Thursday 18 August 2011


I can get myself pretty worked up about the government’s attitude to the so called ‘Obesity Crisis” as you know from previous posts. And I like to think that I make a good case! I really do believe that they are missing the point by putting the focus on weight loss. Heavens! Even the tabloids were reporting that which we have known for years this week - that it’s healthier to be consistently overweight that to yo-yo up and down.

And whatever stand the government takes, whatever pointless propaganda it doles out, the power to make real changes lies squarely in our hands. We are the ones who need to stop waging a war against FAT! Us, those of us who are consumed daily with the desire to lose weight. First and foremost, we are the ones who beat ourselves up for not being thin enough, for being too fat. We are the ones who hate our bodies, who hold ourselves back from doing a whole host of things because we tell ourselves we are too big. We can complain and rant all we like about the obesity crisis (OK, maybe you don’t rant and complain, but I do!!!) and it may or may not make a difference but I can tell you what will make a difference, right now.

Here are my 7 steps to ending the WAR ON FAT! (Otherwise known as the OWN YOUR BODY principle)

1. DARE to feel good enough at the size we are right now
2. LIVE our lives without waiting until we are the ‘right size’
3. ACKNOWLEDGE that an ideal body size and/or shape is a social construct and bears no relation to what makes a person worthy, kind, intelligent or lovable.
4. CULTIVATE COMPASSION & CURIOSITY. Stop the self-hatred by acknowledging that the way we look may well reflect the way we eat, and that we eat the way we do for good reasons. The fact that we use food for comfort, as a slave, a way of zoning out, as a treat or whatever... doesn’t make us stupid, weak, bad or pathetic. We know that there’s work to be done to get to a balanced and healthy relationship with food and we’re doing the work. In the meantime, criticism and blame (whether from our own gremlins or from others!) don’t help. Compassion and curiosity do!
5. SPEAK UP about what it’s like to be fat in our society and what it’s really about. Let’s stop taking the blame and the judgments lying down. Let’s stop secretly agreeing with them that we are terrible people for being FAT and let’s stand up for ourselves!
6. DEMAND better quality, REAL food and do your own research so that you can create your own definition of a healthy diet. My take: many of the foods sold in the supermarket today are not food. They are over-processed pretend foods which are neither nourishing nor satisfying and many of them have the gall to call themselves diet foods and purport to help us lose weight or keep us healthy.
7. GET OUT THERE whatever your size. Move your body in ways that feel good and that you enjoy, because we are not designed to be sedentary and physical activity is good for us - about that there can be very little doubt! That doesn’t mean we have to exercise relentlessly. It can be gentle and fun and it doesn't have to be for hours at a time. Whatever our size or shape we can find a way to move that feels good - almost every one of us can walk around the block for 15 minutes.



I spent years looking for the magic wand that would make me slim. I desperately wanted to find a solution. I wanted someone to tell me what to do and I wanted someone else to blame went I couldn't do it. I didn't want to acknowledge that it was how I felt about being fat and the things I believed about myself because of my fat, that were really to blame!

I do want the government to change tack, I want them to see sense and offer real help and support, I want them to acknowledge that FAT is not the problem... and today I know that the only way to change anything is to be the change myself (I’m sure that’s from a quote I read somewhere!). I know that the only way to change the way people view fat in our society is to be honest with myself about my own prejudices and judgements about FAT, to own those judgements and then be willing to challenge them and change them.

It’s daring and risky to say out loud that I am OK with just the way I am right now, whatever my size, the way I look today.

We don’t have to LOVE our fat, we don't have to tell ourselves we are beautiful as we are (though there's no reason not to!), to believe that we are as good, as worthy and as lovable as the slim person sitting next to us. We don’t have to ACCEPT the FAT. Beyond Chocolate is not a FAT & HAPPY camp, that is missing the point. What we are inviting you to do is OWN your body now, the one you have, treat it with kindness and respect and be willing to accept that having FAT is not a sin, it doesn’t say anything more about you other than the fact that like almost everyone else in the world you are not perfect, and that eating is sometimes your way of coping with the challenges you face on a daily basis. Having FAT is not inherently unhealthy, it is not universally ugly and it is not and doesn't have to be BAD. When you find ways of managing the strains and stresses of life without food, your body may well get smaller but you don't have to wait for that to feel good about yourself!

