Being a wordsmith by profession, I perhaps notice this more than I should. But it seems to me that there’s a lot of lazy writing and cliché that surrounds the issue of overweight and obesity in the press.
To start with, there’s the fashionable catch-all term – the obese – that apparently offensive group of people who have had the audacity to over-indulge and now make disproportionate use of free health services and take up too much room on trains and aeroplanes. The default position of the media fat-haters is indignation: How dare the obese eat so greedily, and lean so heavily on services paid for by our taxes, and inconvenience us so intrusively with their overflowing flesh?
That’s the obese… but then, there’s the morbidly obese – an even more loathsome lump of offending flesh; those of us so apparently devoid of the capacity for self-regulation that we’re actually killing ourselves.
There are other lazy clichés adopted by the media too. Who hasn’t read those stories about overeaters stuffing themselves with food, piling on the pounds, or ballooning to a hefty weight?
The effect of this lazy writing is to depersonalise the enormous (pardon the pun) and diverse population of individuals whose size is above the ideal range, turning them into a single amorphous blob of uncontrolled indulgence; a blob on which it is apparently now acceptable to pour scorn and derision.
But… people whose weight exceeds what society deems a ‘normal’ range are not a clutch of cholesterol-laden clones.
We may chuckle when we get together, about our inability to eat just one chocolate, or our fondness for a takeaway, but we’re all different. Not every fat person loves McDonalds and KFC; we don’t all pig-out, lonely and friendless, in front of the TV every night; we don’t all pass the time shovelling our faces full of donuts – in fact most of us don’t do anything remotely like that. We don’t all sit on our ample arses all day long; we don’t all get puffed out climbing the stairs. Some of us even like salad!
We’re individuals, with a multitude of different issues, challenges and histories; a variety of health concerns – or none at all; a spectrum of self-awareness and psychology; a diversity of shapes and sizes, ages and genders, ethnicities, social backgrounds, educational accomplishments, intellects and achievements.
Like many, many people – possibly every single person in the entire world – we have let one aspect of our life run some way beyond acceptable boundaries.
Some people smoke, others drink to excess. Some gamble their wages away, others take chances with anonymous sexual partners. Some didn’t apply themselves at school, others never go to the dentist. Some can’t get through a day without a few puffs of weed, others can’t get through an evening without a few glasses of red. Some go crazy when separated from their mobile phones, others can’t separate themselves from their virtual realities. Some people can’t throw anything away, others need their CDs in alphabetical order and their pencils all lined up.
We all have challenges, weaknesses, shortcomings and areas of our lives where we’re not at our very best. For those wearing weight above what society deems ‘normal’ – a part of that will have something to do with food.
That is it. The end.