Losing weight at this age can be a dangerous game. Lose six pounds and people will say ‘My word, you look well, have you lost some weight?’ Lose seven pounds and they will say ‘My word, you’ve lost weight? Are you ok?’ The dividing line between thinner and gaunt is, fittingly perhaps, a slim one. My BMI is at the top end of ideal (ok, acceptable) but it never quite teeters into obese. Yet when I look into the mirror, it is definitely a fat person I see. Definitely one bag more than a family pack. So, I’d like to lose a pound or two, but I don’t want people asking me if I’m unwell whilst I’m doing it. Should I decide to lose weight, I must become a stealthy dieter – a kind of Ninja weightwatcher.
I could make a point of wearing the loosest fitting clothes I can find. People would assume that I had already lost weight (why else would my clothes be too big?) and they wouldn’t make such a meal of it – oh come on, it was in there: I just had to flush it out – when I turn down a second dessert, an over-large serving of something blue-veined and odorous, or half a box of after dinner mints. It would give me breathing space. Talking of which, I could always let my belt out by a notch. If I have to keep hoiking my trousers up, all the better. Please, never be tempted to wear your tightest clothes in the belief that it will spur you on. People will not notice that you are losing weight any earlier. They will just think that you look like an over-extruded sausage and wonder if you have had a washing machine incident of some kind.
You see, what occurs to me is that we’re all doing this wrong. Surely the first thing we need to be asking ourselves is why we want to lose that pound or two. Is it for the good of our health? If so, then all fine and dandy – if weight is an issue that does impact on your health (present or future) then losing some is obviously the right way to go, but what if it’s not a health issue. What if, like me, you would just quite like to lose a pound or two so that you don’t weigh quite as much as you have actually weighed for the last thirty years. At the back of my mind is the vague assurance that I could lose weight if I chose to, and associated to that is the slightly uneasy feeling that if I could lose weight, then perhaps I really should lose weight.
So, what truly drives us to wish to change the way we are? If it’s not a health issue, what is it? Is it vanity? Not sure? OK, I’ll tell you what to do. Put on some clothes that you like; that fit you well, and take a look in the mirror. Now, think about what you see. Is it really so far away from what you’d want to see? Right, now, don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have bits of ourselves that we will never be happy with. In addition to the area around my midriff where my clothes suddenly tighten and, if viewed side-on, has an uncanny resemblance to some kind of bi-pedal python caught in the very act of swallowing a whole sheep, I have W.C. Field’s nose and Deputy Dawg’s jowls, but, and here my point suddenly occurs to me, can I imagine myself without them? Can I actually see myself with the kind of proboscis that Michael Jackson ended up with? Would I even be able to breathe through it? Could I live with it falling off every time I sneezed? If I removed my jowls, would my jaw look thin? Would the rest of my face look fat? I have a fat neck. What would a savagely tapering jaw look like sat atop a corpulent neck? I struggle to think of anybody who has undergone cosmetic surgery in order to look better and actually succeeded. I presume that the percentage of those with the money to do so, who return to the knife, would indicate that they are not any happier with the renewed configuration than they were with the original. Who ever thought that having skin stretched to the kind of taughtness that you can bounce a dried pea off could possibly be a good thing? Who wants eyebrows halfway up the forehead? Who wants to spend the rest of their life looking startled?
I suppose that dieting is an altogether more agreeable method of physique modification than surgery; shorn of the risk of finding that your ears are now too high to support the glasses that your eyes still need. I guess that losing weight is something that we can all do, without succumbing to the pain of the surgeon’s dotted lines and scalpel. (I have seen the documentaries: I have seen the hammers and chisels and I prefer to not even think about those.) And, of course, the cost of dieting should be far less dramatic: eating less should cost less… shouldn’t it? A yogurt with all the fat removed, all the sugar removed, all the taste removed surely cannot cost twice as much as the one that doesn’t say ‘Diet’ on the packaging… can it? Anyway, if I lose a little weight, will it really alter my middle-aged body that much? Can I really look much slimmer without looking ill? Is it possible to lose weight from my nose? If I lost my fleshy jowls, would I just be left with a wattle?
So, for what it’s worth, here’s my advice: do what you need to do to feel good about yourself, but be the best version of the person you are, and not some second-rate version of the person that you think others would like you to be. Make like a Ninja – and maybe nobody will even know you opened the fridge.
I’m anorexic really. Anorexic people look in the mirror and think they look fat. And so do I. Jo Brand.
The lunches of 57 years had caused his chest to slip down to the mezzanine level. P.G. Wodehouse