Thursday, 22 March 2012

Ten thousand steps

The journey to success or salvation varies in length, depending on the traveller.

It's a small step for man (albeit an astronaut) to hurl the whole of mankind on the surface on the moon. It takes twelve steps (albeit over several years) for an addict to shed his or her sick skin. But it takes ten thousand steps - a day - for the average fat person to regain control of their weight and shape.

That, and the revolutionary ELBF formula, of course. A more entrepreneurial girl than I might be tempted to trademark it and repackage it in pretty colours before setting up a franchise empire but I'm willing to give away for free: Eat Less Bloody Food.

So let's recap: walk more, lots more, every day. Eat less, a lot less, every day. Forever. Simple, non? Well not quite.

We live in 'obesogenic' societies: physical effort - even of the walking kind, is pared down to a minimum, exceedingly calorific food is available everywhere, all the time, and before we even realise we are being greedy we are swallowing (and let's not forget the drinking side) so many calories there aren't enough hours in the day to burn them all.

Our society has become a distorting mirror. Very overweight is the new normal. I was very thin as a girl and a normal weight for quite a long time as a young woman. Yet it's taken me five years to realise I'm now quite seriously overweight because I'm surrounded by much heavier people and images of skeletal models, neither of which I feel have anything to do with me. I feel normal you see. But I am not.

I'm also beginning to think that fat is a feminist issue in a radically new way from what Susie Orbach intended.
People overeat and under-exercise for all sorts of reasons: lack of money, education, time. Caitlin Moran writes movingly in her excellent memoir "How to be a Woman" about the "quietly over-eating mums", who console and medicate themselves with food, the cheapest, less disruptive addiction available -- less disruptive to others that it, as it allows them to function, take care of others, whilst becoming larger and therefore more invisible to society at large.

But none of these scenarios really applies to me, if I'm honest. I'm a middle class, child-free feminist fattie. I have disposable income and tonnes of 'me' time. I have read acres of newsprint about nutrition, weight loss and so on, not just the cheap magazine stories about miracle crash diets.

I think the feminist critique on our 'lookist' society has had a perverse effect on me. Busy as I was fighting the objectification of women as pretty playthings, rejecting the obscene role models of the fashion industry, in an effort not to be reduced to the sum of my body parts in a sexist world I kind of lost track of my body as a body, a precious vessel made of flesh and bones, a mortal mechanism, the place I inhabit.

But once you are unable to skip down the street, cross your legs properly, wear what you like (not what you can find in your size), wish to even look at yourself in the mirror and have photos taken of you, once you regularly injure yourself through spasmodic bouts of exercise because of the sheer bloody extra weight you are carrying around, isn't your body dominating you, restricting you and defining you more and worse than if it were just an object of male desire and dominance?

I'm asking because I genuinely don't know anymore. I have had a sort of Damascene conversion during the visit of my lite, Jiminy Cricket-wise younger sister and I am exploring totally new feelings and ideas here.

I think it's been easier for me, up to a point, to shrug off my feelings about my own weight as vain, superficial and patriarchy-induced, and to keep stuffing my gob with food that I didn't need and that didn't make my job more secure, my bank balance bigger or my marriage smoother. It was just food, it turns out, eaten mechanically, often in front of the telly, because no one wants to read the novel I am not writing.

Gotta go. I still have 5200 steps ahead of me to accomplish my daily goal. Yesterday I managed 9772, then I simply run out of road and found myself outside my house.

It was late, it was dark, I was tired. I felt too self-conscious and silly to turn around , go back up the road for ten minutes and come back. So I only nearly met my goal. Nearly doesn't get you on the moon. Nearly doesn't free you of crack cocaine.

It was close, but no meringue.. I mean, cigar.

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