Last Saturday afternoon, 150 people - most of them overweight or obese - gathered together in a park in London for what the organisers called the Fattylympics. At first glance it would appear to have been a tongue-in-cheek protest by a group of happy, fat people against the ethos of the real Olympics and the slim, fit people who form the majority of the competitors, and a chance to have a go at what they describe as people with 'fatphobia'.
(In fact there was a deeper, more varied agenda involving protest against homophobia, corporate oppression, politicians and more - none of which is relevant here; I just thought it worth a mention.)
I've thought about this a lot - and I want to agree with the upfront message. If you're fat and happy, if you're fat and fit - that's fine. I'm not going to interfere. I know fat people are often discriminated against. I know of several people who carry what is perhaps more weight than would be regarded as healthy but who still manage to exercise regularly, and their health checks come back fine - no heart problems, no diabetes, etc etc. I also know some younger clinically overweight people who don't even do any exercise, and still pass health tests and feel fine. Thirdly it is true that it may be healthier to be somewhat overweight (according to the old body mass index standard) than to be clinically underweight, especially as we age.
And yet, and yet... obesity-related illnesses and health problems cost the state a staggering £4 billion a year. Obesity causes misery for most people on several levels, and not necessarily related to what other people think of them. Deep down, most of us know that if we're obese we're not doing our body or our mental health any favours. That is why the majority of obese people would like to be a bit less fat, even if they would never dream of saying so, or even, sometimes, admitting it to themselves.
On balance, obesity cannot be proved to be 'a good thing'. The human body was not designed to carry stones and stones of surplus fat - which is why almost all top class athletes have a low body fat percentage and a higher than average muscle mass. It's survival of the fittest - and I know which I'd rather be.
Lastly - on the same day the supporters of the Fattylympics were playing low-energy infants sports day type events, such as rolling down a grassy slope, and indulging themselves at the park cafe on pies, pastries and hotdogs, new research emerged that there is an obesity vaccine on the way, funded by one of the huge drug companies, which will allow us to gorge on junk food all day and still lose weight.
This really is obscene - scientists spending years finding a way we can all eat more junk and stay slim, while the world battles food shortages and huge food price rises and people in some countries starve.
Instead of lining the pockets of rich drug corporations and multi-national 'food' companies why, oh why, can't we simply eat less, eat better - and get on the sports field and do some proper athletics, rather than pretending rolling round on the floor is just as good?
I am sure that if it really were healthy to be very fat - there would indeed be more competitors at the London Olympics to prove it.
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