MOST Brits reckon obese people face more discrimination than any other minority group, we were told this week by the World Obesity Federation.
You may never have heard of this organisation before — I certainly hadn’t — but it describes itself as a “global community of organisations dedicated to solving the problems of obesity”.
Only it didn’t use the word “fat”, and it doesn’t think we should either.
Its preferred label? “People living with obesity”.
Forgive me, but as a former fat person whose weight still goes up and down, I’m OK with “fat”.
Obesity is useful, too, since it’s a medical term to describe people who are so overweight that their health is at risk.
But “living with obesity” is jargon. And even worse is the ludicrous (I’m tempted to say fatuous) comparison to individuals genuinely living with something they didn’t choose. We don’t choose to be men or women, straight or gay, though that doesn’t mean we’re unhappy about it.
Again, being mentally ill is not a question of choice. But being fat often is, even if there’s an element of compulsion.
The World Obesity Federation quite rightly says that obesity is complex. And it’s also right to condemn the thoughtless hostility directed at fat people.
I’ve been at the receiving end and it’s horrible.
On the other hand, there’s such a thing as thoughtful criticism. When I was 19 and sporting a 38in waist, my mother not only ordered me to go on a diet but also carefully supervised it.
Thanks to her I lost three and a half stone. She died in August. Of all the things I have to thank her for, this is one of the greatest.
Being fat is not fun. In my late teens I was constantly out of breath, constantly sweating. My friends found it worrying and off-putting, and I can’t blame them.
Thank goodness it’s not happening to me now, when you can’t even catch a train without running a gauntlet of stalls selling red velvet sponge cake and hand-crafted chocolates.
I’d never have stuck to my diet if I was surrounded by American-style coffee shops that have persuaded millions of us to eat cake for breakfast. How did they do it? Simple. They just called the cakes “muffins”.
In 1997, a group of public figures were hoaxed into campaigning against a non-existent street drug supposedly nicknamed “cake”. A Tory MP denounced it in Parliament.
Many a true word, as they say. Real cake is addictive. Sorry if that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.
The combination of sugar and fat triggers powerful sensations in the brain. Have you ever seen a half-empty box of chocolates after an office party? Thought not.
Similarly, alcoholics and drug addicts can go cold turkey and swear completely off the vices that are killing them. But even the strictest of diets must, of course, allow people to eat. And sometimes when you start, it’s difficult to stop.
Fat people face yet another peril — the smug idiots who tell the public, and women in particular, that overweight people should develop a “positive body image”.
Take it from me. There is absolutely nothing positive about a spare tyre.
Being mildly overweight isn’t much of a health risk, but beyond a certain point you’re asking for diabetes in early middle age.
The World Obesity Federation doesn’t tell us that being fat is fabulous, but its rhetoric comes close to normalising the very problem it’s trying to solve.
If there is no stigma attached to being fat, then we’ll end up replacing “prejudice” (which the report exaggerates) with something far worse: An epidemic of the sort that is destroying the public health services of countries such as Brazil, where diabetes could soon become the norm.
Another story about obesity was in the news this week.
The number of primary school children in England who are “severely obese” has risen to an all-time high, according to the government body that measures children’s weight.
Severely obese describes a terrifying phenomenon. It’s used to describe the fattest 0.5 per cent of people in an age group, based on figures collected over decades.
Severely obese people tend to waddle rather than walk, their faces are so fat you can barely see their eyes, and the worst need to book two seats on a plane.
In theory, one in 200 primary school children aged ten and 11 should fall into this category. The figure is now one in 25.
No one is defending “weight hate”. The World Obesity Federation, backed by the NHS, should drop this obsession and turn its guns instead on the “positive body image” lobby.
And the rest of us need to recognise that if you are more than mildly overweight then there is something wrong with your body.
If we don’t, even more children will slide into the severely obese category — and into an early grave.