Booty is in the eye of the beholder. What you think of as thin or fat may differ substantially from what I or anyone else might do. One man’s flabby is another man’s fabulous. One thing for sure is that the subject of someone’s weight/shape is rarely one for public conversation, unless the tone is positive – ‘Have you lost weight?’ etc.
I am overweight. I’m not going to say fat, but mainly because that term can be subjective and I’ll apply it to myself one day and not the next. My self view can even change from one minute to the next. Now, men in general sometimes talk about their weight and other men’s weight, but almost always in the negative (and usually in a teasing way). This is in contrast to my experience of what happens when women discuss the subject. My experience of overhearing their conversations is that you’re more likely to have a group of women who take issue with their bodies and weight, while the others act as an impromptu support group.
The size and shape of women is a media-fuelled obsession and one you could write endlessly about, it’s a glaring spotlight that places unrealistic and unhealthy pressure upon young girls in particular. Men are seldom judged by the same criteria, but they certainly judge themselves.
I refer you back to the sentence further up – ‘I am overweight’. Read it again. There will almost certainly be some people reading (ones who know me), whose first instinct was – ‘No, he’s not’. And there’ll be different reasons for that I’m sure. You have a different idea of ‘overweight’, perhaps. You simplify things down to thin, normal and fat, therefore putting me in the middle third? Maybe you’re reading this, are in similar shape to me, and don’t like to think of yourself as heavier than perhaps you should be. Most likely though it is British reserve/politeness that keeps most people from giving their opinion on others’ physical appearance and that extends even to what we are thinking.
And, in the main, this isn’t a bad thing. Unabridged honesty about the people around us could lead to some tense friendships and awkward offices.
But, as we’re all too aware, obesity is increasingly an issue. A deadly one. Between 20 and 30% of 4-5 year olds in Wales are overweight or obese and over 80% of obese children are obese as they get older too. Worrying stuff.
I play some sport because I enjoy it, but the majority of my sometimes reluctant exercise is undertaken to make me healthier as well as trimmer. It’s all too easy for your bodily circumference to slowly, surreptitiously slip outwards and your feet fade from view… Over the years I’ve let each new waist measurement become my ‘normal’, the new yardstick beyond which I judge to be ‘too much’ and cue for me to move more. My ever-moving goalpost.
In a sense we’re caught between two potentially conflicting issues. There’s certainly a challenge around expectations regarding appearance and shape being continuously thrust in our faces by the media and reinforced by peers, but we can’t let it go too far the other way with the subject of excessive, unhealthy weight not being broached.
There are positive ways of facing up to the issue. With children, their diets can be managed and exercise encouraged (as well as limits placed on time spent on sedentary activities). With friends or partners, subtlety is key. Making exercise a social activity is one way to encourage a reticent runner to pound the pavement, but with adults, they have to want to eat better, drink less or exercise more. But as a friend or husband/wife, we can sieze on opportunities and support someone when they decide to stop moving their own goalposts.