Friday 13 December 2019

A weighty issue on my mind... where have all the fat people gone?

Henry McKean
Henry McKean
Lottie Ryan

Henry McKean

I went for a swim in the Forty Foot the other day, a bathing spot on the southside of Dublin popular with older men. Only I thought I was in 'Jersey Shore', or MTV's new reality show 'Ex on the Beach'. It was full of beautiful young people dancing to their smartphones on loudspeaker and showcasing their Calvin Klein underwear-model figures.

We haven't an obesity crisis in Ireland; we have an 'OMG, you're so good looking' crisis.

Where have all the fat people gone? Have they been banished to the Midlands so no one can see them? Have the fat police ordered all of them on a course of Kettle Bells and a crash diet?

Do the young people these days just have better genes, longer legs and bigger smiles? Or are they just obsessed with looking amazing?

When I first moved to Ireland in 1990, the Forty Foot was full of old, hairy, naked, fat blokes. Today it's full Hollywood wax, and not just the girls but the guys too – pubic hair is dead!

A couple of years ago I was nearly 17 stone and was so big even the clothes giant GAP advised me to start shopping online for treble XLs. I was also told by Abercrombie & Fitch in New York that I was simply too big for their clothes. Buying clothes was an ordeal. The larger shops didn't have my size and Zara and H&M were only for tall, thin people.

Since then I have dropped four stone thanks to a tough but effective bootcamp class called Fit Squad –we are trained by army men and it's hell – but I'll still always feel chubby.

One good thing about losing weight is I can walk into a restaurant and get a table quicker. People smile a lot more, too. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. Since I have lost weight, I can walk into Zara and buy things that fit and look good.

But I still look shit on the beach. I still feel like a beached whale, and I worry that the Norwegian harpooners could get me at any moment. In my teens, eating a filled roll stuffed with breadcrumb chicken with lashings of mayonnaise from Roches Stores was considered healthy, and it didn't matter if you were fat. How times have changed.

Yesterday, I met a girl in her early 20s who told me her boyfriend talks about 'gains' all the time. Apparently this is the term for the muscle built in any given week. She told me her boyfriend would feel guilty and get moody if he had a McDonald's (still my favourite food, by the way) and it would put him in a bad mood for the rest of the day because he 'broke' his diet.

This new breed of young male bodybuilder lives on boiled chicken breasts and vegetable smoothies. Is this what it takes to look good on the beach?

Jennifer Aniston's character, Rachel Green, in 'Friends' said, "pleasure on the lips is a lifetime on the hips" and Kate Moss was condemned for saying, "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels". The boom/bust generation seems to agree with this motivational skinny nonsense. But I still prefer a Big Mac.

So there I was on a balmy Irish summer's day stripping off in front of these disconcertingly attractive, fit, young Irish people, and feeling like a lesser being. I have lost a quarter of my body weight and yet when I take my top off I still feel like a fat bastard.

Elsewhere, while reporting for 'Newstalk' recently, I found myself surrounded by naked men in a secluded nudist spot near Killiney beach in Dublin. Gone were the crusty fat old men from the Nineties. This new generation of nudists are athletically fit, artistically inclined, left-of-centre men in their thirties. Men who have no problem stripping off and diving stark naked into the icy Irish sea.

I asked Barry, a nudist swimmer, if he minds all the flesh on show, as a tanned, fit bloke pulled himself out of the water while letting it all hang out.

His response? "His goolies is his business."

I did feel a little peer pressure and seriously thought about joining them in this liberated willy off, but then I thought: my goolies are my business.

But after I left the gang of naked men I thought I should have liberated myself and let little Henry hang out.

Does old conservative Catholic Ireland in a way still hold us back? God, I feel like stripping off right now.

Henry McKean presents 'Under The Covers' on Newstalk 106-108FM Saturday at 8am and is the reporter on Moncrieff weekday afternoons 1.30-4.30pm.

Lottie Ryan

This weekend I'm...

... because of work, my weekends aren't as active as they used to be. I try to be in bed by 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays – it makes me a real granny on the social-life front.

I go for early dinner. There are loads of nice restaurants in Clontarf and I love Kinara [which has a sister restaurant, Kinara Kitchen, in Ranelagh, pictured above]; a really beautiful Indian restaurant. It's hard to get people to come out early for dinner or even to the cinema, because everyone's in that 'going out' frame of mind. My plan is to make going out on Monday nights cool again.

On Friday evenings, I also try to catch up with Netflix and whatever TV I've missed during the week. I've started watching 'Breaking Bad': I know I'm really late to the game, but I love to watch three or four episodes before bed. Every episode is like a mini-movie – totally satisfying.

If I do shop on the weekends, I'm a total Penneys girl. I love Topshop too, but my new obsession is COS (pictured right), if I feel like treating myself. I know if I go into town, there's no way I'll come home empty-handed, even if it's just a tank top from Penneys.

After I do my show in 2FM on Saturday morning, I come home and get a bit of kip for an hour, but then I'm back out to work again. I teach commercial hip-hop at the Young Performers' Academy. I've trained professionally as a dancer for most of my life.

Sunday is definitely one of those 'don't ask me to do anything' days. Saturday and Sunday for me are a bit like everyone else's Monday and Tuesday: the start of my working week when everything is really busy.

The whole family gets together for Sunday lunch too, though luckily for us, the last few weeks have meant Sunday barbecues, which has been fantastic.

Lottie presents the 'The Early, Early Breakfast Show', Saturday and Sunday at 6am on 2FM

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