Resolve Not to Resolve

// 1 January 2010

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It’s that date when, every year, people resolve to go to the gym, lose weight, cut out nice food and starve in the pursuit of thinness.

The fact is that you really do not need to do this. You are allowed, as a woman, to take up as much space as you take up. You are allowed to resist the messages relentlessly bashing us over the head from the media which insist that we copy celebrities and hate every inch of our body which is not clinging unhealthily to bones.

95% of diets fail. Their whole philosophy is one of deprivation and undernourishment, which is not something that the vast majority of people can stick to for any length of time. The result being a cycle of miserable starving and bingeing, which feels endless.

The trick is to stop dieting at all. Start to love yourself and your body exactly as they are. By all means do your best to eat well, but banning foods will make them more tempting than ever, and punishing yourself via what you put in your mouth creates a horribly negative relationship with food, and food is something that we have to deal with every day of our lives if we are to survive.

(Cross-posted at incurable hippie blog)

Comments From You

Kate // Posted 1 January 2010 at 2:49 pm

Abso-friggin-lutely! In 2009 I beat my 4-year battle with an eating disorder so I love the fact I have resolved to eat MORE chocolate – guilt free!

Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D. // Posted 1 January 2010 at 2:58 pm

Beautifully succinct: Something I’ve been wanting to scream out as we are inundated with all those oh-so-helpful articles about how to lose weight this year. I’m posting links to this everywhere.

Josie // Posted 1 January 2010 at 3:45 pm

I like it Philippa – thanks so much for this. It’s always good to be reminded that eating and taking pleasure in food are normal, natural things and should be celebrated, not denied. I work in an all-female office and already the comments have started whenever someone passes round the choccies/mince pies – ‘oh I shouldn’t really, have to cut all this out, been eating like a pig’ etc etc etc. Gets on my nerves but also makes me so sad at how we’ve been conditioned to see appetite as a ‘bad/naughty’ thing which we must apologise for.

HJ // Posted 1 January 2010 at 7:22 pm

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I’m currently surrounded by (online) friends who all feel the need to diet and by implication I wonder if I should be as well. Reading this reminds me of how much the dieting mentality screws with my head.

Bookmarking this to remind myself!

(I also found the book Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon very helpful)

Josie // Posted 1 January 2010 at 8:07 pm

Good for you Kate! Well done. The constant obsessions with diet and weight are hellish enough if you don’t have an eating disorder – I can only imagine how traumatic and even triggering it must have been for you and other who suffer similarly. Enjoy all that chocolate!

earwicga // Posted 1 January 2010 at 10:36 pm

I’ve been on a pretty much chocolate only diet over the festive period. It is getting hard now as the only chocs left are the ones nobody likes – but it is quite possible to suck a toffee penny without pulling out fillings :)

earwicga // Posted 1 January 2010 at 10:53 pm

And I’ve just jinxed myself with a soft caramel and a temp filling, so will be phoning the dentist in the morning. Aw well – I must have eaten hundreds of chocolates in the last two weeks.

Nils Boray // Posted 1 January 2010 at 11:16 pm

Logically I more or less agree with everything you say.

I would say though that the societal pressure on blokes to aspire to non-fat body stereotypes is only marginally less than it is on women. I say this as a fat middle aged man, married to a woman who’s never dieted in her life but somehow has never gone bigger than a size 10

Problem is if I take the Suzy Orbach approach(for instance : and just stop worrying about food, I just get fatter and fatter – and end up becoming very unhappy.

I feel embarassed when I go on holiday and all last years clothes don’t fit, uncomfortable when it starts being difficult to bend down and fasten shoe laces etc etc.

So a few years ago I really blitzed a diet, lost about a four stone, and have taken a long time to gradually work my back up to within about a stone of my max weight – and I need to do it again.

Politically this article is bang on the money, (and women do get put under enormous pressure to lose weight irrespective of whether men do as well) – but emotionally – it doesn’t work for me. I guess it could be argued that it’s worked for my wife.

I can very much empathise with earwicga btw – right down to the missing filling, and the Quality Streets that no one likes.

Clarissa // Posted 2 January 2010 at 4:15 am

I stopped dieting at 16 when I realised I’d probably eat a lot less when I’m not actively starving myself and constantly thinking about food. An unhealthy binge session always follows any single day or morning of dieting. Starving yourself when food is everywhere doesn’t work for the 95% of people out there diets make put on weight instead of lose it.

Miracle of miracles, I went down from a 14 to a ‘eat what I want’ size 10 and have stuck that way since (4 years). Diet = fail.

Elmo // Posted 2 January 2010 at 11:19 am

Has anyone seen the new activia advert? In which Martine Mcutchine encourages the nation’s women to start eating yogurt surrounded by joyous (thin) people whooping like its some sort of fascist rally for idiots. I HATE yogurt adverts, since when did yogurt become some sort of miracle cure for being normal? Bloated? Bloated? You know what that is, don’t you? Indigestion! Don’t eat so fast!Being the ‘wrong’ shape seems to be the selling point for every product now. Did you know using cotton buds in yours ears reduces your body fat by 1.8%? Yep, totally true. As long as you buy the cotton buds *I’m* selling. Pah, I need chocolate now.

polly // Posted 2 January 2010 at 2:40 pm

As someone who has lost weight in the past (and needs to do it again) I kind of agree with Nils. Heart disease runs in my family, so I do have to be careful of my health. But I think the problem is firstly that a) a lot of women who aren’t overweight think they are and b) women aren’t encouraged to eat for health, but to lose weight quickly by any means possible, which is in itself unhealthy.

I went to a popular commercial diet company’s meeting ONCE literally and never bothered again. Not only was the system ridiculously hard to follow, you went in and they were trying to sell you their ‘slimming’ biscuits (which were of course no different from any type of biscuit except they cost about four times as much). How does that encourage healthy eating exactly? They kept sending me blackmail style letters saying I’d never lose weight without them, but I did.

So in the New Year I’ll be trying to cut my saturated fat and sugar intake, and up my intake of pulses, wholegrains and fruit and vegetables. It’s really that simple.

Hannah // Posted 2 January 2010 at 4:02 pm

This is a refreshing article to read, I thought I was the only one who thought along these lines. I will have even more pressure on me come this Tuesday: Not only is the entire media telling me to detox myself to death but there’s recently been a spate (sp?) of women at my children’s primary school doing that 470 cal a day lighterlife nonsense, and compulsively making a big show of turning up in expensive running gear to go on 10 mile runs. Result: everybody except me (healthy size12) is competing to see who can be so thin that not even light escapes.

Karen Vaughan // Posted 2 January 2010 at 4:34 pm

Well Done!

My mental illness means that my weight fluctuates and I’m so pissed off right now that I’m on a downer and all I’m seeing are smug celebs telling us their ‘secret’s’ to lose weight (not bloody working for a living is probably why, two hours a day with the gym-fascists and endless stylists and photo-shoppers etc.) I blew up last year because I was comfort eating and lost some weight this year through healthy balance and ignoring the media morons. Did anyone see the pictures of hannah waterman apparently at 10st? I was 10st last year at 5ft in height, no way was I that big, the media is using numbers to make us think we’re fat now by comparison of this or that persons image at a similar weight. Except they’re lying! I want to f-ing scream!

HJ // Posted 2 January 2010 at 10:50 pm

@ Elmo – Have you ever seen the Sarah Haskins take on yoghurt adverts?

Mobot // Posted 3 January 2010 at 12:16 pm

Great post, thanks… I’m writing this as a woman who is naturally slim. But I feel uncomfortable even writing that, since I often find that *not* hating my body or calling myself fat can be taken as arrogance! I think this shows that there really is enormous social pressure on women to complain about, hate and be constantly trying to change our bodies. I also hate it when people use ‘skinny’ as a compliment, tell me I ‘should eat more’ (I have a healthy appetite!) or say I’m not entitled to an opinion on body image because I should be grateful for my weight. Grrrr! Sorry for derailing slightly, just wanting to show that no matter how large or small a woman is, she is still subject to constant criticism and scrutiny.

