How we talk about weight around chil­dren is an emo­tive is­sue between Bel Mooney and her daugh­ter Kitty Dim­bleby...

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Editor’s Letter -

Bel Mooney and her daugh­ter Kitty talk about the ‘f’ word


My hus­band and I had just re­turned from an in­dul­gent week in Malta when (con­scious of my ex­pand­ing tum) I joked to Kitty, ‘Oh, I feel so FAT!’ My daugh­ter put her fin­ger to her lips and nod­ded towards Chloe (then five), play­ing nearby. ‘We don’t use the F-word,’ she said.

Taken aback at the un­ex­pected re­buke, I asked why. Away from the chil­dren she out­lined her many rea­sons. Her ar­gu­ments made com­plete sense, of course – and yet I felt dis­turbed. How have we reached this stage where food has become such a con­tentious is­sue? Our eyes are constantly daz­zled by lus­cious recipes in news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, and the best­seller lists are full of cook­ery books.

At the same time, count­less lives are ru­ined by se­ri­ous eat­ing dis­or­ders, while obe­sity is a grow­ing so­cial prob­lem. My mother’s gen­er­a­tion and my own en­joyed sim­ple meals of meat and two veg, spuds at every meal, sugar in tea, and were treated to sweets, choco­lates and bis­cuits. I don’t re­mem­ber any­one hav­ing an eat­ing dis­or­der. And I can look back at my school photos from the 1950s and early 1960s and not see a sin­gle chubby child.

Back then, Billy Bunter was a clas­sic char­ac­ter in fic­tion – cre­ated fat and greedy, whereas the other boys (who mocked him) were seen as nor­mal.

These days Billy would be seen as a vic­tim of ‘fat-sham­ing’. If a jour­nal­ist writes an ar­ti­cle sug­gest­ing that peo­ple should eat less, he or she is likely to be howled down on so­cial me­dia for dar­ing to ques­tion the ‘life­style choices’ of peo­ple who protest proudly that it’s right­eous to be roly-poly. Surely we should be al­lowed to say that, yes, some peo­ple are over­weight because of health is­sues, but many more are pil­ing on the pounds because they snack all day? That fat is not so much a ‘fem­i­nist is­sue’ (as the psy­chother­a­pist Susie Or­bach called it in her fa­mous book) as a prob­lem of willpower and com­mon sense.

When Jamie Oliver at­tempted (in his wis­dom) to sug­gest the eat­ing habits of the na­tion’s school chil­dren ur­gently needed to be changed, we saw pic­tures of moth­ers push­ing burg­ers and fries through school rail­ings at their kids. It was – quite sim­ply – shock­ing. We live in an up­side-down so­ci­ety where Kitty’s ‘F-word’ is for­bid­den as out­ra­geously rude (and the real f-word used freely!), at the very time when the na­tion needs to tackle obe­sity.

The fig­ures speak for them­selves. The num­ber of over­weight school­child­ren in the UK is al­most 2 mil­lion, of which about 700,000 are obese, ac­cord­ing to a study car­ried out by the In­ter­na­tional Obe­sity Task­force. Over 25% of girls and 20% of boys are over­weight. Re­searchers pre­dict that if this trend towards more obese and

Junk food rules and we are told to avoid ‘fat-sham­ing’

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