Features

Sorry Katie Hopkins, but I’m not dieting. Ever

As Kingsley Amis said, no pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home

18 April 2015

9:00 AM

18 April 2015

9:00 AM

I’m a very off-message type of fat broad; one who gladly admits she reached the size she is now solely through lack of discipline and love of pleasure, and who rather despises people (except those with proven medical conditions) who pretend that it is generally otherwise. I’m not attached to my fat in any but the most obvious way; would I lose it if I could snap my fingers? Without doubt. Would I work at losing it? Not a chance, Vance.

‘But it’s not about vanity,’ the weight bores bleat, ‘it’s about health.’ Hmm. I was the one person I know who didn’t have some sort of crippling cold this winter — not a sniffle, while my gym-bunny mates all claimed to be dying to some degree. On group holidays, I invariably perplex my companions by spending the evening drinking enough straight alcohol to stun a stevedore before sicking up into my hat, and then rocking up at the break of dawn at the swimming pool while they’re still at breakfast, and drinking shots between laps. As Douglas Murray once noted in this very magazine when we were in the same Ibizan wedding party:

At a late stage I have a well-oiled dance-off with Julie Burchill. The effort finishes me for the evening and I retire a sweaty mess. We reconvene the next morning by the pool. Hardier than me, Julie is having a two-martini breakfast and doing her Hebrew revision.


So imagine my lip-smacking delight at the news last week — according to the largest and most precise investigation into dementia to date — that the fatter one is in middle age, the brighter one is likely to be in old age. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised. Sure, I can’t do that silly ‘Exercise That Predicts Your DEATH’, as the Daily Mail called it with typical joie de vivre a while back — standing up really quickly from a cross-legged position without any support. But I can have all the sex I want, swim myself stupid without fearing public ridicule and fasten my seat belt with ease on any number of trips chasing the five-star sunshine — unlike poor Dame Jenni Murray, who was so mortified at having to order a belt-extension that she’s now booked herself in for a gastric band. I certainly don’t want to walk for miles or — the Lord forfend — run or jog — when I was a teenage size eight, I saw a successful life as one in which I never had to exert myself physically in any way, except in water; to paraphrase Tarantino’s Melanie Ralston when told that smoking dope will kill her ambition, ‘Not if your ambition is to get high and watch TV.’ My ambition was to write, feel love and have fun, and I can’t see a time when my weight is going to interfere with any of those.

Besides, I don’t want to make very old bones; unlike most of the health bores, I’ve actually worked as a volunteer in care homes for very old people — good care homes, with great staff — and the sorrow of the residents made me so sad that I gave up volunteering for years. (I also worked with Down’s Syndrome adults, whose company I invariably left laughing, so not all volunteer work has this effect.) Dementia is now the top killer of women — 32,000 a year — and it’s not a fate I’m keen to save myself for. And even if you do live to be both a great age and compos mentis, chances are you’ll wish you weren’t when you realise clearly how, despite all your experience and toil and contribution to the NHS, you’re seen as a pesky old bed-blocker who is going to end up drinking water from vases. As Kingsley Amis put it, ‘No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home at Weston-super-Mare.’

Though if you do want to live to a ripe old age, there’s still no guarantee that your pleasantly padded person will kill you. Even before the report earlier this year that most cancers are the result of bad luck rather than bad lifestyle choices, the health bores got their Lycra in a right old twist last year with the publication of The Obesity Paradox: When Thinner Means Sicker and Heavier Means Healthier by the American cardiologist Dr Carl Lavie. There had already been a study some years before — published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine, based on nationwide data from 2000 to 2005 of nearly 51,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 90 years — in which, by using the National Death Index, researchers assessed the mortality risk of the people included in the study and found that those who were ‘severely obese’ were significantly less likely to die than underweight people. You would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh and pass the cream cakes.

Eat sensibly, exercise regularly — die anyway. I know of people who have died young after following all the boring rules for an allegedly healthy life, and also people who seem old before their time because they live in fear of death. I decided long ago, before I could vote or marry, that youth, beauty and health were fuel to be burned rather than fruit to be preserved. I have seen nothing during my long, wicked, wonderful life to make me change my ways — or my weight.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Julie Burchill’s most recent book is Unchosen: Memoirs of a Philo-Semite.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • blandings

    Good for you, but martinis for breakfast? – that’s what I call a constitution.

  • Garnet Thesiger

    Good on you Julie, always a good read..

    • Julie Burchill Raven

      Now you ARE attractive, to say the least! Funny how my detractors are so *elusive*, image-wise…

      • Garnet Thesiger

        Wow Julie! Thanks, to think that for a few seconds the World was just you and me!

