Weighty matters

Fat person

So who’s fault is it?

So, it’s official. Clothes are now to be sold in four sizes: small, medium large and normal. It appears that along with 60 being the new 40, fat is now the new normal. What next: uneducated being the new clever?

But, weird as it may sound, uneducated is promoted as clever and, dare I say, aspirational. Listening to the radio, watching the TV, reading the papers promotes the impression that we revel in our lack of knowledge and, based on poor information, bad decision making.

If most commentators and interviewers are to be believed, the new size normal is to be blamed on those nasty food companies, retailers, restaurants and sugar makers. And in a debate on Radio 2 this week, Jeremy Vine was even heard to say he couldn’t remember what being a vegan meant; was it someone who only ate vegetables and fish? I don’t think it was meant as a joke and while the BBC’s remit is to stimulate creativity, what about its obligation to promote education and learning?

But back to the premise made by Dame Sally Davies, our Chief Medical Officer, expressing her concern about retailers selling us voluminous outfits. Surely the retailers are only reflecting their customer base but, I guess, that’s her concern: we’re getting used to being larger. So we’re in danger of infant children shouting out, just like my daughter once did at the top of her voice: “Hey, Dad, why is that lady so fat?”.

Dame Davies’s spoken concerns immediately led the commentators onto searching for someone to blame and invariably that’s those misleading, profit-grabbing companies that fill our supermarket shelves with processed food. We’re led, as if by a chain through the nose, to stuff ourselves with habit-forming sugar and salty tastes while admiring those size zillion mannequins in the shop windows. Oh, if it wasn’t for all that persuasive company advertising and coloured packaging, we’d all look like super models.

Or – and dare I say this? – we could take a bit of the responsibility ourselves and lose some weight. We’re all frightfully clever when it comes to telling the government how to run the country or how the manager should run the football team but regularly irresponsible when it comes to many of our own issues.

But, and here’s the real problem, how are we supposed to know what to do when the information we’re receiving from all directions is not only clueless, it’s patently wrong? After all, we’ve been trying to lose weight for the last thirty years by eating those horrendously fattening fat-free fruit yoghurts. Because we’d been told wrongly that fat was bad and processed fruit sugar good, as a nation we’ve been piling on the pounds.

So what should we do? I’ve no idea about the short term because the obvious solution to me would be to make your own food. But because the vast majority of people can’t cook due to a lack of basic education in the subject, or simply can’t be bothered to cook, we’re rather onto a loser unless we can garner enough public opinion to start rioting and force the food conglomerates to change. However, shouldn’t we really be the masters of our own destiny?

But anyway, at least there’s one good thing to come out of all this: because of the almost insurmountable modern challenge of appearing bigger than ones contemporaries, at least there’ll no longer be the hate crime of insulting someone by calling them fat. Rather: “Hey celery face; you must weigh no more than 10 stones!”

Previously published in The Northern Echo

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