Ellie Levenson: It's only thin folk who worry about being fat

I am fat and I am happy. I hope you took notice of that, for I shall write it only once. Actually, that's not true. I like excess, it's the reason I'm fat. To say or eat things only once is never really enough. That's why I shall say it again and again throughout this article. I am fat and I am happy.

I stress this because the media, including this newspaper, is constantly going on about the reasons why I should be so unhappy I should want to kill myself for being fat, if the diabetes and heart disease don't get me first. Fat people, I am reminded, will suffer a number of unpleasant diseases before dying an early death. I would be happier, I am told in articles written by thin people and in pictures of thin models living a beautiful life, if I were thinner.

There is something that people who are not fat need to know about being fat: that fat people on the whole do not worry about being fat. Not in the way that thin people worry about being fat. Friends who are thinner than me worry constantly about the fat content of their meal.

Thin people talk about joining WeightWatchers. What's more, they think it would be rude to ask the actual fat person if they want to come, and instead ask thinner friends. Thin people, you must understand, see being thin as the preserve of thin people. I mustn't be too rude about thin people because - what's that joke? Oh yes - inside of me there are two thin people waiting to burst free.

Of course, just because I am not unhappy, being fat is not to say I wouldn't rather be thin. Of course I would. I'd like to fit into cheap yet fashionable clothes from Topshop, I'd like to be less uncomfortable on aeroplane seats, I'd like to look good in a mini-skirt. I'd like to be healthier too - no one wants their health to be at risk. But what I am not going to do is spend every minute worrying about being fat. If I did this I could add stress and depression to the list of illnesses likely to hit. No, I am not happy because I am fat - I am happy despite it.

Polly Vernon, writing in this paper some weeks ago about being thin, complained about how she became public property - people watching what she ate, saying that she couldn't possibly be the fan of a chocolate product she claims to like. Fat people are also public property. I lost count years ago of the number of times people said: 'You like your food, love, don't you?'

Actually, I more object to being called love than having my eating habits remarked upon. Often, though, the 'you like your food, love' comes followed by 'so here's a few extra chips just for you'. Ah, those extra chips. They will make me fatter but what the heck, I like chips. They make me happy.

I work at the Fabian Society. Last year on Boxing Day, just as people were starting to feel guilty about their holiday excesses, we published a report by Howard Stoate MP which I edited. The report, All's Well that Starts Well, called for a debate on children's public health and warned the Government and public that children's lives are expected to be shorter than their parents.

It was a little embarrassing being fat and calling for a strategy to prevent obesity. No one could accuse me of practising what I preach. But the report was not about people like me - fat people who, if they wanted to give up chocolate and go to the gym, would probably be thin. It was about the links between poverty and obesity and the difficulties people in poorer areas face getting fresh produce.

And this is the essence of the debate on obesity. Not that people mustn't be fat, or that fat people mustn't be happy, but that all people must be given an equal chance not to be fat, by ensuring all people have access to affordable healthy food, sports facilities and information about healthy eating. Now that, to use a common slang word for cool, would be phat.

· Ellie Levenson is editor of the Fabian Review

· Pendennis is away

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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