Jackie Bather // Posted 3 January 2010 at 2:34 pm

@Elmo…All yogurt is hateful (in a balanced sort of way, obviously) …eating the stuff used to automatically signify that I was on a diet …so I haven’t eaten it in at least 15 years…what a relief.

J // Posted 3 January 2010 at 5:49 pm

Rather than just suggesting to people that they don’t diet I usually suggest they do two things:

1. Eat well

2. Do regular exercise

I reckon whatever weight you reach after that is pretty much your ‘natural’ weight.

Interestingly though I find I have to explain what I mean by both points, otherwise people assume I mean eat fresh veg daily and go for a walk a few times a week – both of which seem insufficient. Here is a great ‘unbiased’ food pyramid with explanation about healthy eating (which allows room for plenty of indulgence):

As for exercise, to me that means vigorous exercise more than once a week. I like to imagine an early human, foraging for all food, and from time to time having to build a house or deal with a predator or something. This is the kind of strenuous exercise we evolved for. Some people turn such a regime into hard work (and expense). I just cycle everywhere.

Elmo // Posted 4 January 2010 at 11:01 am

Oh, that was a lol! I love Sarah Haskins! One question-how come the Americans get Jamie Lee Curtis, and we get Martine Mcutcheon?

since we are on the topic of diets, I noticed a new C4 advert for a diet show (for women, obv), to shed the xmas pounds. Apperently theve all tried every diet before (including the grapefruit diet, eeww), but THIS will be the life changing one! WHEN will they stop making these things??? Tune in, looks like a hoot! Not.

sianmarie // Posted 4 January 2010 at 1:39 pm

mobot – i totally agree!

my new year’s resolution was to join amnesty international. and i did.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 4 January 2010 at 7:20 pm

J, I can’t help but feel you’ve entirely missed the point. And you may have drawn the particular straws which rendered you capable of vigorous and strenuous exercise and cycling but many haven’t. And many more wouldn’t want to anyway.

Similarly, ‘eating well’ isn’t always that straight forward – be it financially, ability to prepare healthy food, or time constraints.

Whatever someone’s weight is, they should be able to live in that weight without people judging or criticising them, is how it should be, I reckon.

J // Posted 4 January 2010 at 8:28 pm

Mmm, possibly I did miss the point, but kind of deliberately. While of course it’s true to say people should feel comfortable with whatever weight they are, I see the issue as more complex than ‘how do I feel about my body shape?’.

Many of us live lifestyles that are unhealthy, that physically damage our bodies, shorten our lives and harm our moods. In the light of this I think just saying ‘don’t diet’ lacks holistic thinking. Sure, don’t diet to force your body to conform to society’s expectations (particularly since it doesn’t work), but changing your lifestyle for the sake of your own health and well-being can be a very positive thing.

Of course we have a right to be whatever shape we want without getting comments about it, but a healthy diet (not a slimming diet) and lifestyle is still worth developing as a habit (and quite possibly won’t make you slim anyway, just healthier). That’s not about making people feel guilty, just about suggesting ways to improve their quality of life.

Kath // Posted 4 January 2010 at 9:08 pm

Eating probiotic yoghurt seems to have helped my digestive problems (including bloating). It also helps prevent yeast infections (for me). Not sure how it’s relevant to this topic though

Kelly // Posted 5 January 2010 at 6:27 am

J – The problem with healthy eating is it still involves being told what to eat, limiting yourself to a chocolate button and eating an amount of fresh veg – many can’t afford and get bored by their supermarket’s selection. Eating large amounts of iceberg lettuce daily gets similar to eating paper. That healthy eating pyramid is also insane. Maybe it’s good to know for medical purposes, but it’s overkill to live by it ritually. When it comes to our cravings and food, it’s best to trust our body, realistic options, and no other messages – harmful or nay.

Better to enjoy a salad craving it than because it’s mandatory!

Sianmarie –

Snap with the ‘amnesty’ resolution, I signed up with my uni’s group. If only such resolutions were the norm in place of self- hatred ones.

Elmo // Posted 5 January 2010 at 9:25 am

My problem is that its advertised as a miracle cure all for women, and that every new year the new adverts come out, telling us how much better our lives will be when we eat yogurt. You know the advert where the women goes “oooh, I cant enjoy myself tonight, I feel far too bloated, I wish id listened to my attractive and popular friend who earts yogurt-look how much attention she’s getting from the guys!” Its effing yogurt!!! Watch the Sarah Haskins advert :)

SianMarie, thats such a great new years resolution!

J // Posted 5 January 2010 at 11:32 am

I can see I’m going against the flow here, but I think healthy eating is about educating yourself, not limiting yourself. Slimming diets on the other hand largely rely on ignorance about our own bodies.

The point of the above food pyramid is not to set yourself some crazy regime to follow, but just to know what your body likes. For instance I find that not many of my (well educated) friends know that their body will likely prefer wholemeal grains to refined grains. They just haven’t thought about it.

Kelly, you say we should listen to what our body wants, but sadly our cravings have been distorted by decades of corporate-produced junk food. I think it is continuing to rely on this junk that is a form of self-punishment, not educating yourself about good nutrition.

Kate // Posted 5 January 2010 at 11:49 am

Really, it’s unrealistic to eat five pieces of fruit and veg a day and cake in moderation? I think there’s a risk of confusing genuine healthy eating with faddy and healthy marketed “healthy eating” schemes. It is not difficult nor necessarily very expensive to eat healthily. “Healthily” doesn’t necessarily mean platefuls of expensive out of season salad for every meal. Soup made with lentils and carrots is healthy and also dead cheap. I think when we have genuine health problems in this country caused by obesity and unhealthy lifestyles it does a great disservice to start spreading mis-information about what it means to be healthy. Heart disease is a bigger killer of women than breast cancer, but you’d struggle to know that.

I think people have also lost sight of why we should oppose the diet industry. Leaving aside the woman hating aspect for a second, dieting is not healthy. The form of dieting sold to women relies on semi-starvation levels of calorie intake and is not a recipe for a long-term healthy weight. The answer to this is to promote genuine healthy eating, not another extreme of poor health. This also involves listening to your body; but that’s because giving in to cravings is the best way to discover that you don’t always crave chocolate or cheese.

The diet industry also enforces a uniform ideal of the perfect body which for many people is unobtainable, often unhealthy and psychologically damaging. But I find the alternative personally depressing as well. The idea that “real women have curves” says nothing to me when I would have to get seriously overweight to ever run the risk of spilling over my bra cup. Yes, I find it dull when women in the office talk about their “guilt” at eating chocolate but I don’t want to pretend it’s empowering to reach for the Green and Blacks. Every time I hear of women’s “love” of chocolate a little bit of me dies of boredom. I don’t want to read bitchy comments about women who go on ten mile runs. I go on ten mile runs, sometimes in expensive running gear, and I do it because I enjoy it and if I was in a Nike advert I’d probably claim that racing made me feel “empowered”.

The Friendly Lefty // Posted 5 January 2010 at 1:18 pm

But Philippa, if we took your advice how would the dieting industry that makes billions making everyone feel crap about themselves survive?

… although I agree that the ‘eat healthy and therefore look great and feel worthwhile’ industry is a pretty big player too now.

earwicga // Posted 5 January 2010 at 2:01 pm

@ J

“Many of us live lifestyles that are unhealthy, that physically damage our bodies, shorten our lives and harm our moods.”

And perhaps we do this because this is the way we like it! Who wants to live forever anyways, or in a nursing home? I am happy that every cigarette I smoke takes ten minutes off my nursing home life :)

@ everyone else

I am aware that smoking is a terrible thing and affects my life right now in a negative way. I would never advocate anybody smoking.

Kit // Posted 5 January 2010 at 2:20 pm

Totally with Elmo on the yoghurt ads, miracle cure for bodily problems that seemingly women only have. Do men just have perfectly functioning digestive systems, or is it that women have to get rid of these problems so they don’t gross people out talking about them?

I’ll have to send a link to this entry to my mam :) I don’t want her feeling guilty or bad about her weight just because society and the media says so.

