The onset of summer has brought with it barbecues, sunscreen, ladybirds and mixed feelings. I love the sun, and am naturally attracted to hot climes; in my early 20s I lived briefly in LA, and since then have always thought of that blue-sky, high-hopes, short-skirt city as my spiritual home (paradoxical, I know, as most people consider it an aching spiritual void, but there you go). The point is, to reiterate: I love the sun. I just wish I'd lost much more weight before it showed up.
While a blazing summer can prove prickly for those of an average weight, for people of a bigger variety - let's call it "queen-sized" - the heat can feel not just sweltering, but oppressive. There are two obvious reasons for this. One, of course, is that we are carrying the equivalent of a backpack, or two, or even three, of extra weight on our frames at all times. This can make the shortest walk in the summer heat seem like an army training exercise transferred, sadistically, to a sauna.
The other thing that makes us hotter than the average Joe is that, when it comes to clothes, there is lots of cultural pressure for fat people to cover up. This comes in many forms, both obvious and insidious: the columnists who write about how disgusting fat people are, the people who call out, "Oi, fattie!" in the street, the well-meaning aunties who take us aside and tell us we really shouldn't be revealing any flesh, save our wrists and ankles, out of aesthetic consideration for others.
This pressure isn't such a problem in the winter, when we can happily throw layers at our body, like a stripper in reverse: vests, tops, cardigans, hoodies, anoraks, job done. Down below, there's the option of trousers, and also, for women (and the more adventurous men among us) that wondrous invention: tights. I once saw a Hollywood actor who had run to fat, discussing dressing-up on-screen as a woman, and his revelation at how much tights (or "pantyhose" as I'm pretty sure he called them) hold you in and smooth you down.
Not to mention stopping your thighs rubbing together. Stockings may be considered sexier, but in practical terms they don't compare.
Come summer, of course, and it's goodbye to tights and layers, and hello to a constant calculation of how much you can get away with wearing. Too few clothes, and you run the risk of being scorned, or, worse, pitied for your excess flesh. Too many, and you will burn up suddenly, shamefully, like a sausage in hell. And so I found myself on Sunday, in a Topshop changing room, trying to decide whether I could get away with a white cap-sleeved T-shirt. Did the sleeves finish far enough down my arm, or was there just too much of my wonderful, rippling upper-arm cellulite on show? I finally decided that the T-shirt would be absolutely fine - with a cardigan on top. And thus I resigned myself to another sweltering summer.
As I said, though, it's not all bad. Since the start of this year, I have been trying to walk to work each day, and have been succeeding about half the time - not entirely shabby, but no cigar. It is difficult to drag yourself out of bed with a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and joy in your fat-clogged heart, when you know that your hour-long walk is going to be taking place in the dark, the rain, and very possibly a sudden, painful scattering of hail. But when the sun is out, a march to work at 6am seems that much more appealing. And even more so after reading an article in Harper's Bazaar this month, which noted that "mile for mile, running and walking burn the same amount of calories ... [and] walking trims the hips, thighs and bottom better, and quicker, than running". Bloody hell!
Sign me up.
Here's hoping this heat-drenched flurry of activity will have some effect. Because come July I'm flying back to my spiritual California home for a long holiday. And I would really like to be able to wear that cap-sleeved T-shirt by then ... without the matching cardigan.