News Analysis

Saturday 20 September 2014

It's a sin: all this fat talk is becoming an unhealthy obsession

Siobhan O'Neill White

Published 28/03/2014 | 02:30

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We seem to be surrounded by 'fat' talk
We seem to be surrounded by 'fat' talk
Women working on their triceps with dumbells at the gym
Children should be encouraged to play outside and be active
Children should be encouraged to play outside and be active

I am surrounded by fat! Well, it's actually people incessantly talking about 'fat' and honestly, it's driving me nuts.

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I really noticed it a few weeks ago at dinner with friends when I found myself in the precarious position of being the only one there not in a slimming club of some sort.

As menus were read, talk swiftly turned to how many points – or 'sins' – were in each item and my fellow diners weighed up their options to see if they could 'afford' to have bread with or without a latte after dinner. As they bandied about words like treats, cheats, sins and points I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

What had happened to my friends? Why were we not talking about relationships, work, politics, our children and the other topics we usually discussed? And why were we not sipping glasses of wine? The answer it seems is at five 'sins' a glass, wine is a no-no for slimmers.

Don't get me wrong, I think maintaining a healthy diet is very important and if someone finds going to a slimming club helps, then fair play to them. However, when I am surrounded by people talking about how much they would like a glass of wine or a slice of cake but cannot, I wonder if it's worth it. If they're so unhappy about eliminating the food and drinks they enjoy, why bother?

As a mum of three girls I am very aware of the weight issues many women struggle with and I do not want this to be something my own children encounter later in life.

So, in our house we promote a healthy diet with plenty of exercise and allow treats at the weekend. My husband plays football, I run and the kids are in GAA and swimming clubs. But even more importantly, they play outside as much as possible, instead of sitting indoors for extended periods of time. We are trying to teach them that being active is normal in the hope they will continue to be so as they get older.

But despite our approach, 'fat talk' has still raised its ugly head. A few weeks ago my daughter asked if she could come running with me. She is nine and plays GAA, so I reckoned she would be fine to run along the beach with me. In fact, she was well able – outrunning me without getting out of breath once as I huffed and puffed. As we were jogging along, she shocked me by saying: "I am glad to be running with you, mammy. Now I will get skinny."

We try not to use words like skinny and fat in our house, so I hid my shock and calmly asked why she would want to be skinny when it is not a healthy way to be?

She said sometimes she looks in the mirror and thinks she is a bit fat because some girls she knows have been calling her fat. I was horrified that my child – who is not at all overweight – would even think such thoughts. But I suppose when she is surrounded by images of skinny celebrities and when other girls say such things to her, it is bound to affect her.

DESPITE my horror, I did not overreact but gently explained that she is perfectly proportioned and should not want to be skinny but rather fit and healthy.

I am grateful I took her with me that day and now know what she was thinking so we can do something about it. For starters, I have stopped buying celeb magazines like 'Heat' and 'Closer' that label celebs as over or underweight on the cover, and have switched to 'U Magazine' instead, which avoids talk of weight issues.

I also steer conversations about weight and diets with friends and family away from my children's ears. If people are going to attend slimming clubs then that's okay for them, but I do not want it to be a topic of conversation every time they are around my children.

I hope it's enough and that in 20 years' time none of our daughters are battling their weight and joining slimming clubs. I really hope we can save them from that.

Irish Independent

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