S // Posted 5 January 2010 at 9:17 pm

Pretty much agree with what Kate said above. I’m a little fed up of hearing this argument that “healthy eating is expensive and elitist” – it isn’t, unless you buy into all the faddish stuff which advertisers would like to convince you you “need”. Like Kate, I run, and I eat a reasonably healthy if far from “perfect” diet (I even like yogurt, especially a dollop in my morning porridge…), and I do these things because they make me feel good, not because I aspire to some sort of size zero model figure. Which is not to say that everyone else should, or necessarily can, or of course want to, do the same. But I don’t see that eating a moderately healthy diet is “unrealistic” for most people. Maybe they don’t wish to, or – like one poster above – claim to be happy to shorten their lives (maybe that was tongue in cheek, I’m not sure?). Personally, I’m hoping for a long and healthy old age!

Of course, a distorted, confused, deeply ambivalent and profit-led view of what “health” means is promoted in current society.

Elmo // Posted 5 January 2010 at 9:22 pm

I dont think anyone here is advocating eating until you explode-but the point is, you have every right to if you so wish. Its YOUR body. Yes, you can tut and judge someone else (funny at how caring people get about other peoples well being only when they are slagging it off), but at the end of the day it wont make diddly sqat to YOUR life if they die due to unhealthy habits. And apart from possibly getting a smug feeling of holier than thou satisfaction, at the end of the day, other peoples eating habits make no difference to your life. So dont judge women if they choose to eat unhealthily- they have every right to do what they like with their own bodies. We dont have to feel bad about eating badly, we really dont-who are we answering to? No one. If earwicga chooses to smoke herself to an early grave, so be it. It wont make any difference to you. You can say “yes, but I really think we should eat healthily”-well then, YOU eat healithy, and everyone else can do what THEY like.

Kit-good for you, no way should your mum feel bad-she has obviously brought up a pretty great kid :)

polly // Posted 5 January 2010 at 9:52 pm

Yes Kate it IS unrealistic to eat five pieces of fruit and veg a day for some people. Poor people on benefits, who may have about £10 a week to spend on food if they’re lucky, and probably don’t live anywhere near a shop that sells fresh fruit and veg.

S // Posted 5 January 2010 at 10:18 pm

Well, I’ve been one of those “poor people on benefits”, and I didn’t live on Pot Noodles (or feed my kids on them) then, either.

I don’t think most people genuinely eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, every day. But it’s certainly possible to eat some. Most food shops will sell some fruit and veg, either fresh or frozen.

Elmo // Posted 5 January 2010 at 11:01 pm

I dont think its nessicarily (sp?) that expensive or difficult to buy healthy food, BUT you have to remember that lots of unhealthy food is incredibly cheap, and therefore probably the more attractive option. The Tesco Value range, for example sells big bags of tortilla chips for 25p, and big bars of chocolate for the same price. My uni friends all live off this stuff, simply because its very cheap, and an easy way to feed themselves. I imagine that poorer people (and here again we seem to be straying into the area of tutting at those who havnt made the “right” choices), when faced with the choice, go for what they can get the most out of. Supermarkets manipulate them in this way, I think, just like the cash machines that only ever charge for withdrawals in poor areas (or on uni campuses)-they make the most attractive food the cheapest. But surely we arnt going to go down the path of looking down our noses at people whose lives are hard enough anyway, without being berated for what they eat as well?

earwicga // Posted 6 January 2010 at 1:35 am

@ J

“tongue in cheek”? Yes and no actually – I think health is a lot more complex than the way you are presenting it.

I agree with S and Elmo that it isn’t necessarily more expensive to comply with current ‘good eating’ guidelines – but there are many more factors involved including genetics, cooking skills, transport and as Polly points out – access. I don’t want to derail this thread anymore than it has been already so may write my own post about it tomorrow if I get round to it. Still need to get round to phoning dentist as well!

Elmo – yes, yes, yes at your 9:22 comment!!!

Kate // Posted 6 January 2010 at 9:25 am

Polly, that’s not my experience of living on benefits. There’s a danger in coming of as very patronising when you start implying that poor people can only choose value pizzas.

Rachael // Posted 6 January 2010 at 9:40 am

I just want to point out that ‘Celebrity Slim’ now have a new line…’Celebrity Slim For MEN!!’ So now all you fellas can join in. Yours is the blue box, ours is the pink one.


Kez // Posted 6 January 2010 at 9:52 am

@ Elmo – “Surely we aren’t going to go down the path of looking down our noses at people whose lives are hard enough anyway, without being berated for what they eat as well?”

I don’t think anyone is attempting to berate others for poor diets. I’ve been on benefits as well (I was a single parent on supplementary benefit for some years) and I know first hand how hard it is to make ends meet, but I really don’t think it is necessary (i.e. inevitable) to live on crap whatever your income. If that is how you actually choose to eat, then fine. However many people genuinely do lack the knowledge or basic cooking skills to feed themselves/their children a reasonable diet… the problem then being that if government, or anyone else, attempt to remedy that, or at least give people a choice, by making information/advice available on nutrition and cooking, the accusation is immediately levelled that this is “patronising”, “insulting”, “not their business”, etc.

earwicga // Posted 6 January 2010 at 10:02 am

@ Kez

“However many people genuinely do lack the knowledge or basic cooking skills to feed themselves/their children a reasonable diet”

That can’t be true – Jamie Oliver has sorted out that already! (or am I being patronising?)

How to cook basic foodstuffs is what is lacking from what the information sources. I had to learn how to cook after having my children and being on benefits. I simply couldn’t afford canned baby food. I found a source of cheap ‘veg bags’. I got a basic cooking book from a charity shop and laugh now remembering how I had to look up what a swede was and being amazed when I cut it open and it was orange!

I just re-read the OP and was particularly struck with the sentence: “By all means do your best to eat well, but banning foods will make them more tempting than ever, and punishing yourself via what you put in your mouth creates a horribly negative relationship with food” I’d taken it for granted when I first read it but actually it is terribly pertinent. Thanks Phillipa for such a great post.

Elmo // Posted 6 January 2010 at 10:19 am

I agree that it would be great if cooking skills programmes, etc, reached out to many more people, and that the government should try to help those with little knowledge of healthy eating, BUT my main point that it is the government who should sort this out, it shouldnt be an excuse for people to tut at other those less fortunate. The main point of this article was that people (esp. women) should not be berated for what they eat-its THEIR choice. I think many of the programmes that do try to tackle these problems ARE patronising-Jamie Oliver’s one where he goes to rotherham, for example-its an entertainment programme first and formost, and I feel it was an excuse for people to look down on other peoples eating habits. The government should be the ones to tackle this, and if people STILL want to eat junk food (I know I do) then so be it, its THEIR choice.

Anyway, lets try not to go off on a tangent!

Kez // Posted 6 January 2010 at 10:24 am

“By all means do your best to eat well, but banning foods will make them more tempting than ever, and punishing yourself via what you put in your mouth creates a horribly negative relationship with food.”

Yes, I certainly do agree with that. It’s sad that so many people – women especially, though not exclusively – have such a distorted relationship with food as a result. And that we all too often teach our children to feel the same. No food is intrinsically “bad” or “sinful”. It’s just food. What you eat does not reflect your worth as a person, although it may well affect the health of your body.

FeminaErecta // Posted 6 January 2010 at 10:26 am

This article may be from the Granuad and therefore liberal middle class ablist patronsing rubbish, but I think it makes a good point about poverty, diet and education

In the FE college where I work, students come in and eat a bar of chocolate for breakfast and feel tired out by ten o’clock in the morning, I stopped berrating and selling a holier than thou healthy eating stance when my students caught me having my early morning Greg’s sausage and bean bake! I have no problem at all with people who want to be healthy, its your body, and if you want to spend your time perfecting it then fair enough, but I think the mass-marketing of anything for profit is wrong, especially when it is marketed in a way that demeans and patronsises women (or any stereotype, for that matter)

Philippa Willitts // Posted 6 January 2010 at 10:28 am

Really interesting comments here. Also worth noting that often, when I most need to eat well, is when I’m not well enough to actually be cooking and have to rely on junk or ready meals or takeaways.

earwicga // Posted 6 January 2010 at 10:33 am

Yes, it was the Rotherham programme I had in mind. But, saying that – what he did for school dinners was important. I didn’t watch the programmes but as a dinner lady I saw the effect first hand it was good!

