"You know those TV images don’t you? They are usually on the news, typically on breakfast TV and picture the middle section of an overweight woman wobbling as she walks down the street. If they can picture her outside a fast food outlet, or eating a pasty, all to the better.
I hate this. Cutting off her head dehumanizes her. It discriminates and humiliates in a way that would never be acceptable in terms of race, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It makes people who are probably already unhappy in their skin even more so, and contributes to the low self-esteem that is one of the causes of overeating.
Over recent years the links between obesity and cancer have been highlighted. This can result in feelings of guilt in patients. I certainly felt the ‘I’ve brought it on myself’ recriminations, not considering that I had all but one of the other risk factors for womb cancer.
I also had the discussion with a couple of people at work after the father of one was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She pointedly said to me ‘It’s so unfair. He’s slim, he’s kept fit, he goes to the gym, he’s looked after himself.’ She didn’t quite say ‘Not like you, why should you be the one to survive?’, but the implication was there. Well can I whisper it to the world? Cancer isn’t fair!
Reasons for being overweight are complex. Solutions are not easy. I wish they were. For every person who says that it’s a simple matter of balancing calories against output, I would like them to tell me what their stress outlet is. Maybe it’s alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, shouting and screaming or, heaven forbid, kicking the dog or the spouse or some other creature.
Sadly some of us turn that stress back on to ourselves and eat. We are often programmed to it from childhood when a treat of sweets was used to calm us when we were upset. OK, there are people who eat a high fat, salt and sugar ridden diet, but as I said to the consultant who, with some surprise in his voice, told me I had made an excellent recovery from surgery, ‘Well I do eat a healthy diet – in addition to the cake.’
Attitudes of doctors can be counterproductive. So many of the symptoms that present with cancer can be put down to being overweight. How many times has a doctor said that your symptoms would improve if you lost some weight? It got to the point with me that I ignored back pain and fatigue as I thought I would get the usual trite response. It was only when I had post-menopausal bleeding that I sought help.
I have a friend (a big girl) who had painful and heavy periods for many years and was repeatedly told that it was not only down to her weight but also that there was no point in palpitating her abdomen as they wouldn’t be able to feel anything for the fat. It took a young, female, doctor, new to the practice, to send her for a scan only to discover a fibroid the size of a rugby ball!
So, media, lay off us! We are going through a tough enough time without you stirring up feelings of guilt and resentment. And doctors - stop assuming that every symptom that can be put down to being overweight is that!
Yes we possibly do cost the NHS more, but how much of that is down to us only turning up at the surgery or being sent for investigations when our disease is quite advanced?
How about a bit of understanding and compassion?"
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xx Kaz xx