Image: shirokazan ㇹヮィㇳ. www.flickr.com/photos/shirokazan/

The Fact of Fatness.

Image: shirokazan ㇹヮィㇳ. www.flickr.com/photos/shirokazan/
Image: shirokazan ㇹヮィㇳ

Image: shirokazan ㇹヮィㇳ. www.flickr.com/photos/shirokazan/

“Fat” is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her.

I mean, is “fat” really the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring or cruel? – J.K. Rowling

 Information on weight, exercise, dieting, DIY BMI, detoxification, how to get a flat stomach in ten days, pervades modern Western media. I cannot be the only person who is sick to the back teeth of this (ironically) unhealthy fascination with how much we weigh.

My baby sister came home from school one day and told me she needed to go on a diet. As well as the ludicrousness of her not being fat at all, she’s twelve years old. Twelve. “Sorry?”

“I need to go on a diet because this girl told me I was fat.”

My first reaction was fury, as it always is. How dare some spiteful little git poison my sister’s perception of herself? I was itching to march down to that school and confront the culprit myself. Say it again. Go on, we’ll see who’s laughing now!

Then I remembered that I’m nearly twenty years old, and sadly I’m past playground tussling.

My second reaction was sadness. One vicious comment had demolished my sister’s confidence, so much so that she was determined to eat nothing in order to be “skinny.” It saddens me that Kitty is insanely intelligent above her peers, one of the youngest black belt martial-artists in the UK and aspires to be a GP (or an author?), yet her weight has become the scale of her worth. Like J.K. Rowling says, who cares about weight? Are we all that gripped by the figures of our own, and each other’s BMI (which by the way, is an inaccurate measure of body fat anyway)? Apparently we are. How tragic.

Of course, this isn’t to say that eating disorders shouldn’t be treated with sensitivity and understanding, whether they take the form of over-eating or under-eating. Both are serious and impact on the health of the individual, sometimes catastrophically. However, I will say that there is a tendency to demonise those who are over or under weight with comments like, “it’s entirely your own fault. You have no excuse.” Okay then. By that logic, victims of depression should maybe just “get over it.” Just because you can see the symptoms of psychological upset, as you can in victims of eating disorders, does not mean it is any less real. I thought this would be obvious, but apparently it isn’t for some.

What won’t help those suffering with an eating disorder is the relentless battalion of information on how to be “healthy.” Knowledge of science will tell you that actually, most of the diet and exercise tips you read about are utter bollocks. Drinking lemonade and cayenne pepper for ten days, as a method of “detox” and “weight loss” is completely ineffective, I think we all know that deep down. And standing on a shaking board will do nothing but toss your blub in all manner of directions for all the gym to see. We can scoff at this, but if you’re really desperate to lose weight, you would try anything and everything.

We fancy ourselves as technologically and scientifically advanced, but our obsession with body image, with purely physical characteristics as a means of evaluating another human being is positively Darwinian. Look how far we haven’t come…

I know this is another article about projections of body image in the media, and I somewhat contradict myself in writing about it at all. But guess what?

I don’t care if I’ve got a big bum and thunder thighs. As long as I can fit into my clothes to save me the financial inconvenience of buying new ones, I don’t care. What I care about is this: about writing, about my degree, about my friends, about my family, about peace and love and harmony.

And that’s what I told my little sister.

“Next time that girl tells you you’re fat, you tell her you don’t care and you mean it.”

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