Not keen on the Charlie Booker video – why use sexual references? But great to see the hypocrisy in Oliver’s advertising work :)

erwicga // Posted 6 January 2010 at 10:39 am

It’s been mentioned once or twice above, and I completely agree. This isn’t a woman only problem. It applies completely to men as well. It applies to my sons and their body image. Why would commerce leave out 50% of their market out because they are men. It”s an expanding problem. (no pun intended :p )

Kez // Posted 6 January 2010 at 10:39 am

But Elmo, when the government does try to tackle anything like this, they are immediately accused of nanny-state-ness, interfering in people’s lives, being out of touch with the real world, sitting in their ivory towers telling poorer people what to do while filling out their fat expense claims, etc etc.

Whether you love him or loathe him (and I haven’t seen his programmes so I can’t really comment), it seems that programmes like Jamie Oliver’s are at least a more effective way of putting that information across than endless government leaflets which most people ignore.

Elmo // Posted 6 January 2010 at 10:43 am

Im afraid Charlie Brooker cant make a good point without layering it with profanity :)

J // Posted 6 January 2010 at 11:49 am

One last point, I hope it is clear I talked about healthy eating not to promote more difficult diet regimes but because I see it as important for combating the regime pushed on us by industrial food production.

I wouldn’t however immediately leap to talking about the role of government in changing this. Perhaps it can do some good at the level of regulation of the food industry, but I don’t much like the finger-wagging state. I’m more interested in us educating each other – by having conversations like this.

I’ve definitely learnt stuff here, so thanks :-)

Elmo // Posted 6 January 2010 at 12:48 pm

This is where the problem is! The government are damned if they do and damned if they dont! Basically what I’d really like to see is an end to food snobbery-people should be free to eat what they like. Thats all, folks. Im off to share a box of malteasers with my sister (I say share, I mean nick hers when she isnt looking)

nick // Posted 6 January 2010 at 1:33 pm

Erwicga –

Yes, I agree ….diet adverts etc have targeted women lot more then men …

I’ve never seen Special K adverts with a man in it .

Dieting is not seen as ‘manly’ , we should lose weight buy running, pumping iron , ab crunches, cycling , etc ……and if you then drink 8 pints, have a curry/kebab and play your video games then do as above and weight wont be a problem.

But it is ……men are getting bigger ..

as women and children are ….

As far as I know , Mens Health magazine is the only one out there concerned about mens health …( its more popular than Loaded and FHM now ) ……if you look at other diet/health magazines , they taget women. Not saying its wrong , but when I flick through Weighwatchers magazine at home ( my wife buys ) ..

there is very little to interest me ….recipes are good ….but the articles are for women , very few are for men ……so I skip them ….of course exercise and looking good is for everyone ….but when it features ‘ looking glam for xmas ‘ with women’s clothes and makeup ….then ..not for me……

men need to help themselves …think about their own body image …..

we are getting more pressured to have the ‘six pack’ ………but more of us are getting the six barrels …….so it might not be a bad thing to be bombrded more……..but do we need men to be insecure about themselves too …..urrrgggh !

Kit // Posted 6 January 2010 at 2:23 pm

“Dieting is not seen as ‘manly’ , we should lose weight buy running, pumping iron , ab crunches, cycling , etc ……” – nick

The Diet Coke/Coke Zero (and similarly (Diet?) Pepsi/ Pepsi Max) advertising is a perfect example of how ~dieting~ isn’t targeted at men :)

earwicga // Posted 6 January 2010 at 2:50 pm

Thanks nick. I must admit that I’m not that aware of specific sources for men to conform to a particular body image and exercise is a great place to start reading up on. I was thinking of the increase in occurance eating disorders of young men. I rarely watch TV so can’t really comment on the ads aimed at men, but these two articles are interesting:


Gendering of marketing pressures is very illuminating.

“but do we need men to be insecure about themselves too …..urrrgggh !”

That’s the endgame isn’t it! If we are all totally self absorbed in imagined (by design from commerce), then we are too busy to actualy see all the stuff going on around us which is actually terrible like human rights abuses…

earwicga // Posted 6 January 2010 at 2:53 pm

And this:

“Adolescent Boys and the Media

The physical pressures women have been coping or not coping with (depending upon perception) for years, has now flooded onto the male gender. Adolescent boys are popping diet pills and engaging in extreme physical activities to develop those media perfect images of men. The difference is boys and men are less likely to talk about the pressures to look fantastic, and boys are not as aware as the female gender about advertising tactics.”

gadgetgal // Posted 6 January 2010 at 3:22 pm

I have to say great post, really got people thinking. And I don’t believe it was trying to say to eat unhealthily, in fact she specifically said do your best to eat well, just don’t diet, which I think is a reasonable point.

I suppose I’m kind of in the conflicted in my opinions on what people are trying to say here – I agree that what people eat and how much they exercise is a personal choice and that it shouldn’t be judged by others, but I can see the point being made by others about healthy eating. Not “dieting”, which is a commercial enterprise and has very little to do with actual health, but healthy eating.

I also think we need to remember that our freedom of personal choice can also affect others (for both good and bad) – one place I can see this in is child education. I see no problems with teaching young people how to cook and what the healthiest things are to eat, after which (when they have all the information to hand) it’s up to them to do it or not. I also agree that there should be more in the way of government drives to push the message to schools to teach this, but I think we all also have to take a bit of responsibility ourselves for it too – one of the saddest, most frightening things I’ve seen in a long time were the TV news images the day after the new school menus were implemented of parents pushing bags of chips and fast food through the bars because they decided that the way they had been implemented was unfair. I would argue that this is just as bad as pushing fad dieting because you should never make those decisions for anyone else ever, but it’s even worse in the case of young people, they are still learning and they take their cues from those that are around them.

Basically what I’m saying is I agree that whatever food choices we make shouldn’t really be judged by others, but we should all bear in mind that our decisions can and do affect others without us even realising it. I think we all need to remember that we live in a society, not in a box (crap, I’ve now got the line “Livin’ in a cardboard box” in my head, NOOOOO!!!)

earwicga // Posted 6 January 2010 at 5:12 pm

@ gadgetgirl

“but we should all bear in mind that our decisions can and do affect others without us even realising it.”

How? You have given one example of how parents feed their children affect them. Anything else?

And “healthy eating” is also a massive commercial enterprise .

Kelly // Posted 6 January 2010 at 6:06 pm

Kate –

Just to say I wasn’t suggesting healthy eating is bad – but you don’t have to live by a pyramid of food, and just because you jog around the block, the rest of us don’t have to and are still perfectly healthy – that’s all.

It’s hardly radical to ignore these ‘healthy eating messages’ – toddlers in experiments have naturally chosen balanced diets, after a day or two of just eating ice cream when allowed to eat what they want. Which suggests it doesn’t take long to get ‘healthy/ unhealthy eating’/ ‘good/ bad’ messages out of our head.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 6 January 2010 at 8:03 pm

if people make themselves ill then it can be upsetting and worrying for people that care about them, or even a strain others to look after them if they become immobile. it should always be peoples own choices what they do to their own body, but there are *some* effects on other people…

pretty much in the agreement with the main crowd for the rest of it though.

Charlie Twist // Posted 7 January 2010 at 1:46 am

There are a whole host of ways that the eating habits of others effects me, namely comes down to my taxes and their health care when their bodies fall apart. Especially being that the majority of cheap, processed foods are full of sugars and/or carbs which convert to sugars. While I’m rather eye-rolly about the ‘obesity epedemic’ there IS proven statistical data regarding food choices and long term health, and public health programs are run on tax payer money… and hey, I pay taxes. Funny that…

That said, the place it effects me more these days is actually via the “fat acceptance” movement from which I seem to run into a disproportionate number of people who seem incapable of comprehending that not all of us are into accepting our fat. Especially not when it’s the result of an illness that adversely raises our chances of long term health problems like PCOS.

