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Artillery Row

Fat people can’t be happy

The lies of ‘fat activists’ are making us unhappy and sick

The UK is among the countries with the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in the world. While there are many reasons for this – government incompetence and population density among them – there is one that we have tiptoed around – obesity. The government even suggested, last week, that obese people should return to work later because they are at greater risk from the virus.

In a study of 17,000 patients in hospital with coronavirus, obese people were found to be 33% more likely to die than those of a normal weight. They also make up 73% of ICU patients. Incidentally, is it any surprise that the US which has an obesity rate of 40% among adults over 20 has the highest rate of covid-related deaths in the world?

The 223,060 cases of coronavirus in the UK pales in comparison with the 711,000 patients admitted to hospital in 2017 with obesity-related diseases. Talk about pressure on the NHS. And that’s without mentioning the cost to wider society – an estimated £27 billion.

The links between the two pandemics are solid. But the increasing politicisation of obesity is making it harder to tackle.

In March, Baroness Bull the former ballet dancer called for body-shaming to be treated like racism and sexism. The usual line followed: fat-shaming increases the anxiety over weight and makes people put on more. However, unlike race and gender, obesity is not an immutable characteristic. But that truth too is being beaten into silence. The ‘fat gene’ is a favourite ‘proof’ of the impossibility of weight loss among activists.

And just in case someone does slip the net, they note that weight loss is unsustainable and emotionally damaging – i.e. not worth the effort – even though the former Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson’s transformation (he lost eight stone in a year) from rotund ruler to svelte gym instructor proves the opposite. But Watson is forgiven for bucking the trend because he blames ‘Big Sugar’ – wicked corporations and ad men – who make food so irresistible that the public can’t help but eat it.

It’s easy to say you have no control over your eating, but when you buy and tuck into your favourite snack, the truth becomes clear

Every argument and study deployed tells us that obesity is either not our fault, that the obese are oppressed in some way – be it by society or by faceless corporations. Gramsci meets obesity – it’s tragic and all it does is punish the obese. The aim is to make it easier on the obese, but how can it? The anxiety they feel is added to by the sense of impotence that bien pensant politicians are forcing down their throats.

Worse than the politicians are the activists. These are the ones who, two years ago, dismissed the Cancer Research UK study naming obesity as the second biggest cause of cancer after smoking as fatphobic propaganda.  Activists and the entertainment industry, which seems to have been bent inexorably to the former’s will, have given voice to the idea that you can be both happy and fat. Not only should you not try to lose weight but you should be happy about being fat – and about getting fatter!

My Big Fat Fabulous Life – a reality TV programme about the life of a 27-stone woman, Whitney Thore – has catapulted the idea of Fat Pride into the public mind like nothing else. Following the life of this lesser known Whitney, it gives the impression that fat people can be active, happy and beautiful.

Having been morbidly obese, I see the appeal. You aren’t responsible and it’s liberating, albeit only briefly.

For fifteen years, more than half my life, I was fat. Really fat. At my worst, last year, I weighed 142 kg – 40 of which I have since lost courtesy of long walks and plenty of Scottish dancing.

School was tough of course. But university was harder, and I wasn’t bullied there. I put on three stone in my first year. It was great, or so I thought. Everyone was happy in their own skin and nobody judged. Then something started to nag at me. I wasn’t that happy, though I ‘knew’ I had no reason not to be and was told as much often. It was torture.

I realised I had to accept that I was in control, not lay the blame elsewhere. Only then did I start to shed the pounds. Taking responsibility for my actions was what did it. It is all too easy to say you have no control over your eating, but when you buy and tuck into your favourite snack, it couldn’t be clearer that it isn’t true. Worse yet is being told you should be happy and finding it impossible to be so.

Fat activism and the politicians who profit from it think they are being kind by removing the idea of responsibility from those they profess to help. In fact, they are being exceptionally cruel. We are the fattest country in Western Europe and it has cost us dear. It’s time we saw that the proof is in the pudding.

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