There’s a lot of deliberation these days about ‘is fat healthy?’ with terms like ‘fat shaming’ being thrown around. Sometimes this is seen as justifying an unhealthy way of living, but I think it’s all subjective. One fat person might be unhealthy, but the next might not be - we can never know by looking. I can only give my story and my take on this.
It’s taken me a good long while to do this, but I feel like now’s the time to share my experiences. I don’t want to bad mouth GP’s, I merely want to share my own experiences. To start, we’ll turn the clock back ten years (wow, it really has been that long!) and we’ll see a heavy drinking, heavy smoking, Mel working fifty hours a week running around a hotel like a nutcase. I went to the gym, yes, but I also ate chips and chocolate puddings regularly at work (they were the best!), and did some pretty major binge drinking on my nights off. I don’t regret any of this at all though, I had fun. This continued through into my travels in Australia, and again I had a lot of fun. Was I healthy? No. Was I thin? No. On this occasion, that did correlate.
But turn the clocks back ten years before that. I was at school and I loved dancing. I did two classes a week at least. I took part in PE and Games at school (begrudgingly) and I went to step aerobics with my mum (it was the 90’s!). My doctor didn’t believe me. Was I heathy? Yes. Was I thin? No.
Let’s look at now. I like baking, I love food, but I’ve had to learn to listen to what my body wants, and I learnt it the hard way. For at least four years, I had some kind of digestive issue. Every time I ate I’d feel sick afterwards, sometimes dizzy, sometimes I even had palpitations. I lived in New Zealand for some of this so it cost me a fortune going through tests and everything there, only for it to show nothing. The doctor thought I was bonkers when I said I was going to India, which I probably was, but again - no regrets. I don’t do regrets.
When I got back to the UK I went to a few different doctors again, and tried various different holistic therapies. Some things helped a little, but it didn’t solve it. The last doctor I saw suggested that my 3 years worth of issues was probably just indigestion and that I should go to Slimming World.
At the time, I was trying a gluten free diet, as I thought it could well be a food allergy, but there were also loads of other foods I avoided thinking they were ‘unsafe’. If I’d gone to Slimming World, I’d have been a nightmare for them. Plus, I don’t need to go to Slimming World – the last thing I needed was even more people telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat, I’d already been through a lot of that. The thing that really got me about that doctor is, I’d been in there a few minutes, explained my problem, and not once did she ask me what I ate or what exercise I did. She made a snap judgement, which is often what society does; if you are not a ‘normal’ size then you must be unhealthy.
So what is this ‘normal’ size? To GP’s, it means you have to be on the little section in the middle of their BMI (Body Mass Index) chart. God knows how many people fall outside that category, but I bet it’s a lot more people than the ‘normal’ people. If GP’s are doing this – people we are meant to trust, respect and learn from, then no wonder society’s views are so obscured. Obviously, the media has not helped with this at all, but I need to save that for a whole other post!
In my opinion, another person’s size is none of your business. You have no right, and I have no right, to tell anybody what they should or shouldn’t do to their body. GP’s have a little more right, as they are supposedly meant to look out for the person’s health – but that’s the operative word – HEALTH. Health does not always correlate to weight. How can one weight and size be healthy for all people? I have never been thin, and if I wanted to be I’d have to eat rather unhealthily to be that way, that’s the irony of it all.
I try to listen to my body now and eat in a balanced way. I like baking so I’ll still do it but with less sugar. I’ll try to eat veggies but I’m nowhere near 7 a day, but I haven’t been to MacDonald’s, or any other fast food restaurant in at least 6 years. I haven’t had fizzy drinks in years either. Regular yoga seems to help me personally, but I believe everyone has to pick the exercise which suits them best. I cook everything from scratch at home so I know exactly what’s in it – it’s those additives and preservatives that are the little buggers for my stomach (and eggs), I learnt. I never did find one thing to cure it all, it seems maybe it was gut damage from having some pretty bad bouts of food poisoning. That often is the way – no ‘one size fit’s all’ cure, and we could say the same thing about our body shape and size too. I’m no yogi jut yet but I’m certainly healthier now than I was ten years ago, but definitely no thinner.
At school I used to eat things like ’Go Ahead’ bars – a brand which promotes this ‘bad food’ mentality (which promotes feelings of guilt and obsessive calorie counting), but products like these are often full of additives and rubbish. Ever since I can remember I’ve known that I’m not ‘normal’ and that always seemed to be a bad thing. I got bullied a lot a school, which is bad yes, but the teachers, dinner ladies, doctors – all the adults, basically – were the most damaging. Kids are just kids, they say what they learn off adults.
So what am I getting at? Well, as I said I don’t want to give the impression that GP’s are bad. Having lived overseas for a few years I really do appreciate the NHS, and I understand the pressures put on GP’s. I would just ask that people, including GP’s, think before they brand someone outside of the ‘normal’ box. We wouldn’t judge someone on their skin colour or sexuality, so why do the same with body shape and size? GP’s should promote balanced eating and exercise with no correlation to weight, and only when they know what the patient does already. If you are eating healthy, feeling fine, then this is your natural weight – if you still pine to be much thinner then maybe pay a visit to a therapist instead of Slimming World.
‘Body Dysmorphic Disorder’, ‘Anorexia’, ‘Fatorexia’ (when a fat person doesn’t know they’re fat apparently – don’t even get me started on this one!) – there are many things that go on outside the ‘normal’ box, and there are many mental health issues caused by judgmental attitudes. Judging people on their shape and size is the most widely accepted, and encouraged, form of prejudice nowadays, I believe.
In the future, I hope to see a world where people eat mindfully, but still enjoy food, where ‘healthy’ is a spectrum of shapes and sizes. I hope to see the BMI index abolished (certainly taken out of use at schools to begin with!). I hope kids at school can be taught equality for people in all shapes and sizes, as they would for people of all races, cultural backgrounds and religions.
Health is on the inside, not the outside, and in the mind. Let’s stop judging other people and take responsibility for our own bodies and minds so that we can be responsible role models for the next generation.