I’m told far far too often in the media I do read that I’m being BAD to myself because I severely limit my sugar and fats intake with no account being taken of my PCOS and all the glorious crap that goes with it. To be honest I’d rather be told I’m fat by mass media which I can largely ignore, than be given hell by women (and it is only women who do this IME) in my chosen places of education, news gathering and communication because I am forcing myself to stick to a strict diet. I know what’s good for my body, and this whole eat what you want, accept your body thing is crap and a good way to end up with women having undiagnosed health issues because they’ve just accepted that “that’s how their body is naturally”.

Both are equally dangerous attitudes.

As for healthy eating and finances the people saying it’s impossible for those on low-income are often right, but not due to low income or food costs. Rather due to the lack of education. I didn’t even know what a lentil was till I met my first vegetarian at age…19? I think. A lot of people don’t know what foods to buy, or how to prepare them, so they stick to safe staples which unfortunately are two minute noodles and so on, that won’t be wasted as they can be prepared successfully all the time… it’s one of those things that is really hard to fix on a large scale.

Elmo // Posted 7 January 2010 at 10:24 am

Thanks for your thoughts, Charlie, I didnt know fat people didnt pay tax

Philippa Willitts // Posted 7 January 2010 at 10:50 am

Elmo! Actual laugh out loud from me there. Thank you so much! Love it :D

Philippa Willitts // Posted 7 January 2010 at 10:54 am

Plus, the tax issue is very complex, and once you start objecting to your tax money paying for fat people’s healthcare, do you object to paying for drinkers? People who play sports? People who self-harm? All could be described as self-induced.

What if people are fat because of other health conditions, or because of medication they have to take? (For me, both).

Charlie Twist // Posted 7 January 2010 at 11:04 am

Very cute Elmo.

Now try reading the rest of the post. You asked for a flat out way they effected ME. You got it, via the public funded medical institutions. I’d rather see my taxes going towards schools than towards “fighting the obesity epidemic” via treatment of the results rather than preventative measures via education. Then again I have some rather odd viewpoints about… pretty much everything really.

However if you took the time to read the damned post you might note that I don’t mention at any point liking or disliking fat people. That would be because I didn’t. I have friends and lovers from both groups, and everything in between, who are marvelous people, and I’m certainly not lean or skinny by anyone’s standards, or did I state I was (or intend to imply if I managed to do so). I am personally extremely familiar with the battle to lose weight and only slightly less familiar with the battle to gain it thanks to a partner who struggles to keep his weight above 50kilo on his 6ft something frame due to a metabolic problem. Neither are pleasant and current attitudes on weight from all corners are unhelpful.

It is those attitudes I abhor, from BOTH sides of the argument. So at any point you’d care to address the rest of the post feel free. Until such point, should it come, have a good day, evening, week *Shrugs*

Kelly // Posted 7 January 2010 at 12:07 pm

“…and this whole eat what you want, accept your body thing is crap and a good way to end up with women having undiagnosed health issues because they’ve just accepted that “that’s how their body is naturally”.”

So men can have these health issues, and women can’t. I think you’re in the wrong place to have a rant about paying more taxes cos of us women. And how problems boil down to our pestering ways.

I may as well say it, I do eat healthily at a healthy size 10, but not because a well-meaning herding male tells me to (IME, it’s only men in my chosen places of education, blah blah blah)who try to have ownership of women’s bodies by telling them what they put into it. I’m this way, as I’ve been saying and meaning, because I eat what I want, when I want.

I only became thin when I went off the healthy eating regime, and stopped looking at pyramids and stopped exercising at the gym. On a side note, one way to torture yourself and live an arduous existence is frequenting a gym – hey, if I was confident enough to jog on my main road without the papping; and was close to a lake or forest to make exercise worthwile, it’d be different. As it is, the best some of us can do is a Jessie Wallace fitness DVD. But we don’t need lectures.

I became thin because I started to trust myself, my ability to pick up a banana without there being a ‘should do’ element – replacing this with a ‘wanting to’. To have a side salad because I like the texture, not because it’s a tedious ‘1 a day’. Way to ruin food.

Our cravings naturally contradict the messages we receive because of our hardwiring for famine conditions. After the war and after rationing, people went overboard on fatty foods. Left alone and trusted, our cravings become more peaceful. We begin to crave much more salad than we ever did before, and significantly less chocolate – but only leaving out the messages.

Kez // Posted 7 January 2010 at 12:58 pm

@ Kelly – “toddlers in experiments have naturally chosen balanced diets, after a day or two of just eating ice cream when allowed to eat what they want. Which suggests it doesn’t take long to get ‘healthy/ unhealthy eating’/ ‘good/ bad’ messages out of our head.”

I suspect that toddlers have had much less time to get those messages into their heads in the first place. The problem is that the instincts we’re (probably) born with, to naturally choose foods our bodies need, and to eat the appropriate quantities of them, are, for many people, severely distorted over time, thanks to all the toxic messages we constantly receive.

Kez // Posted 7 January 2010 at 1:56 pm

Anyway, what’s with all this sweeping gym-bashing and yoghurt-bashing? Why shouldn’t I go to the gym, eat yoghurt and go on long runs if I enjoy these things? Which I do. I also enjoy slobbing out on the sofa eating ice cream from time to time. So what?

(I think Charlie Twist is female, by the way. Apologies if I’m wrong.)

gadgetgal // Posted 7 January 2010 at 2:23 pm

First a quick note for everyone else – I do not go for this “because it’s my tax money” argument because you can pretty much use that one to disagree with anything. The people who complain about spending their taxes on support for problems arising from obesity are not going to be blameless in other ways themselves, like smoking, drinking, dangerous sports, in fact you could even argue walking down the road knowing you might slip up on a snowy day is willful misuse of tax money spent on the NHS – but we wouldn’t because that’s just silly! We ALL pay in, and I expect to receive support whether my ailments are self-inflicted or not!!

@earwicga – hey there! I saw the thread degenerate slightly and thought I’d get back to you since you’re quite a reasonable person with some valid questions you asked me. I used the example of parents buying food for their children as an example because it’s quite an obvious one of how the way we eat affects others – there are lots of things we do that affect others that don’t have anything to do with food or parental relationships – television, music, magazines, for example, have a profound affect on people of any age, and I wouldn’t necessarily say the people who do them are always aware of how much so. Things we read, things we see, hear, pretty much everything influences who we are and (when we’re young) who we become. I suppose the parent picking food for the family occurred to me because I’ve seen this in practice – my sister eats crap, which is her prerogative, and also feeds it to her kids, again, her prerogative – but I do remember the day she told me her 8-year-old came home and asked her why she was feeding them chippy food all the time because the teacher said it is bad for them. A different influence, giving them more information to make an informed decision. It even make her question her own choices on the food she’d been buying for them, so it influenced her too, I guess showing again how we can be indirectly influenced by the choices of others (in this case the teacher deciding to talk about food in the classroom). It’s not about being told what to do, it’s more about being aware of how what we do affects others – it’s kind of like good manners but on a bigger scale!

I also agree with you about healthy eating having turned into a commercial enterprise as well (just check out the prices of goji berries if you ever doubt that one!) but I see it as being less of a harmful one than the diet or fast food industries, both of which seem to be preaching that you should harm yourself for short term gain rather than any long term or wide reaching benefits. I think all commercial ventures have an air of the badness about them, since you’re trying to toy with peoples’ minds for a profit, but some just have more of the badness about them than others (sorry, have seen too many “get this stomach” ads since the new year, an ad about how lettuce is great for you would be a pleasant change!!).

Again, though, I reiterate – this is no reason to belittle anyone for the choices they make, and the diet industry is guilty of not only making people feel bad about themselves, but also influencing how we judge others – I’m not thin at all, but when I went to the doctor the other day he said I was extremely healthy (wouldn’t give me antibiotics because of it, though, so didn’t really work in my favour). We definitely need to stop equating size with health, and we also have to stop deciding that just because someone’s unhealthy that we then shouldn’t help them – that’s definitely a slippery slope idea I do not want to go near, ever!!

