A couple of days ago I wrote a poorly researched blog entry which covered, broadly, what the political leaders or their parties had to say on the subject of obesity.
After I wrote it I realised that, in my wishy washy way, I hadn't really made any comment on what I thought of all this. I didn't want to upset anybody who might read this blog. In the same way that I never mention God, and try not to swear, I choose not to make my position on political matters clear. People who know me know where I actually stand on all these matters, and people who don't know me... well, I'm not sure anybody is reading this and I should really not care too much if my opinions aren't the same as everybody else's. Apparently that is how the world works.
The other thing that holds me back from actually stating an opinion is that I worry about not having actual facts at my fingertips, that I will say something wildly stupid. I don't think about things as much as some people I know and so a lot of my opinions are semi-formed, nebulous things which, under scrutiny, will turn out to be built on foundations of jelly.
But today, because I am a bit lazy and I can just cut and paste this from a comment I wrote on Facebook, here is what I thought of what the leaders have to say. And I think their opinions on fatness are reflective of what they think about a lot of things, about the balance between personal responsibility and the responsibility of the state, and about which direction they point their fingers of blame when they are trying to scare us into voting for them (that would be either down at the powerless who are portrayed as an amorphous mass of slavering scroungers/immigrants/benefits cheats or up at the powerful who are portrayed as an amorphous mass of slavering bankers/ fat cats/ tax dodging cheats) And the question is...who can do more harm to society the powerless or powerful? But who could do the most good to society - the powerless or the powerful. And who do we want to give more power to?
Anyway, this was my Facebook comment (I may be lazy, but look up there, I too the time to draw a picture of me in some jelly using the lovely Coloursoft pencils Denise gave me as an Easter present)
"The general tenor of the comments of the political leaders on obesity is that some parties see obesity as an issue which is characterised by scroungers on benefits who can't control their appetites even when it means that the NHS has to fund their extravagant eating and that bloody Europe will make us treat them as being disabled, or it is an issue which affects a lot of people who would benefit from some initiatives to help tackle obesity in the general population. The first group will fight for the right of big businesses to sell as much crappy food and drink and fags to us as possible whilst cutting the margins of food producers as much as possible. The second group will maybe think that higher taxes on some things are a price we must pay to discourage the buying of crappy food, of paying for sports facilities for public use, of helping those people (and there aren't really that many) who have serious health problems related to their weight. I'm guessing that most of the obese in this country are, as I am, in paid employment. Luckily I'm no longer morbidly obese. Now I'm just an overweight burden on society."
And that is all my semi-formed opnions have to say...for now.
After the excitement(?) of the leaders’ debate last night and in the run up to the 2015 General Election, I thought it would be fascinating(?) to look at what the leaders have to say on the subject of obesity. And then, because I am lazy, and because it is not fascinating, I simply typed each of the leaders’ names into Google with the word ‘obesity’ and used one of the results that came up first.
So here we have those results. I suspect it will come as no surprise to anybody how this all pans out, but I’m going to put Nigel Farage in first because he’s the one who is obviously going to say that fat people are lazy, work-shy scroungers who just need a bit of a kick up the arse and a bit more will power.
"Wouldn't it be funny if McDonald's had a special bay for overweight people so they can park straight outside?"
This is why politicians don't do stand up comedy...
In context, Nigel Farage is commenting on the idea that obesity is a form of disability…
"I think that we view disability as being something that happens unfortunately to quite a lot of people through no fault of their own - a genetic problem, a horrible accident, mental problems, whatever.
"People don't choose to be disabled, absolutely not. I think it is quite difficult in the case of overweight people that it is a disability, because it is something - it may sound harsh - that they can actually do something about.
"There are some rare exceptions. But if somebody is very overweight and facing a life-threatening operation, the surgeon says 'Lose a couple of stone, come back in six weeks, and we'll do the operation.'"
Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party has this to say…
“We're not suddenly all suffering from a failure of willpower, less morally upright than our grandparents' and earlier generations.
“What we've done is changed our environment. Most critically of all we've moved away from active forms of transport - walking and cycling - to cars, and made the roads so frightening and hostile that few choose those cheap and healthy options.
