Thursday, November 01, 2007

Weighing it up

Fatso. Fatty. Lardy. Big boned. Ten Tonne Tessie. Horse. Cow. Pig. Greedy. Lazy. All these delightful words and phrases have been doing the rounds a lot this week as it seems the nation has developed an obession with the growing (excuse the pun) obesity crisis.
As a ‘grand big girl’ myself I’ve both heard and used many of these expression used when describing my own appearance, and I’ve always cringed a bit when the discussion of weight comes up.
It never makes me feel good and generally speaking it never makes me wake up, have a massive epiphany, and decide to shed stones as if there is no tomorrow. In fact, the vast majority of these discussions are more likely to have me reaching for the biscuit barrel or feeding coins into the chocolate machine in a fit of low self esteem induced misery.
It’s not that I think the reports should be ignored. Of course it is worrying that as a nation we seem to have lost the ability to eat healthy, home cooked food despite constant bombardment of healthy eating information shoved at us in almost every possible way. (You can’t even soothe your hangover with a Big Mac without being told in bold colours how much food nasties are included).
But the debates do seem to divide the nation between those skinny malinkies and those of us who have struggled (and failed) with weight issues through most of their lives. One look at a popular news discussion website is enough to send anyone even a few pounds overweight plummeting into a pit of despair. “Cut benefits of overweight people!” one reader shouts. Another adds “Tax fat people £200 a week - that will stop them stuffing their faces!”
The rest of the posts are similar in tone - with a plethora of smug people saying it’s as simple as eating less and moving about more. Well, from the other side of the fence I would like to put it on the record that it is not merely as simple as eating less and moving about more.
That’s part of it - a big part of it - but it’s not that easy. If it were, we would not be facing an obesity crisis in our society. Look around people. On any given day I can go into a McDonalds and buy a burger for a £1. Walk into certain city centre cafes and you won’t get much, if any, change from £5 for a sandwich and a bottle of water.
And yes, the £5 lunch is by far tastier and generally healthier - but in a low wage economy like Derry the £1 alternative is going to win hands down. It’s also fair comment that in this town the majority of bijou eateries - where healthy food is easily available - may not actually be all that child or baby friendly.
In many you would struggle to gain access with a buggy but look at the greasy spoons and fast food restaurants - plenty of room, free toys for the kids and colouring in pages to keep them quiet while a beleaguered mum and dad grab a quick bite. In addition look in the shopping centres, sport centres etc in this town.
If you want a quick snack what choice do you have from vending machines? Apart from the solitary organic fruit machine in the back end of Foyleside, your choice is pretty much limited to chocolate, crisps and sweets. For the love of God, when you come out of the swimming pool at Lisnagelvin there are several sweetie machines there tempting you to undo all the good work of your swim! It’s not as easy as just eating less and moving more when everywhere you look fatty, sugary foods are both cheaper and more accessible than a healthy alternative. And we are a nation filled with mixed messages.
We’ve all been told for years to clear our plates - there are starving wains in Africa to the point that I know several people who feel guilty if they leave food on their plate or who spend ten minutes each night pleading with their children to “eat just one more bite”.
If we aren’t hungry - if we are simply full up - then let it go. Leave food, cook smaller portions; but whatever you do stop forcing or encouraging people to eat when they don’t want to. Finally there is the issue of emotional eating. I’m one of those sad creatures who eats to celebrate, eats when I’m sad, eats when I’m bored etc.
Food is such a big part of our society that - much like drink - we tend to turn to it when we want a wee boost. So many of our social occasions surround food and drink that mixed messages once again get through. A report in the Daily Mail this week showed that one in seven women has tried cocaine or speed in an attempt to lose weight. Three out of ten women have made themselves sick after eating. One in four have taken laxatives. One in three have taken slimming pills. A half of women lie about what they eat. A quarter have hidden food. Eighty per cent of women have dieting at least once in their lives.
Those figures disturb me more than those which reveal we are turning into a nation of fatties. Young women are obsessed with their figure to the point they are risking their lives to be thin - and all the while they are bombarded with messages that being overweight equates with be lazy, selfish or stupid.
It’s time we all went back to basics. Get rid of the sweetie machines, make our parks more accessible and our leisure facilities a little cheaper, open a child friendly healthy eating cafe. And then maybe, we might just all find a little easier to eat less and move about more and we won’t have to resort to Class A drugs or Bulemia to help control our weight.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...