Oh, and hope everyone’s having a good year so far – mine’s mainly been illness but hopefully things will start looking up soon :)

Mephit // Posted 7 January 2010 at 4:04 pm

I think there’s some middle ground to be had between ‘body fascism’ and ‘fat acceptance’.

It’s blindingly obvious that you shouldn’t be judged as a person for the weight you are. However, ‘fat acceptance’ seems to lean towards poo-pooing the very real health risks of being very overweight, such as for type two diabetes.

I feel somewhat suspicious of the toddler experiment, if only that it seems impossible to double-blind and therefore not to give a child unintentional, skewing approval/disapproval responses.

Mephit // Posted 7 January 2010 at 4:06 pm

Agreed Kez, it’d be an unusual man that suffered PCOS.

Elmo // Posted 7 January 2010 at 4:46 pm

Kez, this is my point-you SHOULD be allowed to eat what you want, do what you want without being judged! Im not bashing yogurt, im bashing an incredibly manipulative industry which uses yogurt to make women (yes, women) feel inadequate-again, the Sarah Haskins video explains it all. People seem to be talking about the effects of women’s eating on their children and families-I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about not being judged for what YOU eat, not what you feed your children. Anyway, unless you know someone personally, and have an genuine concern for them and their family, I dont think anyone should lecture anyone else. As I pointed out before, Its interesting how many people become interested in total strangers only when they are critisising (sp?) them. Everyone knows what food is more unhealthy for them-they may not know the specific calories, but there are very few people out their who dont have a basic grasp of “thats got lots of sugar in it, that doesnt”. Its STILL their choice. Education is key, but if, after years of healthy eating ed, they still want to eat sugar, etc, its up to THEM. Like I said, if they eat themselves to death, its THEIR choice. No one has a right to make anyone else feel bad about what they eat. Its not nice as an 8-10 when people keep going “your slim now, but one day you’ll be the size of a house!” like im getting my comeupppance or something! Like Im evil! lol.

Jane // Posted 7 January 2010 at 5:57 pm


I think many of the programmes that do try to tackle these problems ARE patronising-

Totally agree. When Ben Goldacre was lambasting ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith, he said that unhealthy eating and poverty go together, and ‘experts’ like her and to a lesser extent Jamie Oliver have lucrative contracts with the very companies that are creating food deserts all over the country. I’ve stopped going into that health food shop As Nature Intended (ponciest name ever) because it sells McKeith’s range of goji berry bumblaster bars or whatever they’re called. Go to a really disadvantaged are in the UK and you’ll have to walk miles to find a greengrocer, or take two buses to get to the Tesco Superstore out of town – but there’ll be a McD’s on every corner. You can eat well if you’re on benefits but it’s a lot lot harder because you need the shops to be there as opposed to miles out of town, and the will and energy to know what to do with beans and pulses and cheaper cuts of meat. (And the irony is that expensive London restaurants are now serving the kind of food our grannies would make with a massive price tag of course)

By the way I’ve got a five year old daughter and it’s really important to me that she enjoys food and doesn’t see it as The Enemy.

Kez // Posted 7 January 2010 at 8:29 pm

@ Jane – I’ve got a young daughter too, and one thing which really concerns me is how these poisonous messages seem to be affecting girls at an ever younger age. I am filled with dread every time I read one of those reports about how some amazingly high percentage of very young girls are unhappy with their bodies, and believe they should be slimmer.

I believe this has got much worse in recent years – I know I never gave my weight a second thought as a child, or as a teenager for that matter. Possibly there were girls for whom it was an issue, but I don’t recall it ever being a topic of conversation.

I hope I can try to instil in my daughter a healthy self-image and healthy (by which I mean sane) eating habits. One reason I am involved in exercise and sport is because I want her to see that these activities can be fun and enjoyable for women and girls (obviously if she doesn’t want to participate that’s fine too). Given that shopping, fashion and one’s appearance in general are pushed at girls so heavily as “interests”, I think it’s important to provide as many empowering alternatives as possible.

polly // Posted 7 January 2010 at 9:32 pm

So can I ask Kate: how long you lived on benefits for, are you university educated/middle class, do you have any children, where did you live when you lived on benefits?

It may not be your experience, but it is a lot of people’s experience. Being poor temporarily is very different from being poor long term and being born poor. Being on benefits in an affluent area is entirely different from being on benefits in an area where everyone is poor. You don’t tend to find those areas packed with shops selling fresh fruit and veg for a start.

Socio economic status has a lot to do with ‘healthy eating’ actually.

Charlie Twist, there may be a correlation between being overweight and poor health. However there is an entirely separate correlation between lower socio economic status and poor health – one that has been shown to exist regardless of other factors*.


So would you support improved social equality via income redistribution to improve health? Interestingly social inequality is also (particularly in developed countries) a factor leading to increased obesity.

polly // Posted 7 January 2010 at 10:10 pm

A good piece on food poverty here…

Moreover, people who live on state benefits or the minimum wage often lack sufficient money to buy enough or appropriate food for a healthy diet, especially if they have to meet other essential expenditure, such as rent or fuel costs, or are in debt.

If they have to rely on small corner stores, they may have to pay anything from 6% to 13% more for a nutritionally adequate diet than they would if they shopped in a big supermarket.

There is also some evidence that healthier foods cost more.

Replacing white bread with wholemeal and high-fat products with low fat products can really hit the household budget.

Kate // Posted 8 January 2010 at 9:36 am

Polly, to be frank it’s none of your business. I started writing a response but you clearly have no interest in first-hand experience from someone who doesn’t fit your stereotype of what it means to be poor.

Jane // Posted 8 January 2010 at 2:19 pm

@Kez: I hope I can try to instil in my daughter a healthy self-image and healthy (by which I mean sane) eating habits. One reason I am involved in exercise and sport is because I want her to see that these activities can be fun and enjoyable for women and girls.

Kez, I’m with you 100% on getting girls into sport – if they enjoy it. I’m racking my brains as to where I read it, but there was a recent study (wouldn’t you know!) that concluded girls who play sport have a far healthier body image because they see exercise as recreational and fun in its own right, rather than a depressing component of dieting.

And it worries me desperately too that my daughter’s five year old friend came round for dinner last week and said: ‘I can’t have that – I’m fat.’ Jesus! I didn’t even think about that stuff until I was at least 12, but now we have girls barely out of nappies dissatisfied with their bodies.

Elmo // Posted 8 January 2010 at 4:03 pm

Jane, if girls can find a sport they enjoy, it is absolutly worth it to encourage them. I hated sports until I found Muay Thai, now Ive been going about 6 years, since I was 12. Its been one of the best things ive ever done, it keeps me really fit, and it makes me feel strong. If your daughter can find a sport she enjoys equally, then I guarantee she will stop thinking about her body as an image, but as a wonderful working machine, which is there for so much more than looking good. I still have body hang-ups, but I think they would be much worse if I wasnt doing a sport I loved.

Gillian Mckeith-a nasty, patronising con- artist. I remember watching her on TV once when I was 14. She was explaining how good chorophyll was for your digestion if you ate green food. As a Standard Grade Biology student (thats just lower than GCSE) I thought “Is she serious? Chlorophyll? As in, the chemical plants use to make energy from SUNLIGHT?” Its always a danger sign when schoolchildren know more about science than so-called Doctors.

Charlie Twist // Posted 9 January 2010 at 4:55 am

@Polly: Hell yes, when I was earning enough to cover rent, food and bills I used to give a fair whack of money to local charities for getting homeless kids off the streets and the likes of. I’d see it as no more than an extension of that on a grander scale. I am currently a student so I’m more useful as the chick that cooks for anyone who can find their way to my kitchen, mind you.

And yeah, I do have ovaries and all that ;p On an interesting note with PCOS. There is some research that suggests that it’s not actually a gender based thing, but more readily identifiable because it effects women’s ovaries quite noticeably and obviously men don’t get that symptom. Men do display the same set of problems (with exception of the female only ones) but tend to be treated for each symptom individually rather than it being seen as a parts of a whole problem. I thought that was rather interesting. The books in a box or I’d offer you linkage :/ Stupid moving house.