“There is no magic solution but a range of sensible government measures: making 20mph the standard speed limit everywhere people live, work and shop, providing excellent pedestrian and cycle facilities, limiting advertising of junk food, particularly to children, and tackling fresh food "desserts" would be a good start, and not expensive considering the benefits.
“There's broader cultural/policy issues too: our long-hours culture encourages people to think they don't have time to cook fresh, healthy food, poverty draws parents to apparently cheap and "safe" food they know their children will eat, like chicken nuggets and chips, lack of education on cooking in schools leaves young people without basic skills.”
And Nicola Sturgeon off of the SNP said this, several years ago when she was Cabinet Secretary of Healthy and Wellbeing in the Scottish Parliament…
"Obesity is an increasing problem and poses a very serious threat to our nation's health. That is why we have made tackling obesity, particularly in early life, a key priority."
"As a nation we all have a part to play in addressing our sometimes unhealthy approach to food, weight and physical activity. We want to provide an environment that makes it easier for people to make healthy choices in what they eat and be more active in everyday life.”
And Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood has this to say…
Well, I couldn’t find anything she actually said on the subject but the headlines were all about Plaid Cymru introducing a Pop Tax which could help 20000 overweight people in Wales lose weight by adding an extra 20% to the cost of fizzy drinks.
Nick Clegg says, "The evidence, and Jamie will know this, is overwhelming that we’ve got far too many kids, who are poor, but not receiving free school meals, who are turning up at school with a can of something, and a slice of white bread with some chocolate paste on it, and they’re failing to concentrate in the afternoon.
"Their education is suffering, and their health is suffering as well, and they are often then on the early steps towards obesity."
Nick loves to mention the name of the person who asks a question, because it proves he can remember names. In this case it was easy because it was a celebrity called Jamie who was keen to get good free school meals available to everyone and that this would, "prove to be one of the biggest, best achievements in order to address precisely what Jamie’s been campaigning on."
Labour leader Ed Milliband does not like to mention obesity because he is a ‘nice’ left wing intellectual who doesn’t like to draw attention to other people’s shortcomings (by which I mean obesity) but the Daily Mail says that Nasty Ed “will FORCE you to get fit (so that's no Frosties, fags or 'pre-loading' booze)” like stopping people doing any of those things is a bad thing. The Daily Mail also says, “Ed Miliband wants half of the adult population to take regular exercise within ten years of him becoming Prime Minister.” Basically, this…
And finally, David Cameron, (and to balance my reporting of the Daily Mail on Ed Milliband I am going for the Guardian on David Cameron) who is a ‘nice’ Conservative and so wouldn’t (out loud) like to say anything horrible about a fatty, has said, according to the Guardian, that “people who cannot work because they are overweight or suffering addiction problems could be threatened with losing their sickness benefits if they do not accept treatment” and “the Conservatives will consider whether to reduce payments worth about £100 a week for those they consider could do more to help themselves by going on medical programmes designed to make them to lose weight, stop taking drugs or give up alcohol.”
So there you have it. A fascinating (?) insight into what the political parties have to say about the fat. Or just a load of people saying that we should probably do something about the generally high levels of obesity.
So no help when it comes to deciding who to vote for.
Day 84: before he starts getting rude and offensive, James Delingpole says, 'Some of my best friends and heroes are fat...'
So the journalist and stick insect, James Delingpole, had a slot on the BBC's Politics Show to get on his soapbox on the subject of fat people . If you can't be bothered to watch the clip, for example if you don't want to actually see a skinny, smug, smirking man feebly flailing at a punchbag and coming off second best. then I have kindly transcribed it for you...
Now whilst James Delingpole is a massive bellend whose politics are not in any way close to mine, I think it is clear that he has his tongue in his cheek, even if it is a forked tongue inserted into the hollowed out wreck of a cheek.
Being in some way "humorous" is the only way to account for his assertion in the post-film interview (I haven't linked to it as the only copy I could find was on a UKIP youtube channel which was full of praise for him) that somebody like Clarissa Dickson Wright couldn't help being fat because she had drunk so many gin and tonics in her life that she had got quinine poisoning. Obviously, and apologies for bad language, this is...
