Tell a friend they’re fat day? Hell yes.

Steve Miller has suggested something which sounds cruel, preposterous and unnecessary. He claims that on Wednesday January 7th 2015, we should all find a chubby friend and let them know they are a heifer. Tell a friend they’re fat day would be an annual event, and would kick start people’s weight loss in what he hopes would lead to better all round health, as well as raising awareness of the obesity epidemic worldwide.

And then the internet broke. Twitter filled with indignation as people argued right left and centre that this was a nasty scheme by a man who had no right to dictate to people on weight and health, and plus size advocates everywhere took to their blogs to let us all know how dangerous this kind of attitude can be for anyone with an eating disorder or any kind of weight issues. That it is the same as bullying, that it is nothing more than ‘fat-shaming.’

And three years ago, I would have agreed with them. But then again, three years ago, at 5”1, I was also nearly 200lbs.

I’ve never found weight particularly easy. And by this I don’t mean that I was always fat, as I don’t think that’s true. Photos of me as a kid are pretty standard, and even as a teen, although I distinctly remember feeling bigger than my friends, I wore size 10 (UK) jeans at 16, so I suppose that wasn’t the case either. I mean I have never had a good understanding of what I look like. The scales never seemed to ring true to me, and even when I saw them go higher than my peers, I tended to excuse it as my shape or my curves. Maybe I was right. I was 160 lbs at my wedding, and felt slim and beautiful, even while knowing I had been 20lbs less than that two years previously. I’ve recently had someone look at a wedding photo of me and express surprise by how much larger I was.

Even after I had my son I was sure I had ‘dropped the baby weight’ right away, and yet a year later, I was standing on the scales for the first time in 2 years, shocked that I weighed in at 198 lbs. Wasn’t I still a size 12/14? Yeah, I had bought that size 22 dress, but wasn’t that just so it fit over my bust? I know I got that denim skirt which was a 20, but I’m wearing it low, and some shops just have ridiculous sizing…. don’t they?

Somehow, I had become obese, and even at that point, I didn’t believe it. No one had ever told me. I had definitely said things to test the waters, to compare myself to other people and see what my friends thought, and no one had ever told me I wasn’t just your average curvy girl. I suppose people were embarrassed to point it out to me, they didn’t have the tools or the language to be sure of not upsetting me, they just didn’t know what to say.

I started my weight loss journey, which is still ongoing, but involved losing around 60 lbs over around 18 months. I worked on portion control, food groups, my eating habits-including time of day and self control, exercise, and most importantly, the underlying emotional issues which most overweight people carry around on their person just as often as they might carry a KitKat. No part of me regrets stepping on those scales and being woken up to the reality of what I was doing to myself and my family, and the future I was building for us by letting myself be morbidly overweight. Can someone that is a size 10 be as unhealthy as a size 24? Of course they can, but then you have an obligation to tell them that too. Steve Miller has made a day that perhaps should be called “Tell a friend they’re unhealthy day” but as massive an issue as obesity is in this generation (no pun intended) I can see why he has zeroed in on one clear issue.

So do I think you should randomly walk around on January 7th pointing at everyone with a double chin and yelling out “fatso”?! No, I most certainly don’t. People are more complex than you could imagine, and it takes knowing someone truly well to be able to approach them about such a multi-faceted issue as weight. So maybe the flippant sounding title of the day should be addressed. But if you have a friend who is more than just your average curvy girl, who doesn’t have an underlying physical or emotional disorder, and who has never told you that they know they are fat, who never mentions starting a diet, and describes people far smaller than themselves as larger…. and you care about them enough to worry about their health, is it really so cruel, preposterous or unnecessary to have a quiet and sensitive word?

I wish someone had had one with me.

obese me

August 2011

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April 2014

The Fine Line of Friendship

It would be wrong to say that we’re now not friends any more.

We haven’t been for years.

They say there is a fine line between madness and genius, between love and hate, between pleasure and pain. There’s a blurriness there, A haze where you cant quite tell which state you’re in. I think that happens in friendship too. We definitely used to be friends. Oh yes. I remember that part clearly. Lots of laughter, lots of sharing, lots of making the choice to spend time together, to meet up between classes, to wait for each other after the final bell, to awkwardly save each other a spot on the bus ride home, That familiar sensation of shifting your bag across two seats and hoping no-one else asked to sit down before the other one showed up.

And then school days finished, and it took more effort to see one another. But we made plans, we used the lack of awkwardness when we saw one another as proof of the strength of our friendship. We hardly ever see one another, but when we do-it’s like no time has passed! We never wondered whether that was because we only ever lived in the past, with a brief “how’s the husband, how’s the job?”

How long has it been since you were excited to see me? How long has it been since I didn’t wonder about the benefits of our friendship and weighed up whether seeing you was a ‘worthwhile’ use of my time? It must have been years since you made me feel good about myself, since I got home after a night out feeling refreshed and invigorated rather than beaten down and used. I’m sure the same is true in reverse. I’m not the person you call when you need a shoulder to cry on. I’m not the name you search for on your contacts list to share good news. I’m not the spontaneous night out, the I was just passing by, or even the saw this and thought of you. 

