from Amazon. And he is right – I just have to attack the stacks at hand, before I start adding more to them!

But consider this quote from the review:

It’s one of those rare beasts that you want to earmark, scribble in and rush out and buy for all your girlfriends. It contains within its pages everything an intelligent woman might want to know about the nuances of every conceivable topic: big subjects, such as love, motherhood, feminism, politics, grief, ageing, as well as what stupid people often patronisingly refer to as the “shallower” stuff. Except, in this book, as in most women’s heads (to say nothing of their lives), the demarcation between the deep and the shallow is so slight as to be barely noticeable. This is a brilliant feat of realism that hasn’t been managed convincingly in print before: with this kind of how-to guide, the choice until now was either froufrou delight or slash-your-wrists gloomfest.

Isn’t this exactly the kind of book you want to read? I often wonder why it’s supposed to be so totally contradictory to read both the business- and finance pages AND the Culture- and Background pages of the paper, read serious fiction, be good at computer stuff AND take an interest in one’s appearance, read cook books, bake cupcakes? Nobody seem to think it’s strange when male top executives spend their weekends playing golf or watching football? Read a hilariously funny but yet acutely precise excerpt from the book here.

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