...and reflects an opinion that it is ok for posh, rich people to be fat because they won't be any kind of drain on the state - except, yes, they still are. Because rich, fat people will still need the NHS ambulances that take them to hospitals and, you know, save their lives before they get transferred to the private ward.
James repeats the Katie Hopkins view that it is all about will power. What do they know about will power? What does a skinny person know about how hard it is to fend off cravings? Katie Hopkins at least had the decency to get fat, but most people don't decide to get fat and then lose weight. It's not an actual thing, Katie. That isn't real life!
And James, very kindly, wouldn't cut benefits to overweight people, but he would like the stigma of being fat to return to how it was in the 50s and 60s...
...oh yes, the good old days of fat shaming. Because we don't do fat shaming any more, do we, because there is a 'modern cult of fattism' and 'being overweight is seen as...somehow blessed.' Because we don't do fat shaming any more, do we?
Yes, the world loves a fatty, no question about that. We feel truly blessed. Better than feeling smug and self-satisfied as a result of a wealthy upbringing, a private education and close links to the rich people who govern the country.
Still it must feel pretty gutting to have to go into children's clothes shops to buy your 28 inch waist trousers, James. As the presenter of the Politics Show said, 'My heart bleeds for you.' Only it doesn't, because there are plenty of places selling trousers that will fit you, even those short trousers you probably had to wear at Malvern College in the good old 60s and that you probably wish you still had to wear. But try finding a 46 inch waist pair of decent trousers! Nothing!
Now, of course it is shocking that the East Midlands Hospital trust had to spend £27 million on its ambulances. If you want the full facts, here is one of many reports, this one from the Mirror, explaining the story.
But, hang on, that story is from 2013 and it says that half have already been replaced and the full fleet will be replaced by 2016. All 272 vehicles.
272 vehicles? That number looks a bit like £27 million, it has a 2 and a 7 in it, almost as if they came up with the number on the basis that each ambulance would cost £100,000 pounds.
And yet, according to another, admittedly quite old source, a fully kitted ambulance costs £250,000.
So, over the course of 3 or more years, 272 ambulances are going to be replaced. I wonder how many years ambulances are normally in service for? I wonder if maybe they were going to be replaced anyway and whether maybe the costs aren't that dissimilar, and if you are going to buy a new ambulance maybe you should get one that's fit for purpose. Maybe.
And finally, because I have too little willpower to spend the rest of this lovely day Googling stuff that I don't know enough about, is the EU keen to give obesity the same legal status as 'genuine disabilities like blindness and limblessness'?
I am going to go with the answer to this question being, 'No' but I'm guessing that one of your actual legal, EU-hating people, will say, 'Yes.' And it may all depend on what your definitions are. Not your definitions of 'obesity' or 'disability' but your definitions of 'keen' and 'same legal status.'
An actual lawyer, Audrey Williams, employment law partner at Eversheds, said the mere fact someone is obese is not enough to make them disabled.
"What the court are saying is that obesity is not protected unless it hinders professional life."
So there you go, if you don't like the EU or obese people then you can take that as a yes, if you are a wishy washy liberal like m'self you can take it as a no.
But James Delingpole can take it and stick it up his scrawny behind.
Because what he said is...
A very wise friend has posted a comment on day 272 of the blog in which she suggests that many of those who go to university to study veterinary science or its equivalent could have used a course at the very beginning to knock some of our big headedness out of us. We'd been at the top of our classes for many years at secondary school and in our latent nerdiness we'd thought we were pretty much 'it'.
But at university we were just middle of the road compared to a lot of our talented contemporaries. We were no longer top students. It was quite a blow to some egos. Mine in particular.
What she suggested sounded a bit like having a sergeant major shouting at us and telling us we were scum. No, not even scum. We were scum bags, just the things that were used to hold scum. Worse than that we were scum bags that had a hole in the bottom. So we were scum bags that weren't even any use at holding scum.
So it would be kind of like this...
Probably less like this...
