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On losing weight

New year’s resolutions are generally a bit crap, but as it’s timely I’m going to tell you about a resolution I’ve been working on for the last month or so, which I’ll carry through into the new year because time is linear like that.

I need to lose some weight.

It’s not urgent, but I’ve decided that my happiness depends on shaving off a few pounds so I can jiggle around the house to showtunes without feeling my tummy wobbling out of sync to the rest of me.

There are three things I hate about this, and believe it or not none of them have anything to do with diet or exercise. Sure, I prefer cider to soup, and running my arse round the block is about as tempting as queuing for One Direction tickets, but these are just things you have to do to lose weight, so I bear no grudges against biology. But there are some things about dieting that bother me.

The detox bandwagon

The first and most obvious thing is the patronising, sexist market that surrounds female weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an irritating market surrounding male health too (Get ripped in 8 weeks, lads, with this one weird old trick). But given that I am a woman, the female stuff leaps out from the shelves and smacks me in the face more forcefully.

Magazines trumpet ‘detox time’, as if it’s a long-established calendar event: that all women, for the month of January, will eschew booze and munch salads. Because if we don’t do this there’s a very real danger that we’ll just disappear into a fatty swamp of chemicals.

It’s bullshit, mostly. There’s really no such thing as ‘detoxing’, and if we didn’t consume any chemicals we’d die. But since the first marketeer sat down and said “hey I’ve got this great new product it’s like water but better because it costs two quid a bottle” we’ve been dragged into thinking that ‘detoxing’ is not only a real thing but something that all women should do throughout the month of January. Unfortunately, the more of us do it, the more it reinforces the idea that we should all be doing it.

So now I am in a position where I feel guilty for dieting in January, because I am propping up a ridiculous ad-driven concept of the New Year detox, but similarly guilty if I don’t, because I am a woman and therefore should be thinking about calories every single minute that I am not either buying shoes or tearing hair from my pudenda. It’s a pickle.

The ‘oh but you’re not’s

Why is it that, when I mention the fact that I’m a bit chubby, people feel compelled to tell me I’m wrong? Seriously, why?

I’m wrong about a million and one things. Once I argued that the battery life on an iPhone was shorter than the time it’d take me to commute to and from work, and the other day I spent a good twenty minutes insisting that Brad Pitt couldn’t be a day over forty. Wrong on both counts, of course, but not everyone feels compelled to point that out: often they just roll their eyes and let me continue down the path to future embarrassment.

But when it comes to weight, people are keen to insist I’m wrong even when I’m plainly and clearly right. When I say I’m trying to lose a bit of weight (usually in response to someone trying to guilt-slip yet another mince pie down my throat), people leap insistently out of their seats crying “OH NO YOU’RE JUST BEAUTIFUL AS YOU ARE”, as if the world will stop spinning if they let me believe I am anything other than perfect.

Why do we do this? It is, of course, mean to walk up to a friend and announce “you could stand to lose a few pounds, mate.” But I’ve got a mirror – I can see what I look like. And what I look like is an averagely attractive person who could do with losing a bit of weight. You’re neither evil nor a bully if you let me get on with it.

To add insult to injury, although gentlemen friends are allowed to make self-deprecating jokes about their weight, as a woman any mention of weight gain is treated as blasphemy. The poor gents who actually do want reassurance are left out in the cold, listening to the lilting sounds of “who ate all the pies”, while girls hiss “blasphemy!” at each other if one raises the possibility of dieting. This situation sucks for all of us.

Will you still love me when I’m thin?

“I love you no matter what.”

It’s a lovely sentiment, designed to elicit the same warm fuzzy feeling people imagine they’re conjuring if they tell you that you don’t need to lose weight. And yet it’s rarely evoked the other way around. Someone who goes on a diet is rarely reassured “I’ll still love you even when there’s slightly less of you filling those knickers.”

Loving someone when they’re fat is seen as a noble and beautiful thing, as opposed to just something that happens when someone you love piles on a few pounds (or, indeed, if you fall in love with someone who doesn’t have the proportions of a runway model – i.e. almost everyone). If we really meant it then there’d be no question whatsoever about whether we’d stay with a partner who weighed more than average: therefore no need for any reassurance that our deep and true love transcends weight.

Moreover, as I’m confident the sun will rise tomorrow, I know that if I woke tomorrow lighter and tighter your love would not wane. It’s not my weight that’ll put you off, but the things I have to do to stay like that – the act of losing weight itself. You’ll love me when I’m fat, sure, but I think loving me when I’m calorie-counting might be more of a challenge. Will you still love me when I ask you to eat salad to keep me company? When I swap my legendarily awesome macaroni cheese for quinoa? When I neglect your blow jobs to go to the gym?

We’ll see.