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A weighty issue of commercialism.

Byline: Paul Fulford

SOME of those who frequent gyms tell me that bitchiness festers in their changing rooms like a unwashed leotard.

The pumping of iron, manipulation of cross-trainers and mind-numbing repetition of treadmills is a malodorous world hidden from me since I despise such places, preferring to get my exercise through solitary running and the more communal lifting of pints of Stella.

But cutting comments about weight, I'm told, aren't uncommon in gyms.

And it isn't just larger users who attract disapproving glances and whispered comments. The slim, too, come in for stick.

We've become body fascists in this country - divided and obsessed by the shape of people we encounter.

And this is as true of fat people who are jealous of the scrawny as it is of slim folk who are appalled by the overweight.

It's a mindset that I've fallen prey to, certainly.

Who hasn't made unkind comments about the revealing or body-hugging outfits that some less-than-svelte people choose to wear? And I'd challenge anyone of dainty build to deny that when they're sitting on a bus, plane or train, they don't shrink at the prospect that the bloater who's just boarded might sit next to them.

Indeed, nowadays the fat have replaced the muttering insane as the people you really don't want to choose the seat next to yours.

I've even, in my more idle and whimsical moments, speculated on the possibility of campaigning for larger folk to be restricted to special lanes on our pavements so we speedier, wirier types aren't delayed as we go slimly about our business.

Or even that the fat should be allowed outdoors only at certain times of the day, again to ease the progress of the fittest.

That, I guess, is as much to do with my impatience as my intolerance of those with bigger waistbands than mine.

Nevertheless, there's little doubt that as a country we've become very judgmental about weight.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Obesity is a serious health issue and it's better to eat well, exercise regularly and shed those extra pounds than stuff ourselves on burgers, slump on to a sagging sofa in front of Jeremy Kyle and turn into a whale in a shell suit.

It's right that the Government and other public organisations should put before the public the evidence and, where possible, take practical measures to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

But beyond this lies a truly unhealthy attitude to weight, with some gorging on the fattest food with no thoughts for the consequences whilst others starve themselves to achieve the figures of lesser Hollywood starlets and footballers' wives.

Meanwhile, we cast envious or hostile glances at those whose shape is different from ours, snarling the sort of comments that would surely be condemned as racist were they based on a person's ethnicity.

None of which addresses the central problem that confronts us - avoiding the lure of commercialism whether it seeks to convince us to fill our faces with fat-laden fast food or to ape the antics of air-heads with an idealised body shapes that we can't hope to emulate.

And then not to condemn those with a different view.

Perhaps one day it's a lesson even I might learn.

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Aug 25, 2009
Words:575
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