Seriously, what is that little waddle that William Hartnell does at the start of that clip?
Anyway, Denise pointed out to me that these days the equivalent thing is kids who get told that they are pretty or handsome and that they can sing and dance and are BRILLIANT! And then Simon Cowell tells them otherwise and that they are sadly deluded.
Since I've been on my diet my head has been shrinking. I've not done one of these pictures for a while, because I wanted there to be an obvious difference. Unfortunately, it does appear that my head has reached its minimum size. In fact, between the third and fourth pictures I look a bit bigger - and I have lost a stone between those two images! So beware, the next time I do one of these animated pictures it may be a belly shot!
I know you've been wondering just how I've been losing weight. I mean, I know I keep saying that it is all about just eating less and moving more, but how do you actually achieve that? Especially with the pie I made yesterday
Which, if you must know worked out at 1000 calories for a quarter of the pie. Given that Denise is vegetarian, I'm the only one who is going to be eating it, which pretty much means red pepper and chicken chilli pie for dinner for the next 3 days. Which isn't a problem but maybe I should think more about making something we can both eat?
Like maybe a red pepper tart (1548 calories for the whole thing) or the 12 jam tarts that I made with the remaining bits of pastry. I have no idea how many calories are in those but I've opted to assume that they are 100 calories each and just have to hope that, at worst, I'm over-estimating.
So, yes, the answer is that I am calorie counting. And I am using an application on my IPad called My Fitness Pal. Which is an odd combination of a modern obsession with a crazily old-fashioned word. Who says 'pal' these days?
Actually, I've just realised that lots of people say, 'pal', but they aren't really using it in the nice form of, 'Me and my pals went down to the cottage in the country and shot snipe off a duck's back.' They generally use it in the manner of, 'Look, pal, if you don't naff off right now, I'm gonna punch your lights out.'
So, 'pal' is quite an aggressive word, I would suggest and now it seems like 'My Fitness Pal' is maybe short for, 'It's my Fitness, pal, so what you looking at?'
Though, actually, My Fitness Pal is intended to be a lovely, friendly place where you can get together with like-minded pals who are all trying to get fit or lose weight. It tells you how many calories you should eat if you want to lose weight at a particular rate and then you tell it what you've eaten today. There's none of that Wii Fit sighing with disappointment here, thank you very much. Sometimes, when you tell it that you've eaten all you are going to for the day it say, 'At this rate you will be 18 stone 7 lbs in 5 weeks time,' which is nice.
My Fitness Pal is also a little bit like Facebook for Fatties, in that it is a social networking platform and you can go on the forums and leave a message saying something like, 'Will somebody be my friend?'
Almost immediately lots of people say, 'Yes!' and send you messages of encouragement. It is a lovely place which if you have a dark and twisted soul, you would probably not enjoy very much. I however, thought it was fabulous, whilst at the same time feeling a bit suspicious about this whole aspect.
Number one, it seems a bit peculiar to have a fat man in his forties asking people to be their friends and having a load of women in their twenties say, 'I'll be your friend.' This obviously makes me a terrible misanthropic person because why would cheerful jolly twenty year olds not want to gee up the old folks? It's just that it seems to me to be the kind of thing that leads to gangsters from far far away setting up accounts to pose as young women so that they can get sad fat men to send them loads of money (presumably to buy dieting products or pay for their gastric band surgeries - I may have got confused about who is replying to these messages at some point)
The second thing is that, once you start looking into who these other people are, there seem to be a fair few young people who, as far as I can tell, are not actually overweight.
Now I know that this is a fitness app and not just a weight loss app but surely most people are using a calorie counter for weight loss? So why are people of apparently normal size using it?
Well, obviously there are those who have lost weight and use it as a method to control their weight and stop it going up. Perfectly reasonable.
But then we come to people who, as a fat person, I find it hard to understand. And I know I've banged on about my lack of empathy for the skinny, but here I'm going to extend my lack of empathy further. I don't understand the folks who, judging purely subjectively from their external appearance, must surely be within the ideal BMI range, but want to be thinner. I get that body image is important and that there is a lot of pressure to be skinny, but once you get your ideal BMI just stop! You don't need to go any further! But as somebody who has been obese for most of my adult life, I guess I will never, ever understand the drive to be that much slimmer.