Let’s not keep quiet. We don’t have to do this by ourselves, we have nothing to be ashamed of! Let’s talk to our friends, family and colleagues and stop colluding with the government and the media with our silence. Forward a link to this blog to one person you know today or LIKE it on your Facebook page. That’s how change begins. We stop fighting ourselves, that's how we stop the war!


  1. Karen, Sheffield18 August 2011 at 16:00

    Sophie for Prime Minister!! Fantastic article. Can't you get these published in some of the mainstream magazines? I think there are many, many women out there for whom these words would be more than a breath of fresh air, they'd be a life line.
    Thank you,

  2. Hear Hear Sophie! Well said! I'm at the start of my Beyond Chocolate journey, and whilst it is a struggle some days, the one thing I am learning pretty fast, is that the size of my body does NOT define the size of my character or personality, and I am learning to accept that people love me REGARDLESS of my body size - they love my character and personality.
    Link has already been forwarded.

    Thank you! :-)

  3. I agree with a lot of what you say. Many of us are overweight but we don't and never will require two aeroplane seats. Obesity is costing the country a fortune, which is why the government is worried. Hospitals are having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on special equipment, extra-wide beds, chairs, hoists etc for bariatric patients. Some even have to be taken to London Zoo to use the scanner that is normally for elephants (true). Obesity brings a host of diseases - if eveyone followed your advice above, the country would be a lot better off, but sadly many don't 'own their bodies' or take responsibility for them.

  4. Yes, indeed Anonymous - and yet even for those who do require two aeroplane seats, maybe particularly for those people, putting them on diets and blaming them for being obese is NOT going to help them or solve the problem. Their weight is a symptom and they need support and guidance to deal with the problem not the symptom. Yes, obesity may be costing the NHS money but probably no more than the disease and problems caused by side effects from prescription drugs, no more than poor hygiene in hospitals, no more than the increase in medicalisation of pregnancy and birth, no more than the medical problems caused by poor diet (regardless of size!!). Obesity is no more costly than any of those. It is NOT the biggest killer in our society and it is not the biggest problem the NHS faces. It IS the problem that the media and governament focus on because then they can blame the individual rather than really looking at the society-wide issues and the power of the pharmaceutical and food industries which contribute hugely to the ill-health of the world. Putting the focus on obesity and the obese in the way we do today is unhelpful. The problem of ill-health is far broader than that.

  5. ...And then, of course, there are those of us who are eating healthy fresh foods, never a morsel of processed chemical pretend diet food passing our lips, nor chocolates or cakes, pies or crisps, confectionery or desserts, who for medical reasons are carrying an additional stone or two with no hope of ever losing it.... unless a miracle cure is found for our illness.... but we are judged to be greedy and/or lazy. Then there are the poor souls tormented by their bodies, who are killing themselves with anorexia and bulemia! We should all be treated with respect and consideration no matter our size.

  6. Couldn't agree with you more Anonymous.

  7. Owning my body has been on my mind A LOT since starting this journey, and it seems that everything I read about these days is about people giving up dieting because it doesn't work, and coming to terms with our bodies - no matter the size or shape of them.

    Interesting, then, for me to come across a show that will be aired on BBC 3 next Monday, 22nd August at 9:00 pm. Here's the write-up:

    "Cherry Healey is a slave to her bathroom scales. As her teenage diaries reveal, diets and looking thin has been a lifelong obsession. And with 37 per cent of women in the UK on a diet 'most or all of the time', she's not alone. Now Cherry wants to tackle her body neurosis, so she meets up with women of all shapes and sizes to find out what makes a body beautiful. From a bodybuilder to a fat and happy fashionista, from a nudist to a frustrated slimmer, Cherry takes a look at women's body hang-ups to see if she can get rid of her own demons once and for all."

