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PM’s fitness drive is great, but do think about those who can’t shed pounds

PUBLISHED: 22:21 02 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:28 03 August 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson rides a bicycle last week during a visit to the Canal Side Heritage Centre in Beeston near Nottingham to launch of a strategy to get more people cycling

Prime Minister Boris Johnson rides a bicycle last week during a visit to the Canal Side Heritage Centre in Beeston near Nottingham to launch of a strategy to get more people cycling

Helen McDermott is all for the Boris bonus for bikers, but says we need to think of those who can’t be part of the new clampdown on fitness

What incredible generosity! Here’s Boris handing out £50 to get our bikes fixed. That’s assuming you actually have a bike and can ride it. Well, it rules me out. In spite of several attempts to teach me by well-meaning cyclists I have yet to master the technique of staying on one and riding in a straight line.

What I really need is to practise in a peaceful place far away from roads, dogs and children as I’m not safe trying out my non-skills on the street.

So I’ve accepted that at 66 I might as well settle for what I can do, what I like and enjoy doing, and they are running and swimming. Cyclists can’t understand why I can’t ride a bike; in turn I can’t understand why there are people who can’t swim, but there you are.

I rather hope therefore that Boris might consider chipping in a few quid towards a pair of decent trainers or some swimming kit and help us get a bit fitter, even those of us with no bike, which we couldn’t get on anyway. In the past when I’ve talked about being unable to ride a bike I’ve often been met with incredulity and even some hurtful comments as if I’m lying.

I do agree that keeping and losing weight is important; what I don’t agree with is the belief that anyone can do it easily. We have no right to judge people who find it difficult to slim down a bit. I appreciate the fact that to shed the pounds you need to eat less and exercise more, but it’s not that simple, as Julie de Rohan pointed out in the EDP (July 28).

She works with people who have eating disorders of some sort. She says that obesity is a serious health issue but also a serious psychological crisis. I have to agree.

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I’ve mentioned here before that when I went to ballet school as a young girl I was confined to a dining room where fat girls were fed. I was only fat if I intended to be a prima ballerina, but psychologically I assumed that I must be enormous and should never eat normally again. 
I did starve myself for a time and did indeed lose a lot of weight; I also lost my hair and my periods.

I also used to smoke (many dancers did I’m afraid) and yes, I was thin enough to look like a dancer but my health was damaged. Needless to say, when I started eating again (I was lucky) I regained all that lost weight and put on even more.

If we do lose weight, and we all can if we try, keeping it at a reasonable level and not allowing ourselves to be bullied or vilified if we can’t be as slim as perhaps we should be. I see people like Madonna who seems to spend her entire life trying to look like a teenager. It’s great to be fit and slim but does she need to ram this down our throats? I assume she gets rather a lot of help to keep her the way she is.

I have a friend who, sadly due to diabetes, became very unwell and obese. He used to be runner, extremely fit and handsomely slim. But then he suffered an injury which stopped him running and left him profoundly depressed. He piled on the pounds. Some people with no idea of his athletic background have judged him as a slob who just sits around and eats all day.

How views of fat can change.

When my mum was a child she was the only one in a family of four who was thin. Her mother, my grandmother, used to be embarrassed by this, wondering what the neighbours might think. She used to try and feed her up, pointing out that other little girls in the street were so pretty because they looked well-fedand rosy.

This was wartime. Being plump was a sign that you were healthy.

Of course we should be careful and watch what we eat. We should bike, swim, run, dance, play football, and all that. But if we see people who aren’t so slim and trim, we should be kind and accept that what we see on the outside may not always be what it seems.


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