This isn't helped by the media, obviously
One of my friends posted this message on Facebook recently, and it is fair comment. I don't know if it was purely the body image issues that ruined her enjoyment or just the whole film. When I sat down to watch it with my step-granddaughter (who has seen it many times and mouthed all the words, all the way through) I was distracted halfway through by the necessity of erecting a shelter for the chickens in the back garden.
Back on My Fitness Pal this morning, one of the few people who I added as friends (even though, obviously I don't know them from Adam or Eve) put up a message yesterday saying that she was going to post her first full body pictures so that people could compare her pre and post weight loss body shape. These were, I hasten to add, clothed pictures - it isn't that kind of place. This woman is diabetic and one of the drivers for her to lose weight was the control of her diabetes, and she has done an astonishing job. I can't reproduce the pictures here, but I am going to use a picture to illustrate the difference (whilst apologising for the source - but it is slightly relevant)
In the post weight loss image, the woman was posing in her gym gear, for the sake of illustration, she looked something like this....
I know that it is a gratuitous picture and obviously very poor for the purposes of illustrating a tirade against portrayal of female body image in the media. It is, for those of you who don't know, a picture of Lymara the She-Wildebeest from the humorous fantasy comic, 'Thrud the Barbarian'. It is also, not that dissimilar to the picture this woman put up on My Fitness Pal.
And there were a lot of messages of support from all sorts of people saying how amazing she looked, 'You go, girl!', and that sort of thing.
And then somebody who looked a little like this...
...posted a message which said...
Great job! Bikini ready soon.
Which was so nearly a compliment but also managed, I would say, to convey the message that, you know, 'Still a bit flabby love. I wouldn't go down the beach just yet.'
Hopefully, she was sensible enough to not take this message away from all the other supportive messages she was getting.
But really, pal, you should go and stick your overly muscled head down the toilet.
And finally, to try to make up for the gratuitous picture above, I spent about 2 hours drawing a picture of Anna from Frozen as she would appear if she conformed to the current average female body size. This picture has led to me realising three things. One, Disney should really get on with producing more normal shaped heroines (surely Lilo can't be the only one) Two, I am unable to draw faces (hence the weird appearance - I redrew the head several times and had to photoshop different face on). Three, I can't draw with colouring pencils.
There is a television programme called ‘Supersize vs Superskinny’, presented by a man called Dr Christian Wobblehead. This is what he looks like.
Genuinely, can't keep his head still for a minute. Makes you feel a little seasick after a minute or two.
I used to think that Dr Christian Wobblehead was just a vain idiot, but since I discovered that he is self-aware enough to know that he is vain I can’t summon up the willpower in my twisted heart to despise him for being vain any more. And he probably isn’t an idiot, after all he managed to get through medical school and everything. Though this is not a guarantee of lack of idiocy.
Having just written the above, I have suddenly been struck by a degree of paranoia that I might be using terminology incorrectly. I wouldn’t like to think that the word ‘idiot’ has some kind of medical usage. Thankfully, the source of all knowledge assures me that this is not the case, though ‘idiot’ was used for a long time as a medical definition. Interestingly, according to a page on the BBC website from 2001, idiots are not allowed to vote in a General Election, nor are the Royal Family. I leave you to draw your own conclusions from this.
(I don’t like to edit something where I’ve made a telling political point, or let facts stand in the way of such a thing, but I’ve just been back to the website and the Royal Family can vote! I leave you to revise your conclusions if you feel that you should)
On ‘Supersize vs Superskinny’, Dr Christian makes a very fat person and a very thin person swap meals for a couple of days. This helps them confront their ridiculous portion sizes or crazy diet by considering somebody else’s ridiculous portion sizes or crazy diet and allows large swathes of the British public to feel slightly superior because, ‘I may eat a lot, but you are something else!’