    I await the show with great interest and wonder how many other BC'ers will find it relevant?


  8. Aah, Sophie - mostly all true EXCEPT for one thing. Being very overweight (OBESE), whether consistently or not, is NOT healthy! It is a strain on ALL of the systems of the body, especially the cardio-vascular system (the heart). the skeletal system, the muscular system, the integumentary system (the skin), the respiratory system and the endocrine system (hormones - and, note, being too thin, as in anorexic, also affects the hormonal system).

    And, if the obese person is not moving his/her body sufficiently (often difficult because of all the systems mentioned above being negatively affected by the extra weight the body is carrying) to burn off the excess fat surrounding cells and IN the fat cells under the skin, health problems DO occur. THAT is what the government is on about - OBESE people are NOT HEALTHY and if they DO NOT take control of their bodies, they put a strain on themselves as well as society (more NHS expenses for one, as mentioned).

    So where I agree with you that a fat person is no less in ANY way to any other person, he/she IS responsible for his/her health and the government is right, in my opinion, to make our society aware of that. Take responsibility for where you are at, and the actions that have brought you to where you are at.

    Thank goodness for Jamie Oliver! He, at least, tried to educate people about eating more healthily. And what did one woman say when he tried to suggest eating a healthy salad, 'But that's leaves. We don't eat LEAVES!'

    And so, we still see obese CHILDREN walking around (sometimes with both obese parents). This is MY soap-box rant. I get REALLY ANGRY when I see obese children. Parents HAVE to take responsibility for what they feed their children! Once fat cells are stretched they do not go back to their original shape, so those children will have a problem with their weight all their lives - the flaccid fat cells will just be waiting to be filled up again! Another yo-yo dieter is created.

    I really do not think it is the government's responsibility to nanny people to take responsibility for their and their children's bodies. It is up to every one of us to do that ourselves and the government is pointing out that, BECAUSE we, as a society, have been remiss in doing this, there is now a huge problem. Every one of us must take responsibility for our own actions. And yes, we must do it with compassion and empathy to ourselves, but do it! It is not blame that I am talking about - it is about not being in denial and expecting the government (or whoever else but ourselves) to 'fix' things. (That is also a symptom of our society - the 'expectant' society - but that is another soapbox in another place!)

    You said it yourself, Sophie : 'I know that the only way to change anything is to be the change myself'.

    Here's to all the changers out there! Whatever way you do it, you are doing it! Go, girl (or boy) GO!!

  9. I do agree with what you say Sandi EXCEPT that today the word OBESE has been manipulated in such a way that people who would never have been labelled obese 15 years ago, find that they are now. And those people, who are not necessarily clinically obese, may actually not be as unhealthy as you think and may well be healthier than people slimmer than they. Being slim is not guarantee of good health and losing weight alone, even if you are obese, is not necessarily the only answer either. And when the focus is on weight loss rather than the WHOLE picture, the benefits are very limited. I don't know if you've looked at the research but I have done so extensively and it seems the evidence is pretty convincing. Being OBESE can indeed be a problem but yo-ying up and down in weight can also be very danergous and has important health implications - none of which are taked about much. There are many other health issues that people can take responsibility for. Obesity is not the only issue nor is it the biggest problem and yet anyone who is overweight has been signalled out for particular 'blaming and shaming' and I don't think that's helpful nor is it really indicatve of where the real health costs are in the NHS today or where the real problems of poor diet lie. The governament woud do better to point at the food industry and demand they take responsibity and stop creating dangerous, harmful, pseudo-foods. Having a healthy diet is real minefiled today. Oh dear! I could go on and on and on! It's late and I've written enough. Thanks for the feedback Sandi. As always any good-willed comments are welcome, whatever your views. We don't have to agree :-)


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