Just a thought too. Is this whole problem a problem with the judgment or the actions. I mean it’s perfectly human to make a judgment about anything and everything so it seems to me that it’s more the behavior that stems from that that is the actual issue. Seeing someone who is fat and thinking god they must be lazy and/or unhealthy is an automatic thing born of the cultures we live in, but it would be, to me, that acting on that assumption without any proof to the matter that is more the issue. I make judgments like that as much as anyone, but I don’t act on them. As in I don’t let that first impression set the tone for the interaction, and friendship should this be someone who could/does stick around in my life, nor do I let it over ride what the person is when they open. I know, in some ways, both the PCOS and the exposure to alt-scenes (punk, goth etc) has set me up to be able to do that… but yeah…

I don’t know. I’m not even sure if that makes sense. It’s random flow of thought.

polly // Posted 9 January 2010 at 11:09 am

I think what you are talking about Charlie is so called ‘insulin resistance syndrome’. This is basically a pre diabetic condition which is characterised by accumulating a lot of weight around the abdomen.

However it’s important to note that not everyone is overweight will follow this pattern of fat accumulation though, which is associated with increased risk of heart disease. Basically some overweight people are more at risk of health problems than others because of other genetic factors – that’s why there’s a correlation between increased weight and some diseases, but not a straightforward causal relationship.

For example I don’t have high blood pressure, despite being overweight. My mother who was never overweight had high blood pressure, and so do some of my siblings, who are also not particularly overweight.

maz // Posted 9 January 2010 at 7:33 pm

I too have suffered with an eating disorder for a few years. I have always felt pressure from peers and media to look a certain way and this obsession saw me hospitalized with my disorder for a year, coming out with osteoperosis, at 23 i have the bone density of a 60 year old, this is irreversable, though i can stop it getting worse. During my time in hospital a girl my age with the same thing died, aged 22 at the time, anoither lady aged 43 had never been out of hospital, never eaten chocolate, fried food, gone on a date etc etc, this illness ruins lives. Yet reading the telegraph today, and this is not an attack on the telegraph alone, im sure all newspapers are similar, an article of about 300 words on how young girls dieting are at risk if osteoperosis was given a tiny square of space, yet every day ths week there have been full pages (broardsheet size) of diet and fitness, alongside a fitness dvd (which i also have become extremley addicted to in the past) free in todays newspaper. This alongside with tomorrows “womens magazine” sure again to feature the fashions modelled by size 0 (possibly smaller) models and of course recipies for indulgent calorie filled meals desserts, is it any wonder these illnesses are on the rise, burdening and confusing not just the young, but everyone. Its such a shame that there seems to be so little done by the government to reduce this level of subjection media places on people. I hope the government are doing something active about this, we all see hte adverts for active kids and healthy eating on the telly all the time, but how about reducing all the dieting ads, yes obesity is a problem but if we are not carefull this will be just as bad. What we should be encouraging is emotional well being to the same level as physical well being. Beat is a wonderful charity but i would like to see governenments taking this issue just as seriously. We should all be able to feel happy with ourselves.

Kit // Posted 11 January 2010 at 11:33 am

“Its not nice as an 8-10 when people keep going “your slim now, but one day you’ll be the size of a house!” like im getting my comeupppance or something! Like Im evil!” – Elmo

My friends used to do this to me in school too (despite being the same size as most of them), because unlike them I wasn’t openly worrying about my shape and weight so they thought they’d get to me. I think there were at least 7 of us in the group who had issues with with weight, food and body image though luckily I think none going as far as developing a full on eating disorder :/

Is it just me, but as well as “fat” hating in the media there’s a lot of “skinny” hate too? Where values for “fat” and “skinny” vary, making it near impossible for anyone to be “just right” enough to escape attention.

maz // Posted 11 January 2010 at 5:15 pm

You’re right kit, when i was at my smallest which was gross i have to admit, i was getting insulted by both men and women whenever i went out, especially in clubs where peoppl were drunk. I’d get called names and in fron of all their mates blokes would come up and say things like, “you comin out for a kebab, give her a kebab”

You only have to look at the way the media talk about victoria beckham to see that even women who seem to be doing what the magazines want are being insulted for it, im sure all the attention the press have given her over her weight have only made her focus on it more and more, she has become so well known for being “super skinny2 as they like to call it, she must feel like its her identity, can you imagine how much of a change she feels to her head not just her body everytime she gains a little bit of weight, knowing if she was to go back to a “normal healethy weignt there would be so much attention on her, something anyone with an eating didorder would struggle with (all i wanted to do when i put on weight was get on with life and pretend it had never happened)

Elmo // Posted 11 January 2010 at 5:51 pm

Exactly-just because I wasnt constantly going-“ooo, i’ll be naughty” or “oh, i cant, it’ll make me fat!”, I got lambasted. Admittedly I eat A LOT-but so what? Its my buisness. Maybe I will be the size of a house one day-bring it on. I get so sick of people going “oh, im so fat” when they arnt, and so tired of saying “no your not” eventually, I just go “hmm, maybe you ARE fat” just to piss them off. The worst thing is that *I* do it too, and it needs to stop. I think the reason it starts is because not a single person in the media has ever outlined what they think is “the perfect weight”, so most women ALWAYS feel either too fat or too thin. The best thing to do is to stop actually reading magazines altogether, but I doubt that would happen on a large scale.

Kez // Posted 11 January 2010 at 6:21 pm

The majority of people (not all), male and female, will tend to gain weight more easily as they grow older, regardless of lifestyle/eating habits/exercise habits, because metabolism slows after the age of about 40 (not saying this is the only reason, but it is a factor). Beats me why we can’t just accept this and be realistic about what our bodies can achieve, instead of expecting everyone, regardless of age, to aspire to the figure of a 20 year old.

I’m 42, and I eat probably around the same amount – a little healthier, in fact – and exercise a lot more than I did as a 20 year old, yet I’m consistently around half to three-quarters of a stone heavier than I was then. I couldn’t care less – I’m still within a healthy weight range, and more importantly I feel fit and healthy.

maz // Posted 11 January 2010 at 7:13 pm

What I don’t get is how so many of us are saying this perfect image isn’t right, but the media is never stopped!

earwicga // Posted 12 January 2010 at 11:01 am

Good article, but what’s with the pic and caption? *sigh*

@ gadgetgirl – thanks, and I hope you are feeling better now.

earwicga // Posted 12 January 2010 at 11:13 am

I don’t know if you all know of the other F-Word blog, but this is a good place to start

earwicga // Posted 12 January 2010 at 11:57 am

Another link and I’ll try to stop after this one :)

Shows that 99% of children’s lunchboxes are made up mainly of crap. As the poorest children are entitled to free school meals it could be argued that the content of the lunchboxes isn’t down to socio-economic reasons. There is a lot more to it than that.

And I might as well reveal my hand here. I am a food fascist normally. I do know a lot about nutrition. Xmas is a break from that. I won’t let my children have a lunchbox full of foods like those described in the report. My children have railed against this as their lunchbox is different to almost everyone else’s (and this is something that I have seen during my time as a dinner lady). I had to learn to cook when my children were small. I simply couldn’t afford convenience food. It is cheaper to cook from scratch, I don’t enjoy it but I have to do it. Tbh – If I could get all my nutritional needs from a tablet then I would.

Kez // Posted 12 January 2010 at 4:53 pm

Saw that BBC article earlier (the one about bigger bums etc being a good thing). But why on earth did they have to illustrate it with “Jennifer Lopez tops attractiveness polls”? The piece wasn’t about attractiveness, it was about health. Whether or not people find Jennifer Lopez’s curves attractive or not is completely irrelevant.

Why does any discussion about women’s bodies invariably have to come back to what men supposedly do or don’t consider attractive? [banghead]

earwicga // Posted 12 January 2010 at 7:44 pm

Absolutely agree Kez.

