WARNING! Reading this blog could make you fat.

I was otherwise occupied last night. If I hadn’t been, I’d have joined in with the chorus of disapproval regarding Nuffield Health and Prof Michael McMahon’s pop at fat ‘role models‘ (see also the Metro’s coverage).

What to add that Costigan and Carol haven’t already said (or for that matter, Susie Orbach and Phill Jupitus)? Merely that the links between the diet/’fitness’ industry and the current obesity panic is one of the most under-reported scandals of our modern age.

It hasn’t gone completely unreported. I blogged about the Independent’s expose of The Obesity Awareness and Solutions Trust (which was quickly wound up thereafter, although you can still find their muddy footprints all over teh internets). TOAST was established by LighterLife who managed to rope Sandra Gidley into a gobsmackingly ill-advised press stunt which involved her walking around in a fat suit* (this exercise apparently proved that I am incapable of tying my own shoelaces – all it really proved is that Sandra must be considerably less fit than me). This latest bit of hate-filled PR by Nuffield only demonstrates quite how brazen they feel they can get away with being.

I get angry about all this because I know how it would have affected the younger me and thus I’m pretty sure how all this affects overweight children and teenagers today. When I look at old photos of my I’m amazed at how relatively unfat I actually was. If only I knew that then. I used to find it hard to imagine how an anorexic could look at themselves in a mirror and see themselves as larger than they really are – until I realised that I did that every day when I was in my teens and twenties.

And aside from Prof. McMahon and his gastric bands, or LighterLife and their magical yoghurts, what actual help is there out there? For me, it was a dietician who told me off for not looking after myself and gave me helpful advice like “if you feel like eating a chocolate bar, eat a digestive biscuit instead.”

These days, I appear to beyond medical help. The last two times I’ve registered at a doctor I’ve been too heavy for the scales – so even if BMI wasn’t totally bogus, they can’t actually tell me what my rating is. Yet I’m rarely the fattest person sitting in the waiting room. So what’s going on? How can the NHS lecture people about the obesity epidemic when they can’t even be bothered to actually measure how much people weigh?

Even the Wii Fit can’t help. I gamely stepped on our nice new one last week only for the computer to order me off and delete my records. Thanks a bunch. Real motivational that one.

The diet and fitness industry is established to make money out of the excessively vain and the desperate. If you fit into neither category, you are just fair game as far as they’re concerned. Like so many other aspects of modern living, they preach individualistic solutions to a phenomenon that is – if anything – a social problem. Walk through Chapel Market, as I do every day, and you’ll notice that most of the obese people you walk passed are from the local estate not executives from the nearby office buildings. Obesity and poverty go hand in hand, yet we are constantly assured that it is all the fault of individuals for eating too much despite evidence to suggest that diets simply don’t work.

I’m not sure that enough has been done to look into the links between mental health and obesity. There does appear to be a link with depression (and indeed a link between mental health and equality). Every week there appears to be new research about the placebo and nocebo effects – suggesting that the role the mind has over the body is still only dimly understood. It is odd that we are expected to believe that people like Beth Ditto and James Corden are such role models to their fellow fatties, yet the idea that obesity might be linked to self-esteem is ignored by the same people.

Either way, there must surely be something sick about a society that seems to simultaneously think that obesity is caused by over eating and can be solved by even more consumption.


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