Jenni Murray and the stigma of obesity – her frank, inspiring story
Jenni and I at Westminster
AS part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity I’m really pushing for people’s psychological relationship with food to be far higher up the NHS agenda. Too many health professionals fail to understand the role emotional eating plays in so many lives.
So it was fascinating to meet the journalist and broadcaster Dame Jenni Murray at our APPG meeting in Westminster on Monday. The Woman’s Hour presenter is very open about her own struggles with weight and I found my chat with her to be both refreshing and inspiring.
Her relationship with food is massively emotional, she told me. We had a long conversation about this element because it’s something the medical profession really don’t do enough to address as you’ll see later in the blog.
Jenni lost five stone on a diet a few years ago, but within a short time put it all back on again and went back to 19 stone.
Eventually she was driven to have bariatric surgery. Jenni admits frankly that she had no off switch before she had surgery a few years back. Now she has definitely reduced the quantity she eats but admits it’s still not perfect.
She said she really noticed her emotional eating when the kids left home and she was using food for friendship and comfort because she was lonely. This is a sad story I hear so often.
Jenni has a new book coming out in April called Fat Cow, Fat Chance (a blunt title which perfectly reflects her outspoken, no-nonsense Yorkshire upbringing).
Jenni addresses the APPG
It investigates the science, social history and psychology of women and weight – and as you can guess, I’ve already ordered my copy.
In the book she says that at 64, her weight had become a disability. She avoided the scales, she wore a uniform of baggy black clothes, refused to make connections between her weight and health issues and told herself that she was fat and happy.
She was certainly fat. But the happy part was an Oscar-winning performance. In private she lived with a growing sense of fear and misery that it would probably kill her before she made it to 70.
The book addresses “what it’s like to be fat when society dictates that skinny is the way to be” and she questions the assumption too many people make that going on a diet is the answer.
When she was at the APPG meeting with us, her last words were “Don’t fear food, fear too much food.” Wise words and something that the Slimpod most definitely helps with.
Does Jenni’s experience resonate with you? Please let me know by leaving a comment below. I read them all and I know that others find your comments both comforting and inspiring.
Survey results on obesity and stigma
Recently I asked everyone in Slimpod Club if they’d help with a survey that the APPG was promoting into the stigma of obesity .
I’m passing on the group’s grateful thanks to all the Slimpodders who responded to the survey. Your input was invaluable and will undoubtedly help shape future government policy.
Here’s the survey results, which have just been released.
It’s clear that stigma impacts people in school, work, leisure, with friends, with family, in personal relationships and in day to day activities.
96% of people with obesity thought there is not enough understanding amongst the public as to the causes of obesity.
90% of people with obesity said more understanding of obesity would make them more comfortable seeking care.
85% of people with obesity thought the public views people with obesity negatively or very negatively.
79% of people with obesity said stigma affects their mental health.
71% of people with obesity felt stigmatised when seeking health advice or support.