It just so happened that on Wednesday, I was unfortunate enough to be in the car when Jeremy Vine (BBC Radio 2) was discussing cancer and obesity with a chubby witch doctor, sorry, fat shaman. I say unfortunate because the subject was frustrating and surely for goodness Cancer Research should be applauded for tackling the subject head-on. You only have to read some of the facts and figures on the NHS website to accept that we should be concerned. Mr Vine opened his show with the statement 'Is the (Cancer Research) campaign warning us that obesity causes cancer just an official form of fat shaming?' Now, I'm no physician, nor statistician but surely it must come as no surprise to anyone that being extremely overweight is not healthy, in fact it must decidedly be not particularly good for you at all. So why the furore? Boo hoo! Someone has taken offence to the truth. Sorry, but I don't get it. It seems that you can't say anything nowadays for fear of offending someone. Cue, Kat Henry arguing the case that Cancer Research are fat shaming and that their campaign is a sweeping generalisation. Yes, it is. Definitely I read it as such, but being significantly overweight ie obese is not healthy. There are tons (pardon the awkward pun) of factors why people become or simply are at a weight dangerous to their long-term health and once they are at that plus size (how politically correct of me) the momentum required to start the ball rolling to lose fat and get back to an average or healthier size must really require some weight behind the issue? It's almost an impossible situation to be in, a metaphorical viscious belt around one's waist. Ms Henry argued that she is a fitness instructor, she seemed to be happy with her weight and size, as are many other people who too may well be considered obese, but is this a 'life-choice' here? Just like smoking for many people who start and then continue becomes their prerogative?
Back in the late 80s and 90s, I frequented pubs, even worked in the odd one or two, in those days there were smoking areas and non-smoking areas. What was a shared opinion recognised by most people you spoke with and certainly all of the employees (regardless of whether they were smokers or non-smokers) was that at the end of the night or when you woke in the morning, your clothes and hair stank, not of beer but of fag smoke. You've only to look at the images of blackened cancerous lungs and other internal organs following an autopsy of someone who has suffered from cancer to know that smoking is not good for you, yet people still do it. And that's fine, it's their choice. Similarly, week in and week out (as I used to), thousands of people drink to excess and wake up the next day with headaches, the shakes, perhaps covered in vomit, or awake thinking my brain is like Swiss cheese and what happened last night? How often do we then offer hollow and non-sensical statements like, I'm never drinking again, until of course it happens the next day or week? I'm not trying to compare any of these activities to obesity, over-eating, excessive weight or the general over-consumption of calories but I struggle to understand why something that is in-your-face fact (in terms of common-sense and statistical correlation), can be argued against. If an individual is happy with how they are in their own body then why would they feel 'shamed' by someone saying they are fat? They are 'happy' aren't they and proud of the person they are? Doesn't the feeling of shame come from knowing or feeling that they would rather be something different, that the individual is somehow unhappy and ashamed of how they are or have become unhealthily corpulent? By way of tenuous comparison, I was once ashamed of my drinking, my behaviour, my mental health, my procrastination, still am ashamed with the burden of guilt for many of the things I've done. It took a long while, a solitary visit to an AA meeting but finally the breakdown of my relationship and the fear of losing my children that I realised that I had to change. Simple facts that's what most people tend to understand. You are at rock bottom. You are ill. You have cancer. You have MS. You have Alzheimers. You will die unless ... We all understand simple statements. Staring the cold hard facts of who or what I had become was the only thing that helped me to want to be better. In a way isn't the cold truth that if you are grotesquely hefty there is a need to change enough of an encouragement to hopefully behave differently or take alternative life choices. Just take one step, one step more than you did the day before, imagine the strides that can be made by small incremental gains?
15 million people in the UK are obese, not overweight, obese, that's a third of adults in the UK. For goodness sake is this not a concern? Greta Thunberg has been taking a stand about climate change, saying that it's an emergency that we and all governments deal with green issues, not in five years or twenty years, but now. David Attenborough remarks on the same thing and highlights the issues that will affect the next generation and those that follow. Is the example we are setting in regards to our health not a similar emergency? Are the next generation seeing their parents and grand parents and considering these chunky creatures 'normal' (I don't like the word but I'm at a loss how else to explain my thoughts)? Are we not part of a culture that is super-size me or heading towards a dystopian cartoon vision of the Buy 'n Large future comically highlighted in Walt Disney/Pixar's Wall-E? Wake up and smell the avocado.
What entitles me to write this? Nothing really, except for the freedom of speech it is alleged we all have a right to. I'm sure I've said this before but one of my favourite Clint Eastwood movie quotes is 'Opinions are like a%%holes, everyone has one.' So too do I. In a quirk of fate, I was at the train station the other week and I don't know why but I thought I would conduct my own 'straw poll' or rather chubby check and counted how many people entering through the doors, who were significantly fat. I mean fat like trying to balance a water balloon on top of two chop sticks, fat. Out of ten people I counted 5. I've conducted the 'experiment' several times, the lowest out of ten has been 2, the most 6. Don't you find that shocking? My horrible way of categorizing people or the worrying health trend visible on the high street, at school, at the train station, queuing in traffic (come on you people watch too), in the supermarket, at the cinema. The other justification for my toxicity towards obesity but equally cancer is once again the blog fodder my ex keeps feeding me, apparently I am noxious to the core, here's the proof...
I've just been reading a little bit more on obesity and found this diagram, maybe my uneducated and naïve view of the reasons for being overweight and remaining overweight are a little too simplistic, it is a complex problem but what is a little more understandable is the fact that cancer is an indiscriminate disease, it doesn't care if you are fat, thin, black, white, tall, short, young or old, but we have to realise the odds are stacked against us if we do nought to help ourselves out of the larger body suits many of us 'seem' to be choosing for ourselves.
In the meantime I'm off to try and look after my physical and mental health and resolve not to become too poisonous by cycling to work. Only two weeks before the next course on my marathon menu, still lots of miles to run to raise funds for Brathay.
Once again, I applaud Cancer Research for dramatically bringing this to the nations attention. Let's forget the arguments and join together in a collective fight against the awful disease.