The article wasn’t about women’s bodies – it was about human bodies and health. It is the BBC who chose to make us think it was about women’s bodies and attractiveness with the picture and caption.

maz // Posted 13 January 2010 at 3:50 pm

You are so right kez, it ALWAYS comes back to that, as a nation we need to get our proroties straight, like i mentioned before, the telegraph had one little tiny square about how thin girls are more at risk of osteoperosis, followed a few pages later by a broasrsheet sized article about losing weight by getting fit and diet, with of course…pictures of skinny sporty women looking glam

Anne Onne // Posted 13 January 2010 at 4:10 pm

I don’t like the expectation that you have to show you’re constantly ready to do something big and new to re-invent yourself. I think people look at you weirdly if you say that you have no plan on resolutions or absolutely refuse to join a gym or pick up a difficult hobby because you know you won’t keep on at it. Muttered words about quitters never winning may be mentioned.

I think it’s unrealistic that people (particularly women) are pressured into resolving to make several lifestyle-changing decisions on a whim because of New Year (often at a particularly inconvenient time for them), without really thinking through whether they are right for us, only to feel bad when we fail.

If there are some things we’d like to start, let’s resolve to think about them and whether they are right for us. Let’s ask ourselves ‘Do I really want to go jogging 7 times a week/learn to play the cello/learn Mandarin ?’ Not because wanting to be healthy or pick up a hobby are bad, but because they’re supposed to be good. It is supposed to be a joy that will give you enough fulfilment that you will keep on at it when things get tough. If you never really wanted to do it in the first place, you’re not really going to carry it on.

@ gadgetgirl: Whenever anyone raises THAT argument, I ask them who they know who doesn’t smoke, eat ‘unhealthy’ food, drink in excess of recommendations, take drugs, live on caffeine, have unprotected sex etc. It usually does the trick.

Do I wish that there wasn’t so much social pressure to engage in habits that cause a lot of health problems (drinking, smoking etc)? Yes, it would make trying to live a healthier lifestyle a less ‘freakish’ thing in the eyes of some peers. Do I think people should be penalised for not adhering to these rules? Not at all.

Butterflywings // Posted 13 January 2010 at 6:27 pm

On the food/ class thing. Polly has a point. While I don’t think that anyone was trying to look down their noses at poor people, it’s certainly a good idea for the priveleged to do some thinking before jumping in to a discussion with their comments.

And there is a difference between middle-class and temporarily poor (or middle-class and not poor but not exactly living in luxury either) and having been brought up in a poor working-class (or, more often, non-working, not meant snarkily) environment.

I don’t think Polly or anyone was saying that it’s *impossible* to eat healthily if you are poor, just that it’s harder.

I have also been temporarily very poor (thanks to f-ups with my pay in a new job, among other things) – as in, had £5-10 to feed myself for a week. As in, had to choose between getting the bus and eating lunch. The thing is, the last thing anyone feels like doing after a day of work (and I don’t just mean paid work – I’m counting looking for a job, caring for someone, etc. as work) is cooking a meal from scratch. Worrying about money is tiring. You want something to fill you up, and some comfort, not lentils. I ate very unhealthily. You can pick up a ready meal for about £1; a couple of those, pasta and sauce, eggs, beans, bread and cheese and you will still have enough change from £10 for some (much needed) chocolate and alcohol. Or, you can just about buy a basic healthy menu (fruit, fresh and canned veg, tinned fish, seasonings etc.) – IF you know how to cook, know about eating and have the time, create a healthy menu – I did sometimes buy a load of veg and make something, in 2-3 portions, and freeze the rest. It takes self-discipline, though. You can’t then afford any ‘treats’ as well.

People are rubbish and lack self-discipline sometimes; it’s called being human. Poor people are allowed to do it too.

Plus, plenty of middle-class people don’t cook and live on high-end ready meals which are just as bad for you. In fact, my diet didn’t improve when I started to have more money to spend, it was just that I could go to M&S sometimes.

I have recently resolved to actually cook, in an effort to eat more healthily, and was amazed how much more expensive it is to buy fresh ingredients. It is easily £20-30 per week, for one person.

I can appreciate that teaching people to cook quick, tasty and healthy food is a good thing. The thing is that the actual institutional factors that make it harder for some people to do that have to change. Polly is right that there don’t tend to be proper supermarkets in deprived areas. Not everyone can get to large out-of-town supermarkets. As for the ‘metro’ type mini supermarkets, they’re little better than convenience stores – don’t get me started on the ways they rip people off. For a start, they *never* sell fresh fruit and veg as individual items, but in multi-packs, which are relatively expensive, and a waste for a single person who isn’t going to be able to eat it all. No wonder people go for ready meals when they’re the same price as a ‘family-size’ pack of tomatoes (even people *with* families, since you can’t make a meal from one pack of veg).

Also, even for those who can get to a supermarket, they still (quite deliberately) encourage people to eat unhealthily (having more offers on unhealthy food, for example).

As for the resolutions thing – I completely agree that there is a lot of pressure on women to ‘improve’ ourselves. One thing that works is focusing on what you DO want, not what you don’t – for example, to feel healthier and more energetic, to get fit, to feel more organised, rather than a negative resolution – e.g. dieting, going to the gym, which tends to be a deprivation mindset (I can’t eat that, I will lose weight, and so on). Hence, I am currently eating more healthily and exercising so that I *am* healthy, not to look like a photoshopped model.

Elmo // Posted 13 January 2010 at 6:41 pm

here here! I just put two ready meals in the oven for me and my brother, becasue I cant face cooking anything from scratch. Its human nature. Everyone does it at some point.

Kate // Posted 13 January 2010 at 8:15 pm

Butterfly wings, of course there’s a difference between the temporary poor and the long-time poor. Unfortunately the F Word community does not encourage comments from people with working class backgrounds, so this thread has been a little stilted. I was brought up poor but was made to feel that my comments aren’t valid because they don’t fit someone’s “understanding”, if stereotyped, view of the working class (although I think you’d have classed my mother as part of the delightful “non working class”). And this on a site that also hosted a guest blog from someone who felt fit to rehash the myth about working class women getting pregnant for the council housing.

Butterflywings // Posted 14 January 2010 at 3:00 pm

Kate – I didn’t mean the bit about ‘non-working’ as an insult. It just occurred to me that ‘working-class” isn’t necessarily a good term; I didn’t want to exclude people who don’t work for whatever reason – whether they’re looking for paid work, have caring responsibilities, have a disability or something else. But I did want a way of talking about people who are not only poor, but (for class reasons) grew up poor, and are likely to always be poor. I couldn’t think of any that aren’t offensive.

But I should have been clearer about that.

I felt Polly had a point, that’s all, but I didn’t agree with everything she said. I’m sure she can speak for herself if she wants to.

I was not patronisingly saying ‘the poor things don’t know any better’, just that, if someone doesn’t have the cooking skills or time or energy to cook, it is not that easy. I feel that is fact, not stereotyping. Of course not all working-class people are the same – which is why, although some grow up eating healthily, with a mum who can and does cook, some don’t.

People can sometimes sound as if they are being overly critical of other people’s eating habits and tutting at them, that’s all. It is, as elmo said, food snobbery.

To quote Jane: ‘When Ben Goldacre was lambasting ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith, he said that unhealthy eating and poverty go together, and ‘experts’ like her and to a lesser extent Jamie Oliver have lucrative contracts with the very companies that are creating food deserts all over the country. I’ve stopped going into that health food shop As Nature Intended (ponciest name ever) because it sells McKeith’s range of goji berry bumblaster bars or whatever they’re called. Go to a really disadvantaged are in the UK and you’ll have to walk miles to find a greengrocer, or take two buses to get to the Tesco Superstore out of town – but there’ll be a McD’s on every corner. You can eat well if you’re on benefits but it’s a lot lot harder because you need the shops to be there as opposed to miles out of town, and the will and energy to know what to do with beans and pulses and cheaper cuts of meat.’ Exactly!

I think that does the subject to death though. I didn’t intend to make you feel attacked or that your opinion isn’t valid – I just disagree.

Btw I didn’t see a post about working-class women getting pregnant for the council housing, so I can’t comment on that.

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