So it always gets a bit funny when the thin person looks at a massive plate of curry, chips, fried egg, sweet and sour chicken and battered cod for their breakfast and turns green, then the fat person is given a twiglet (if
they’re lucky) and a can of Red Bull and looks angry, and a bit like they want to reach across the table and eat all the food and then eat the thin person for good measure.
In recent series they’ve taken out my favourite bit which followed on from the initial meal swap. This was when they took the fatty and the thinny into a room with 2 perspex tubes descending from the ceiling, and then Dr Christian would read out a list of what each of them ate in a week. As he did this there would be a vomition of food down the tubes which would fill up and give another comparison of how different the quantities were. They did this because in a series which preceded SSvsSS (I may not use this abbreviation as it looks like the kind of thing you might get on the History Channel) featuring the muppet ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith (there’s an idiot ‘doctor’ but there’s a possibility she got her doctorate from the back of a cornflakes packet so she doesn’t really count) they used to do the same sort of thing but just put all the food out on a table and I think, as a nation, we all thought, ‘That looks like a delicious spread, when do we eat?’ When presented as a stream of vomitus it didn’t seem half as appealing.
But they don’t do the vomit tubes any more. Fast forward through sending the fatty to meet a very fat American who is too far gone for any help and the fatty does a little piece to camera about how this has convinced them to turn their life around. Because Dr Christian thought he was missing out on a free trip to the US they’ve also added him popping up at some random moment to empathise in a wobbly headed way with the fat American. In the last series they had a jolly moment when fat American (in her mobility scooter) and fatty Brit were in the supermarket buying multipacks of crisps and Dr Christian leapt out from behind a stack of Pringles and shamed them into putting one multipack back. How we laughed!
Dr Christian then presents fatty and thinny with a diet plan and tells them to meet up in 3 months for a weigh in. We get a little montage of fat person slicing cucumber and making a healthy stir fry. The thin person goes to a Pizza Express and has a slice of pizza. And then…
Three months later we meet back in the house. The fatty and the thinny feign amazement at how much their counterpart has changed (with nicer clothes and a better hairdo – at the start they meet naked so it’s no wonder they are relieved that they aren’t repeating that encounter) and then they leap on the scales.
Dr Christian enthuses, ‘When we first met you weighed 30 stone and 5lbs. Today you weigh 29 stone and 4lbs! Well done, that’s 1 stone and 1lb!’
At which point I shout at the telly, ‘That’s pathetic! I lose half a stone in my first week on a new diet! You should have lost at least 3 stone. Pathetic!’
And then I slump back into my armchair, my fat body weakened by so much exertion. But there is more. I manage to crank open my eyelids to watch the thin person being weighed. Under my breath I am already muttering.
Dr Christian says, ‘You weighed 6 stone and 2lbs. Well, today you weigh 6 stone 3lbs! That’s an incredible gain of 1lb!’ He manages to say this with such enthusiasm and yet I still shout at the telly.
‘Rubbish! I could gain that in half an hour!’
And then still-fat and still-thin do a little celebratory dance.
Now the point of me talking about all this is that (a) I am very unsympathetic to other fatties and (b) I am also very unempathic to thinnies. But I believe that thin people can’t understand how fat people let themselves go so much that they become so fat. In the same way fat people can’t understand how thin people find it hard to gain weight. We all need to understand each other better and the world would be a happier place.
That’s a nice message to end on.
Except I have another theory. In the same way that there aren’t cat years or dog years (your cat is not 70 years old in cat years it’s just 10 years old – a year is a year is a year), maybe there are thin pounds and fat pounds. So it is much harder to put on a thin pound than it is to put on a fat pound. And it is much harder to lose a thin pound than it is to lose a fat pound. Which makes a bit of sense because your thin pound is made up of muscle, bone, tendons, sinews, all that gubbins. Whereas a fat pound is largely fat. And that’s why….
Hang on a moment I’ve just explained why thin people have it so much more difficult than fat people. Poor bloody thin people. I’m going to have to rethink my theory.
We all need to understand each other better and the world would be a happier place.
What a nice message to end on.
Hi, I'm Andy, serial weight gainer. My year of dieting is over! But you can still give money to Shelter or the PDSA!