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Saturday 22 October 2016

Dr Ciara Kelly: Fat-shaming is wrong and makes me furious

Ciara Kelly

Published 26/09/2016 | 02:30

Comedian Alison Spittle has spoken about being fat-shamed
Comedian Alison Spittle has spoken about being fat-shamed

I was once fat. After my fourth child was born, in my late 30s, I was almost three stone heavier than I am now. That's nearly 20 kilos for you modern types. It took a long, hard battle over about a year to lose it and I still have to watch my weight constantly to prevent me going back there. My mum and my granny were also very heavy. So I am, in fact, third generation fat.

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I am, in fact, mentally a fat woman trapped inside the body of a medium-sized one. So I get what it is to be overweight. I get that struggle. I also get that you can be a happy, well rounded - no pun intended - person and be overweight. However, most people still would prefer - if only for health reasons - to shift some of that weight. And I get that it takes a very confident person indeed not to feel your confidence eroded by being overweight, in a modern society that screams at us on a daily basis that being thin is a measure of success and attractiveness.

So when it comes to fat-shaming I am all on the side of the fatties. I am one of them - even if you can't see it now (#jesuisfat).

Which is why when I hear it said that Operation Transformation is about fat-shaming, I take it badly. Especially when yet again the criticism of the show comes from someone who qualifies it with - well I don't actually watch the show myself, but. It's simply amazing the number of people who don't watch the show but know all about it. If you were a film reviewer and gave a review of a film you had never seen, people would rightly call you out on it but it seems to me that when it comes to offering an opinion on a TV show, never having seen it is no bar whatsoever to sticking the boot in.

And the reason it bothers me is that fat-shaming is wrong. Seriously wrong. I've heard the talented Alison Spittle - a comedian who is overweight - talk about being abused walking up the street. Talk about groups of young men mocking her and attempting to intimidate her when she is out for an evening, and, frankly, it evokes in me a weird sort of fury - where my imaginary self is there at the time and either defeats the fat-shamers with some kind of incredible put down - or else I just kick the crap out of them.

But to conflate that with a health show that people apply in their thousands to take part in, where they are helped engage with a programme of nutrition and physical activity, with psychological and medical support, is not only totally inaccurate, it minimises what fat-shaming actually is. It equates what is actually an insidious attempt to bully, harass and undermine people who are overweight, with a programme designed to support people who are attempting to improve their lifestyle, their health and their longevity. And if you can't see the difference, I would suggest you don't really understand what fat-shaming is; because if you use it in this way then it's just words or very possibly a bandwagon you feel you want to jump on.

All the leaders who take part in Operation Transformation are there because they want to be. They have asked for help and we are attempting to give it to them in a supportive and professional way. Four out of five of them never look back, maintain their new healthy regimes and stay on the programme for the long term. Five out of five of them say being on the show was a positive life experience. And personally I see no shame in that - quite the opposite.


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