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I am a staunch advocate and supporter of all Body Gossip is trying to do
I am a staunch advocate and supporter of all Body Gossip is trying to do because I know how many people’s lives are ruined, or at the very least, diminished by their own detrimental self image.
The ‘ologists always say, don’t they, that if you don’t love yourself, how can you possibly expect others to love you? I strongly believe they have a point – which is why we must learn to love ourselves whilst at the same time trying to do the best for our bodies. In a world which seems to have gotten the whole body image thing out of proportion, we must try to redress the balance.
In my own case, me own personal ghost that’s haunted me for many years, is my fight against being overweight. I have tried and failed many times to beat it, and probably made it far worse by the trying.
I always reached for a diet to exorcise my ghost. If you’d told me then, twenty years ago, that diets make you fat, and that 95% of dieters always put the weight back on again – and more, I wouldn’t have listened. Because I bought into what was ultimately a self destructive and punishing regime. Only now, many years later, do I understand the profound effect yo-yo dieting had on my figure – and my mind.
Mind you, it didn’t help doing it all in the public eye!
When I appeared in the Celebrity Big Brother House, I was hailed as “Big Blubber”. One writer in the Daily Mail said: “Anne Diamond’s children must be ashamed to have a mother with such a gargantuan backside.”
Well, you certainly need a thick hide to withstand that sort of attack, don’t you?
Look, I know that anyone famous has to learn to take of all that sort of stuff in their stride. But it certainly taught me a thing or two about society’s attitude towards obesity.
Compared with other celebrities and household names who were caught snorting coke, visiting massage parlours and having affairs with John Major, I had committed the sin of all sins. I had put on weight.
Believe me, it’s hard enough to lose weight – once you’ve put it on – without society throwing brickbats at you, and beating you down with your own failed efforts.
I got so fed up with self-righteous holy men and women telling me that losing weight is “not rocket science, you know. All you have to do is eat less and exercise more!”
Because that sort of advice has landed us with an obesity epidemic. It simply has not worked.
It’s not that it’s not correct. Of course it is – we all know that energy in must equal energy out. But that is not enough. Not nowadays. Not in a world where we all live more sedentary lifestyles and we are all encouraged, bribed and brainwashed into eating more food, and some of it absolute junk.
Society has to evolve a more compassionate attitude towards those who are already suffering from obesity.
“I have always been fat.” wrote one member of my weight loss support website, BuddyPower.net “ My mum says she had to prick extra holes in my bottle as a baby as my face would turn blue witht the effort of trying to get the milk out. I was put on my first diet aged 8 - a vile Complan meal replacement thing, torture. I grew into a fat child, then a fat teenager, followed by being a fat twenty-something and I'm now a fat thirty-something. I have tried every diet imaginable, but am still around 6 stone overweight.
I am generally contented, I have a very happy, loving and supportive relationship, two great kids, a job I love and plenty of good friends. I'm just not happy with me. I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in February and have struggled to reduce my blood glucose levels with diet and medication. I know I need to lose weight for the sake of my health and for my children. My husband loves me but I know he’s terribly worried for me and dare not mention my weight in case it upsets me more.”
She’s desperate for help. She’s not daft, but she can’t do it on her own – and if you’ve ever been there, you’ll understand that.
I have been there.
Oh yes, I have been there, done that, got the extra large T shirt and even made the video . I have done every diet in the land – and put on yet more weight at the end of it
Once it piles on, it’s hells own game getting rid of it.
After the horrible headlines, I immediately starved myself and exercised like a mad thing.
I lost so much weight so quickly that everyone told me I should make a fitness and slimming video. So I did. But to celebrate its release, the publishers took me to a slap up lunch, and I never looked back.
On piled the weight again. And again, and again, after every diet and every gym subscription. All the weight again – and then more.
When I got to 15stone10lbs, I was scared. I knew that just around the corner lay diabetes and the increased risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and a shortened lifespan– you know it.
The realisation that you are now one of those horrid statistics is heart-stopping. Even worse is the acceptance that you're almost useless at beating it.
