Belfast Telegraph

Obesity is not a lifestyle choice, it’s a death wish

By Gail Walker

Remember size zero? Well, any illusion that the fashion business actually believed that was where the billions lay has been quickly dispelled by the grim, greedy reality.

According to new statistics, more than a quarter of women here are now size 18 or over and struggle to find stylish clothes — so high street stores plan to cash in on what is, literally, a growing market.

Actually, as a glance around any supermarket will confirm, the ‘cuddly’ woman can buy ‘stylish’ clothes — it’s just that leggings, skinny jeans and bandage dresses are not a good look on the morbidly obese. Steal the star style of Cheryl Cole all you like, but if your backside’s the size of a slab and your face is the colour of a blood pudding it’s just not going to work.

But what’s so spectacularly depressing about fashion’s new business plan is the implied acceptance that it’s okay to be huge, that it’s all part of life's glorious diversity. The reality is we’re on the road to Big Trouble.

Rather than solve the problem by losing weight it’s now a ‘lifestyle choice’ to be fat. It’s no longer about greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes and cancer, but a miracle dress that makes a size 24 look like a size 12. It’s your right.

This isn’t a ‘how dare my taxes go to the NHS to help treat these self-inflicted ailments’ rant. It’s just that turning a blind eye to the ballooning epidemic means misery, illness and early death for millions. It’s a tragedy on a simple human level. The ‘it’s my choice argument’ is valid only in the way you have a right to, say, drink yourself to death or consume vast amounts of pornography. A right, not Right.

And just as, typically, the media ignored the statistic about how more men are also gorging themselves into obesity, the ‘positive’ articles about better fashion ranges didn’t point out how hefty parents often inflict similar ‘lifestyle choices’ on their children.

M&S recently introduced school blazers for obese four-year-olds with 23in waistlines, size 18 blazers for teenage girls and 41in waist trousers for boys. But making sure obese children can wear the same uniform as their pals won’t stop them being given vile nicknames. In the adult world, civility prevents the worst excesses of verbal cruelty (though surveys show the overweight are often discriminated against) but there’s little political correctness in the playground.

What they really need is parents with the wit not to stuff them — and themselves — full of processed food, crisps, cakes and fizzy drinks, while telling them they’re just big boned. They need parents to make them get up from the TV, go out and play.

Why do so few kids take exercise now? Yes, there are fears about stranger abduction and traffic but those were there when we were children, too. There was still an understanding that being a child meant being out on your bike, playing footie and racing about on the go-kart your dad made from old pram wheels and bits of wood.

Now, most children just seem to gawp at a computer game and shovel in Big Macs.

Being fat isn’t fun, no matter how much they try to tell you it’s a good way to live — a message as dangerous as making celeb lollipop heads role models for women, with the osteroporosis that brings.

Being overweight is about low self-esteem, depression, becoming out of puff too quickly and getting murderous looks from the person in the seat beside you on the plane.

We’ve heard it all before: I just have to look at a slice of cake and it’s on my hips, it’s my glands ... Except it's not true. Barring the rare case of metabolic disorders, if you consume more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight. That's basic science. It's not a ‘choice’ like tuning into X-Factor or buying the new Tom Jones CD. You may as well pretend you’ve a right to ignore the laws of gravity.

Better fashion for bigger women? Reminds me of the time I asked a certain gentleman if a pair of jeans made my bum look big? No, it’s all the chocolate you eat, came the reply.

Dress it up whatever way you want but it’s better to just lose the pounds.

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