I wrote the following letter to Lib Dem News last week but they saw fit not to print it. Fair enough, but here it is anyhoo:
Just what point is Sandra Gidley trying to make by prancing about in a comedy fat suit (People, 22nd February)? As someone who is at least as fat as she was when she ‘fatted up’, I can assure her that if her experience involved feeling exhausted all the time and being unable to tie her own shoelaces it wasn’t an authentic one. I’m not convinced her suit simulated diabetes for her either, one of the conditions highlighted in the article.
There is a creeping nastiness about the anti-obesity bandwagon that has been rolling on in recent years, employing both the patronising language about handicap that it is now thankfully regarded as insulting to disabled people with sinister innuendo about the cost of it all. It is clear that Sandra buys into at least some of the government’s rhetoric about fat being a ‘bigger threat than global warming’. You wouldn’t spot an MP getting out the boot polish to understand the ‘black experience’ nor would you hear them talking about geriatric care crippling the health service.
What’s worse is that this stunt is actually about promoting diet company and soup manufacturer LighterLife – this venture turns out to be about making diet industry Fat Cats fatter not the wellbeing of fat people.
Nobody likes a tourist, Sandra. If you want to understand what it’s like to be fat, talk to a fat person, not someone trying to make money out of them.
If you didn’t see the Lib Dem News article in question, it is basically lifted directly from Sandra’s press release, although the reference to LighterLife is conspicuous by its absence in the LDN version. See also the Southern Daily Echo.
LighterLife have been in the news recently as the main funders behind The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust (TOAST), which has rather rapidly taken down its website in the past week or so. They currently have a tube carriage advertising campaign which was annoying me even before I became aware of the TOAST controversy. Their programme is based around crash dieting for the first 14 weeks (during which you can only eat their official soups, shakes and bars).
I sincerely question what an MP is doing endorsing any commercial weight loss programme, let alone this one. The fat suit stunt fits in well with their general publicity material which is all about presenting fat people as miserable and desperate. This isn’t about empowering people; it is about making them feel bad and then taking money from them when they are at their lowest.