Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Great Weight Debate

So they say size doesn't matter...

I like food. Eating is one of my favourite things to do. But I really hate what happens to me when I have too much of it. It's a problem. I am very much not alone.

Women are so very concerned about how heavy we are. Who hasn't wanted to punch someone when they heard the hateful adage 'A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips'? But then put the cake down all the same.

It's a cruel twist of fate that as women get older they find it harder to keep off the pounds. Having children doesn't help - both the biological changes, but also the exhaustion of chasing and placating energetic little people, which makes us comfort eat, or polish off the remainder of their fish fingers on top of our own.

Tired, angry and hungry

I basically want the body of Britney Spears, circa 2000. She was 19. She's had no children. She could spend her days training to look fabulous while I spend mine at a computer. It's insane. But look how lovely she is. Who wouldn't want abs like that?

Britney Spears at the NFL Kickoff Live 2003 Concert.
Photo by Chief Warrant Officer Seth Rossman for US Navy, via Wikimedia Commons

It makes me shudder now to think of the tiny amounts I allowed myself to eat, at one stage of my life. People offered me biscuits and cake and I self-righteously refused even the smallest slice. I did get thin. But I also often felt exhausted, angry and hungry. And I doubt I'm unusual. I would bet that the majority of women, by the time they reach 40, have been through something like this at some point in their lives, had these feelings. How many of us have 'fat clothes' and 'thin clothes'?

My personal obsession with weight has ebbed and flowed for well over a decade now. When people say 'you look well' I translate that as a little bit chubbier (and I should take steps). When I lose weight people tell me. And I love it. I show a couple of extra pounds very easily, so people notice the difference, and comment on it, very quickly. I love it a little bit too much, and I know it fuels the problem, but I don't want it to stop.

Health warning: if this has never happened to you, I totally accept that you think I'm a few chocolates short of the full box. I would have thought that once too. But it's pretty normal (except the bit about Britney Spears, I think that's just me).

My friend at work and I have a weird calorie pact - if someone brings something tasty in for us all to share then either she or I will try it and determine whether it's nice enough to be worth the calories. She recently mentioned the weight loss benefits of getting a sickness bug. Obviously I looked at her like she was a lunatic, but I secretly thought she had a point. I mean, you wouldn't choose to be struck down by a horrible disease, but there's no harm in enjoying the benefits, is there?

Time waisting

The thing that annoys me most about my personal weight obsession is the time I have wasted worrying about how I wish I to be smaller and feeling sad or angry that the numbers on the scales are higher than I want them to be. And the time thinking about eating things I'd decided I 'shouldn't eat'. I wish I could think about something else, but I do really like cake. And cheese. And other food. Particularly cheesecake. I like cooking it and I like eating it. And I like it when other people cook it so that I can eat it.
Photo by Alan Cleaver, via Flickr Creative Commons

If you're not overweight, and you turn down a piece of cake, someone will look at you and say 'you don't need to worry' about all that. And you have to hold your tongue, or explain patiently that you do need to worry about all that. Because if you hadn't spent the past decade worrying about all that - going to the gym and running away from biscuits, you would be at least twice the size you are now. Fact.

Men, too can be concerned about their weight. But not in the epidemic proportions that women are. And I suspect (based on nothing whatsoever) that their worries about the issue are often less deep-routed than ours are.

Apparently, it's easier for men to lose weight than women. So if a man and a woman both start to diet, the weight will fall off him, while it will trickle, or dribble off her. I'm sure there are exceptions to this, on both sides. But our bodies are designed with an additional layer of fat to men's and it clings on to us, resisting attempts to remove it or convert it to muscle.

And of course we all know that women are judged on their appearance so much more than men - female politicians are singled out for comments on their clothes, shoes and general attractiveness, while for men it is an afterthought, usually only mentioned if a significant man is especially handsome or hideous.

Don't be greedy

I'm not advocating chucking out the quinoa and getting down to Mackie Dees. We shouldn't eat too much, or all the wrong things. We should eat well and exercise well. But we should be happy. We should love our bodies for what they are and not aspire to be something else (Britney). Yadda yadda yadda. We all know this.

Feminist, columnist and celeb-arse-licker Caitlin Moran (who annoys me as much as I admire her) was once upon a time much larger than she is now. She wrote something very sensible about the great weight debate: really all you need to do is be 'person-shaped'. We all know what that means, and if you're not too thin or too fat then you're OK and leave it at that. And think about something else.

I'm going to think about something else now.