‘Look at our lifestyle, I’ll sit at a drive thru behind 15 other cars instead of getting up to make the eight foot walk to the totally empty counter’ – Greg Giraldo
Never before have I had to start a blog post with a disclaimer yet today I feel it’s necessary. What I’m about to write is in no way, shape or form intended to insult, offend or make anyone feel about about their shape, size or weight. I truly believe that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I myself have ranged from plus size to under weight and possibly every size inbetween. I also work in the NHS and whilst i’m not medically trained, I have been for 10 years, in the company of people who are, and seen with my own baby blues, the finances and statistics behind obesity related illnesses and bariatric surgery trends. So whereas I may not be talking from a place of qualification, I am talking from a place of experience. I will also point out that I welcome any opposed views to what I’m about to write, if done in a mature and constructive way but any messages or tweets that are insulting or accuse me of fat shaming will be ignored. I will not be drawn into any juvenile slanging matches. Are we all in agreement? Ok, let’s go…
This all started when Sammie wrote an article about how you can now buy plus sized children’s clothes, and she questioned whether that was a good thing or not (and indeed whether plus sized clothing at all promoted obesity). You can read the whole article here. Now, talking about sensitive topics like weight (or religion or One Direction I’ve painfully learnt) are always going to be controversial and Sammie was always risking opening herself up to a lot of criticism for her opinion, I just never realised exactly how much criticism she was letting herself into.
The most prolific post my attention was drawn to was this retort from Sophie with this article. Now, I like to think of myself as no fence sitter. But in this case I can genuinely see both sides with their argument. Sammie didn’t use research statistics in her original posts and she didn’t acknowledge that there are certain medical conditions that can make it difficult for people to exercise or lose weight. But then the post was more focused on the fashion industry so, why should she have to throw science into the mix? Sophie’s article was well researched and came from a place which is clearly close to her heart. It’s written beautifully and passionately. She also references her beautiful daughter Jelly, who despite being 9, wears size 12-13 clothes, and from the picture she posted, Jelly clearly isn’t over weight in the slightest. However, I’m not convinced that that’s the point Sammie was making. A child wearing 2 sizes bigger because they’re tall for their age, is totally different from having plus sized clothing available for children. As you will see from Sophie’s post, Sammie and Sophie are not two people are are going to be best friends any time soon.
Before I get on to my opinion and the medical side of where all of this has left me, what this whole situation reminded me of the first time Dave went to Florida in 2006 and we went a theme park. One of the things that astonished me was that they had built in special rows on the rollercoasters for bariatric people. Money had been spent to modify seats so that larger people fit in them. And it’s not like the ‘regular’ seats were teeny tiny airline seats either. To me that didn’t seem right. It smacked of ‘people are getting fatter? no problem, we’ll just make bigger seats because we still want their cash’. Is that responsible?
Ok, so now the tricky part. I’m 5’5 and a size 12-14. As of 7am this morning I weigh 11st 6lbs. I am medically overweight. If a doctor measures my weight and weighs me and tells me my BMI is 27 and to be medically ‘normal’ i need to get down to under a BMI of 25, is that doctor fat shaming me? Of course not. Someone questioning the responsibility of the fashion industry to promote healthy body image is not a bully and is not fat shaming. Sammie, in my opinion was not fat shaming anyone. She wasn’t saying that you can’t be plus size and happy. She wasn’t saying you can’t be stylish and plus size. I feel that some of the horrid abuse she got was very, very unfair and her article was taken way out of context.
Me medically overweight in 2015
I will be the first person to hold my hands up and say that I know there are conditions (especially mental health conditions, which i have written about my personal experiences with here) that make it difficult to exercise, or medications that naturally make you gain weight. I also know that there is lots more that could be done by way of educating people on health and nutrition. The sad fact of the matter is though is that the nation is getting fatter and that’s creating a huge strain on NHS services. Surely it’s more responsible to spend tax payers money helping people lose weight safely and healthily than to have people go through all the costly medical complications that come with obesity related illnesses. A recent study says that the average clothes size in the UK has gone from a 14 to a 16. That means the average woman is larger than she was 10 years ago. I’m not saying a 16 is obese or over weight but it proves we are getting bigger. If you take the rollercoaster analogy as another example, if you keep on making life easy for people who are so overweight it’s starting to affect their health, it’s not really helping them from a medical point of view is it? Then where does it end? When do people say enough? Is it when the average woman is a size 32 and the NHS buckles under the pressure of 20 year olds with type 2 diabetes? Size 8 or size 28, 4’5 or 6’3, being fit and healthy should surely be most important. And if banning plus sized children’s clothes means it forces parents to assess their child’s diet and exercise regime to fight it early on so in later life they don’t suffer debilitating illnesses, that’s a good thing surely?
I guess what i’m trying to say in now what feels like a very convoluted way is that I don’t think it’s fair to call someone a bully or a fat shamer for simply questioning the fashion industry’s (or rollercoaster makers) responsibility to not contribute to the already growing obesity problem in this country.
I don’t think body shaming in any form is acceptable, whether it be mocking someone for being over or underweight. I also wholeheartedly agree that plus sized ladies should be able to wear fashionable clothes, some of the most stylish girls I know are plus size. I personally, don’t have any problem with plus sized adult clothes, however plus sized childrens clothes and school uniforms make me feel incredibly uneasy. What I’m saying is that I understand that point that a lot of medics and healthcare professionals believe that were plus sized clothes not as easily available it might help tackle the obesity problem in the UK. It’s a radical opinion (one that incidentally I don’t agree with) but i understand the logic.
I myself have been bullied for being over weight and called horrible names. I have a friend who is extremely thin, and I have witnessed people, strangers in the street approach her and tell her to eat a sandwich. Neither of these things are ok. What really upset me most about this interaction between Sammie and Sophie was how quickly it escalated into playground name calling. Sammie told one tweeter to ‘eat a salad’ amidst the barrage of abuse she was receiving, and Sophie insulted Sammie’s writing style and called her ignorant in hers blog post. Neither of these are ok in my eyes and are a poor display of intellectual debate and sisterhood. I feel sorry for Sammie that the point she was making (which is an important one I feel) was lost by people jumping the gun and accusing her of fat shaming when she wasn’t. And I feel sorry for Sophie that she felt so insulted that she had to write response.
As a final point, one thing Sophie says in her post to Sammie, is that her weight is none of Sammie’s business. Well, it kind of is, because she’s written an open letter to Sammie all about it. She always writes a blog and tweets all about her life as a plus sized gal, so it kind of is our business, she’s putting it out there for comment, just as i’m doing with expressing my opinion on the subject here. My advice to Sophie (and any of the other plus sized girls who may be reading this) would be if you want to ‘normalise’ being plus sized so much, then stop talking about it all the time. Talk about all the other amazing things about you, like how pretty and sassy and intelligent and witty and stylish you are. Take away the issue then no one can insult you with it.
Most importantly, can’t we all just be a little bit nicer to each other please? I’m so tired of seeing women catfight on twitter. Didn’t you parents ever tell you if you can;t say anything nice don’t say anything at all?!
If anyone thinks I’ve said something out of turn, factually incorrect or would like anything I’ve said clarifying, please let me know and I will happily address. Similarly if anyone would like to post a reply or counter argument I will also post that up as long as it’s respectful.
*text in pink are additions I’ve made since this was originally posted to clarify things based on comments i’ve received.