Fat – A National Obsession

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Fat is literally everywhere. Lift any women’s magazine and there’ll be a cover story about either someone losing mass amounts of weight, or about a celebrity and their latest fluctuation. Tv schedules are also packed with shows about weight loss, or ‘shockumentaries’ about morbidly obese people trapped in their homes eating themselves to death. Have to admit though, I am guilty of consuming all of these stories! Especially the tv stuff. Biggest Loser US, Biggest Loser UK, Fat Families, Obese: A Year to Save my Life etc etc. Despite being hugely entertaining, I think they’re hugely exploitative. I’ve watched the likes of Biggest Loser as a fat person and thought “if they can do it, so can I”, which led to eating very little for the first two days, then thinking I was doing well and deserved some treats. Whoops. The thing is, of course anyone could achieve similar results if they spent six weeks doing six or more hours of exercise a day with a personal trainer gowling in their ear! Add to that the fact they are cut off from the temptations of convenience food for the same amount of time, of course the results are going to be spectacular.

There’s no denying that seeing these dramatic transformations is inspiring, but what happens when the cameras go away and the contestants return to ‘normal’ life? How do they stop themselves going back to old ways? Sometimes we get to meet the previous years winners and, more often than not, they have regained some weight. Admittedly, they still look a shadow of themselves at their top weight, but it just shows that outside the controlled environment of the show, the dramatic weightloss is not sustainable.

I always used to think that if I could just stick to a diet for a certain length of time, then I would lose all the weight I needed to and everything would be fixed. I tried the Heart Foundation diet, which claimed I’d lose twenty pounds in seven days – I didn’t. I tried the Cabbage Soup diet, which was disgusting. I also gave SlimFast a shot! I bought around sixty ready to drink cans of chocolate SlimFast from Boots online, I’m not even joking! They were delivered to my house and I think I drank around eight of them. The rest stayed in a kitchen cupboard til they went out of date. After the SlimFast debacle, I went to my doctor and asked for some solution to my fatness. He very helpfully gave me an appetite suppressant called Reductil which I took religiously for about a fortnight, but managed to ‘think’ my way around! Waste of time. Not unlike the further waste of time when I bought more of these pills online which were a higher dosage. Think this set me back in excess of ¬£100, and were no more effective. I may actually still have some of these pills kicking about the house. The most effective diet I inadvertently tried was the Tonsilitis Diet – eleven pounds in a week, but fairly unpleasant.

My point here is, if you’re overweight and you’re watching these programmes – stop thinking that you can achieve these results on your own. You can’t. Admittedly, if you have the mental strength and the free time to dedicate yourself to extended periods of daily exercise, then you will most likely lose weight. If you have that mental strength, then more power to you, but it’s something you will have to sustain for the rest of your life if you want to achieve and maintain the results. For the rest of you, stop being so hard on yourself. It’s a tv show. Do you believe everything you see on tv? Which brings me to the other type of ‘fat show’. The modern day freakshow of the super-duper-morbidly-rottenly obese. I don’t think these require much of a summary, we’ve all been treated to the scenes of carers having to soap in and around the seemingly endless folds of fat whilst the owner sits, usually quite unfazed by it all. These shows all elicit the same reaction, from me at least, how in the name of Christ does anyone let themselves get into such a state? Honestly? You would think that when you get to the stage that you can’t wipe your own arse, it’s time to cut back on the snacks.

I can understand the purpose of these documentaries, they are designed to shock the viewer into realising the consequences of consuming too much food. Fairly simple. In the same way, Northern Ireland sets a precedent for hard hitting and shocking road safety tv campaigns, but we still see boy racers driving a high speeds, people texting at the wheel, we read about drink drivers and so on. And we still see fat people. More than ever before maybe. The obesity epidemic we keep hearing about in the media. So why aren’t people taking the hint? Do these documentaries make people think ‘well at least I’m not as bad as that’? I know I thought that! I always watched the shows, usually whilst grazing on chocolate, thinking – that’ll never be me. But it easily could have been! Maybe at this stage we’re immune to the notion of fat. There is such a media saturation of weight, weightloss, health promotion, advice, nutritional information, fad diets, the list is endless. It’s actually exhausting. As is this post, I can’t actually remember the point I was trying to make.

How do we strike a balance between cutting ourselves a break but preventing ourselves from being slaves to indulgence? The quest for the happy medium seems ever more elusive as time goes on. Fat really is the national obsession. Do you think if we ignored it, it might go away?

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