And life is too short for that kind of functional friendship, which survives because of a history of existence rather than continued building and fortification. I’m past the fear that if I let go of friendship I won’t find a replacement. The nervous voice inside me that lies, in whispers of “you cant make new old friends” when the truth is, you can meet a soul mate at any age. So I should thank you really. I’m glad that we don’t have to waste time any more. I’m glad that you made the choice for us. You chose you. You made it clear that I’m not worth fighting for, I’m not worth keeping in your life when you clearly need so much space for yourself.

There’s a fine line between friendship, and not. But the real pretence is in the assumption of loss when you move from one side to the other. The idea that when you cross that line you take on a heaviness or a pain that wasn’t there before. In reality that must come earlier on, almost without you noticing. At some obscure point you quite cant put your finger on, that was the moment of loss. Because now? Moving over that fine line into not caring one bit about you?

I’ve never felt lighter.

Let’s Be Honest

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For a brief period during university, I had my only ‘student’ job, face to face fundraising on the streets of London, or as its more commonly (and delightfully) referred to as, charity mugging, or chugging.

It taught me a lot. About the business side of charity, about the psychology of working for a good cause, about the actual charities I was working to raise money for. But most it all, it taught me about lies.

Like many aspects of life, it is best summed up by quoting Chandler from Friends, this time as he explains to his wife: “It’s always better to lie, than to have the complicated discussion. … except with you!”

There is no doubt that lies are convenient. Need to get off the phone? Oh, my battery is dying. Need to get out of an awkward conversation? Hang on, I just remembered I have to meet someone. Forgot to reply? I never received your email.

In psychology, these kind of lies are referred to as ‘Butlers’. They stand between you and the person you are talking to, as a middle man, making the excuses for you,. Lies are essentially buffers so that you don’t have to hurt people’s feelings by telling the truth, which is more often than not simply, “I don’t want to talk to you.” And socially, there isn’t really anything wrong with that. If we went around telling everyone how boring their boyfriend drama was, or how little time we wanted to spend hearing about their kids new nursery…. We wouldn’t have many friends left to lie to.

But these white lies have become human nature. And what surprised me so much as a chugger, was how many times I was lied to daily, and for no social convention whatsoever. After all, I was never going to see these people again. I wasn’t a relative, a friend, or even an acquaintance. We share no mutual friends, I don’t know what area they live in or even their first names. We are as much strangers as you can be with another human (who you actually know exists) and we will probably spend no more than 3 or 4 seconds out of our lives in each other’s company. Additionally, I wasn’t asking them a personal question, or for their opinion on my choice of footwear or my haircut. No one needed to worry about offending me. Fundraisers are very clearly working, and while often need the sign ups quite desperately to hold onto their jobs, are rarely if ever personally offended by the 99% of people who keep on walking by. (To put this into perspective, if we achieved around 4 or 5 sign ups between 10am-6pm, the day was considered extremely successful.)

And yet without any understandable psychology behind it, 9/10 times people choose to lie. So let’s put aside all the BS for a minute and just be completely honest. I’m off duty, I’m out of the fundraising game, and to be really straight with you- I just don’t care. But whether you are reading this on a tablet or a phone, or on a computer or a laptop, at home or at work, here is a fact. The amount may vary from household to household, but we can all afford to donate per month to any given charity.

You just don’t want to.

We said it! It has been said. We’d rather have the beer with our mates, the coffee with a friend, the subscription to the magazine, the cleaner or the childcare or the wrap from the cafe across the street. In some rare cases, it may take more of a sacrifice, but we still choose to have the extra item on the grocery shop or the variation in our wardrobe choices.

And here’s the amazing thing, no one cares! No one minds. In fact, everyone agrees! We all make choices about our money and where we want it to go. These are all totally reasonable choices, necessities or extras alike. We all believe that we should treat ourselves, or our kids or friends, often before we look elsewhere. And every human on the planet weighs up whether something is a good enough cause to be worthy of our time and certainly of our money. After all, the greatest philanthropist in the world does not give arbitrarily to anyone who asks.

Everyone has their own personal soft spots, myself included. (I wouldn’t go giving me any kind of precious object to look after for example, without being aware I may well pawn it at some point to buy a homeless teenage boy a three course meal.) I am clearly not a cruel heartless person. But I will freely admit here in front of all my millions of avid readers, that I would rather go to Starbucks than save any kind of animal species on a monthly basis. If you stop me in the street and expect me to start welling up as you tell me about abandoned puppies, you have severely misjudged your audience. I am already planning on asking for extra hazelnut syrup.

And before I had worked in face to face fundraising, I probably would have done exactly what you do. Pick up an imaginary phone call, bark out that I’m late for a meeting, tell the fundraiser that I would stop and talk to them on my way back down the road. Or on the off chance that they got me in conversation for more than those few seconds, argue that I really couldn’t afford even £2 a week, which was such a shame as it sounded like an excellent cause. I would look it up on the internet when I got home, and discuss it with my other half. Did they have a brochure or a card?

Now, I save us both some time and say something revolutionary. “No thank you.” If I’ve started talking too early and don’t have to break my stride I may add, “I’d be wasting your time.”

It costs nothing, it doesn’t offend, and best of all-it’s the truth.

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