Portsmouth writer Margaret Jennings offers some home truths on class, obesity and body image.
Let’s look at my qualifications. 16 and a half stone, five foot seven inches and a BMI of 33.5. Obese – not just fat.
And a chav by my understanding is someone you consider to be of a lower class than you. And since class is something that is judged by so many factors – birth, education, where you live, how you speak – we are all, without exception, somebody’s chav.
So here I am, a fat chav and I have some things to say.
Once upon a time, in the land of hectic Portsmouth cafés, I stopped in at 3pm during a busy day, having had nothing to eat. I had three minutes to eat something – I chose a packet of crisps.
Yes, stop the press. A fat chav is eating a packet of crisps.
120 calories, less salt than a slice of bread.
At this moment, a big bad wolf appeared. He sat opposite me and glared. Perhaps I’d run over his cat on the way in, perhaps he had recognised me as a mass murderer.
No, of course it was the packet of crisps. I was fat, I was disgusting, and how dare I eat crisps.
OK, so I shouldn’t eat crisps. I should eat regularly three times a day and only choose “healthy” things. Forgive me. I have a life. Sometimes food is not something I think about until I feel faint and then I have to eat.
And while we’re talking judgment, who the hell was this guy to judge me? It is not the responsibility of women to make themselves gorgeous for every single man, although many do. And there are plenty of chubby chasers out there who adore fat women.
More to the point, let’s say this guy has my best interests at heart: what is looking at me like I’m a scab on the backside of humanity going to do? It’ll make me stay indoors away from the disapproving stares and once there I won’t be living my life; I’ll be slowly spreading across the sofa until my fat flops over the sides. If I fear the social disapproval of people like this enough, then eventually they’ll need a crane to get me out of my house.
This is the reality of telling fat women they are disgusting. They start to hide. Their weight problems become worse.
I’m no mathematician or statistician but I have serious problems with the phrase “obesity-related” diseases. It seems that most diseases are obesity-related nowadays. The press makes statements like ‘50% of deaths are due to obesity related diseases’ (no I didn’t bother to get the exact figures, I’m not only a fat chav, I’m a lazy fat chav). You don’t have to be fat to be included in that statistic; you could be stick thin and die of heart disease and still count. Does it matter? It matters to me, not only because lard arses are being accused of single handedly bringing the NHS to its knees but because thin people think they are immune from ‘obesity-related’ diseases and drop dead of heart attacks.
[Ed’s note: According to the NHS, “The amount of excess deaths that might be attributed to overweight or obesity varied a lot by region, from 19% in North America to only 5% in east Asia.”]
And please do not get me started on the cost to the NHS of a ‘healthy’ lifestyle. Who is it who clogs up all the orthopaedic wards? Not us fatties minding the sofa but all those cyclists, runners and athletes breaking legs and arms and tearing muscles. My muscles don’t contain enough energy to tear and the only broken bone I’ve had was from kicking my husband. Yes, I’m a Lazy Fat Chav who should by rights also have an ASBO.
But seriously, who does the sums and who checks them? And if I die early don’t I cost the NHS less, not more?
Don’t even get me started on the people who think they have a degree in nutrition because they just fed their children sultanas. It’s not only the fat children who are malnourished, you know. Keep an eye on the Benjamins and Jemimas so full of fructose there’s no room for all the other nutrients they need. Nutrients like the fat soluble vitamins in full fat milk.
Oh no, my Tarquin only has skimmed milk, I don’t want him getting fat. Malnourished is so much better.
You might be surprised to learn I don’t even eat that much. Obviously I eat more calories than I need but I’m sure that if you bunged my week’s food on a table Gillian McKeith style, you would be surprised at how little I eat. Quite a lot of it involves salad and vegetables too.
I am totally unconvinced by the seemingly universally accepted creed that if you lose weight by reducing calories then the only way you get fat is by eating millions of them. I think nature is far smarter than we are. Humanity has known periods of prolonged starvation and the body has adapted to cling to every last calorie in times of need. Some bodies seem to have the “keep everything” gene permanently switched on, such has been the privation of their ancestors.
I’m willing to bet it has something to do with insulin and the cause has yet to be discovered. It doesn’t mean people should just give up on losing weight, just that for some – who are arguably honed for survival in times of hardship – it is going to be tougher.
So, dear reader, the lazy fat chav who should have an ASBO hereby decrees that thin pontificators, judgemental cafe patrons, and nutritionist pretenders should get off their high horses.
Stop saying all fat people are ugly. They are not.
Stop saying they are all lazy. They are not.
Stop saying they are stupid. They are not.
Stop making them social pariahs. It only increases a very natural urge to hide away at home and get even fatter.
And here’s a thought, let’s do some real investigations into what causes obesity.
Because there’s a good chance of all of us – no matter our shape or size – have something to learn.
Photography by Moshe Tasky.