That’s when a little bit of you dies inside.
That’s when you stop going out as much as you used to. That’s when you don’t go swimming with the kids because the only swimsuit that fits you looks like something meteorologists use to make weather balloons. So you just watch them from the poolside. It’s when you wake up most mornings dreading having to get dressed into clothes you hate, and you go to bed every night feeling a failure because you ate a Malteser.
That’s when I heard from a friend of a friend of a friend who’d had a gastric band fitted – and the weight was cascading off her.
Until then, I’d thought weight loss surgery was something that only weird Americans and Sharon Osbourne did.
So started my colourful history with weight loss surgery. To cut a long story short – I went to Belgium to have it done, because I thought it would be cheaper and they boasted no MRSA in their hospitals. And they put it in the wrong place – around the bottom of my oesophagus instead of around my stomach. No wonder it didn’t work.
I just didn't lose weight, like I was told I would! I felt as hungry as before and when I ate, I couldn’t feel any restriction whatsoever.
I felt awful. I’d gone all the way to Belgium, had the bloody operation, all of the worry, all of the fear, all of the expense – and nothing.
In the end, I just concluded, as all fatties do, that I was a big failure – it was all my fault and I was now beyond redemption. So I was going to be a sixty year old fat lady after all..
That's when I agreed to take part in probably the only TV programme I have ever, in my long TV career, totally regretted. It was called Celebrity Fit Club and it was utterly ghastly and symptomatic of everything that's wrong with the media's perception of obesity and those who suffer it.
So why did I agree to take part?
Because it held out the last glimmer of hope for me. The producers promised me it was all about fun, togetherness and team work, and would give me unprecedented access to the top weight loss experts in the world. Every contestant who’d ever been on before had lost stones in weight. It worked, they said.
Of course now I understand that it didn't. Nearly every single contestant still struggles with their weight! I had a miserable time. Especially when the Sunday papers then revealed I'd had a gastric band and therefore shouldn't be in the programme at all. The resultant furore, and my leaving the show amongst strident headlines, sure taught me a lot about attitudes.
More importantly, I got thousands and thousands of letters from fellow sufferers who just wanted to stay in touch. Which is why I set up my weight loss support website – BuddyPower.net. All of the members have fought obesity and their own body image problems in their own way, and are still fighting. No-one's complacent, but they have certainly learned the compassion message.
Fatties are so used to being abused and name-called, that they deprecate themselves.
You can even see it in the “user names” of my BuddyPower.Net members. Although it’s done in fun, some members give themselves horrible nicknames (like "FatAssGirl", "Lardy Lin" or "Porky"). Many have admitted to me in private emails that it masks an underlying despair.
I asked them what was the worst thing about being fat. Try and read these without feeling for their humiliation:
*Getting wedged in between your chair and the lecture table and not being able to move until everyone had left the room!
*Splitting a pair of jeans I was trying on in a shop.
*Getting stuck in a swing in the park!
*Needing an extension belt for aeroplanes;
*Being asked to pay for two airline seats.
*Having a friend’s dining chair collapse underneath me.
*Going to the doctor with a rash/infection underneath my folds of fat;
*I broke the lateral trainer at the gym and wanted to die.
*Having blood pressure taken - and the arm strap is too small.
*I can't shave my legs properly
*When on a camel ride on holiday with my boyfriend (that poor camel) they had to put sand bags at my boyfriend's side to balance the weight out.
*Being told (after collecting sponsor money) that I wouldn’t be able to make a tandem parachute jump because I was too heavy.
*Being told by a "friend", it's a shame you're so fat, because you have a really pretty face.
*Envying every other woman you ever meet.
*Promising every morning you'll be "good" at dieting and weeping every night that you weren't.
We cannot show too much compassion. We just have to ensure it is channelled into constructive programmes that will really make a difference.
Learning to love ourselves would be a great first step. And that is the underlying message of the Body Gossip movement. None of us are perfect, but while we try and live our lives and even better ourselves, it would be just great if we could be nice to each other and ourselves too.