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The BIG dilemma and my chubby pride, by Ben Shillito.

In the last short while, I have been engaged in sourcing writers and journalists to contribute material to this website. As a writer myself, I have decent contacts in the media, and also an awareness of the obesity and ill-health risks that go hand in hand with that most lonely, and sedentary, of occupations. Almost all writers eat too much, more than ‘almost’ all writers smoke like chimneys, and the vast majority of writers are at least fifty percent depressed. This is a recipe for chubbiness if ever there was one – too much food, inability to exercise due to lungs full of tar, lack of motivation to do anything more adventurous than crawling from the desk to the TV for a quick fix of telly or DVDs before sludging off to bed – and it’s a slippery slope to inevitable lard.

So I ask these writers if they want to write a piece, and they ask me ‘what’s the site called?’, and I tell them. Then I get looked at. ‘Fat and proud?’ they say, scarcely believing their ears. ‘You want me to write about being fat and proud?’ Some people, I reply, are proud to be fat, or at the very least not bothered about it, but the site, I hasten to add, caters for people who aren’t proud, too. People who want to lose weight, people who want to improve their health, people who want to buy fashionable clothes and not feel out of place in trendy bars. Sometimes it’s a hard sell, and there have been a few shocked and dismissive responses, but for the most part, people get it. Because if you’re fat in this day and age, an age obsessed with beauty and youth and celebrity, you have to develop a kind of pride in yourself, just to be able to hold your head up in public. With the newspapers full of ‘obesity epidemic’ and other statistical lies, British society is more judgemental of the obese today than ever before, and if you don’t have an attitude of ‘F*** you’ about it, you’ll end up a quivering hermit.

And then there’s that question. The BIG dilemma. I’m sure you’ve been asked it as often as I have – ‘If you could wake up tomorrow morning and be normal, would you want to?’ You mean I could wake up slim? (I presume that is what ‘normal’ means in this equation.) Would I want to wake up slim? You mean I’d be able to climb stairs more easily, buy clothes in the high street, go through the London Underground ticket barriers forwards, not get deep vein thrombosis from cinema seats, squeeze between people in crowded pubs without being a borderline rapist …? You know, I think I might just say yes to that one. And while you’re at it, I’ll have manageable hair, a straighter nose, more muscles and at least three more inches in my downstairs department if it’s not too much trouble. Because that’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it? Self-improvement. Body dysmorphia. The desire to be different. And next stop … surgery.

I’m pretty sure we’d all answer ‘yes’ to that question. Yes, if we had the chance to wake up tomorrow and be slim like all those swines on TV, we’d probably take it. But of course, we can wake up in the morning slim. Maybe not tomorrow morning, but can it really be that far off? We can join a gym, start walking more, stop eating garbage, just make those few changes that would have us waking up not just one morning but every morning looking slim, trim, buff and beautiful. Of course we can. And speaking for myself, if I had the time, I’d probably do it. But there’s still a question of priority, here. I’m a writer, and that comes first. Then there’s the web stuff I do, there’s some design work that pays the bills, there’s Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date, friends to see, family to spend time with. Sometimes there’s a party, or a meal out, dates with ladies, perhaps the odd holiday, and of course there’s culture – books and films and albums and TV shows are produced far faster than I can read, watch, listen, and so time has to be found to squeeze in as much of that as I can manage. So where exactly do I have time to go to a gym?

The changes I can make, I have made. I cook fresh meat and veg rather than eating out of the freezer or packets, I walk between meetings when I have time to spare, and so on, but the simple fact is that being fat is not my life, and correcting it is not that high a priority. And that’s why I love writing for this site. Yes, I’d take the magic cure, because I’m not stupid and I don’t want to die in my early 50s, but my weight doesn’t define me. I am fat, and by default I am proud to be so, because the alternative would simply be too much trouble. Fat and ashamed is not a website I’d want to visit.

I belong here.