  • Damaris Tighe

    Exactly, Julie. I’ve also had the experience of seeing health nuts die before their time & aged people living in misery. Food is one of the pleasures of life & in maturity I take the view that any man who doesn’t accept me the way I am, isn’t for me. Can’t stand the lettuce + grilled skinless chicken brigade. Give me a burger with cheese & chips please. Yum!

  • Ryan Levitt

    I once went on a fantastic holiday with Julie. Got blitzed in the evening and we then woke up to have gin and grapefruit juice the next morning at 6am. Throughout the evening and next day, she was witty, charming and rolling out the witticisms. If that’s what drunk and fat are like, then I’m in. Meanwhile, I went on a horrific trip with another friend to NYC. She was whippet-thin and attracted all the men, but constantly complained that she was cold, ordered plates of food that she never touched (bar a single carrot) and demanded to go home as soon as the attention was off her. Guess which one was the better break…

    • blandings

      Hey man, that was me with Jools: Don’t steal my life man.

    • Julie Burchill Raven

      WA-HEY! Back atcha, hon!

  • Violin Sonata.

    Quite.
    I know of people who believe they’ll be fine health wise by eating all the correct foods
    and find out that’s not always the case.
    All culinary indulgences are good for you, that’s what weekends are for.

    • blandings

      Grouse on toast and a couple of martinis keeps a girl fighting fit in my experience

      • Violin Sonata.

        Clearly a hangover cure after a rather late Friday night .
        I’ve heard of the whiskey and lambs kidney cure too, both sound somewhat gruesome, not quite sure how they keep you fighting fit but
        I’ll take your word for that.
        Martinis, an elderly relative likes those,sweet with lemonade every Christmas

        • blandings

          I wasn’t really thinking of breakfast.

          • Violin Sonata.

            Once a month on a Friday I do go to bed rather late, with or
            without alcohol around 3.00 am so breaking my fast can be nearly lunchtime.
            Some chums and I were speaking of music and philosophy,
            when posting a while ago for so long that I saw the sun rise

          • Violin Sonata.

            Correction- I meant going to bed rather late, regardless whether I’d
            drank alcohol or not.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          So what’s your favourite Irish whiskey?

  • PetaJ

    Great article!

  • ‘No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home at Weston-super-Mare.’

    Are they worse in that place than others, then? Aesthetically speaking, he should have quit while he had made his point, as the standfirst-writer realized.

    Eat sensibly, exercise regularly — die anyway.

    Yes, but there you undercut your own argument, for while I also have no desire to ‘make old bones’, I probably shall live a long time, like it or not — and I’d rather like it, and to like it I shall need to think well of myself and feel glad to be alive, neither of which would happen if I had let myself become a repulsive hag with serious health problems. One has only to look at my mother — if you can bear it — to see that that road is not worth taking.

    I’ve read the book cited, and it’s a good one, though the long first section that makes the point about obesity and longevity seems to me the least useful part. It comes down to nothing more than the fact that if you have a disease (which may well have been triggered by the same dietary habits that made you fat), you likely shall hang on longer with that final illness than if you are underweight. All it means is that sickly fat people have more reserves to burn through than sickly thin people. Hardly a great recommendation for getting fat and sick. The book’s more valuable point is that we as a society should not be obsessed with a ‘perfect’ weight, since there isn’t one, and it’s much better to be ‘overweight’ and physically healthy than to be a ‘perfect’ weight and less robust.

  • Ngaire Lowndes

    Dreary Dieters don’t actually live longer, it just seems that way.
    Have you ever read the works of the wonderful Ragen Chastain? Look her up. She’s awe-inspiring.

    • But I’m afraid that’s just wrong. People that don’t look after themselves have serious problems, even though they might live just as long as people without them (or not). What would you rather be: fit and rosy and pleasant to look at, with energy and vitality, or worn-out, beset by pain and worry, drugged to the eyeballs, losing your looks, and wasting precious hours, days, or weeks at doctor’s offices? I’d say it’s a no-brainer.

      The real question is HOW does one eat well, move well.

      • Ngaire Lowndes

        And that is exactly why I do not starve myself, or subject this very strong, well-made body to needless stomach-crippling surgery, nor waste any time hating myself for ‘failing’ to conform to the cultural norm of slimness. I am extremely healthy, I look after myself, I simply don’t believe that one has to be slim to be healthy. It is a complete fallacy. It is, indeed, a no-brainer – which is why I refuse to buy into the diet corporations’ lies about slim equalling every possible fulfillment in life. Not losing my looks by becoming haggard and wrinkly, not beset by pain and worry – how better to describe the life of the perpetual dieter? – no drugs, no attendance at medical facilities. Fit, rosy and pleasant – that’s my happy state!

        • Well, yes, I think we really are in agreement. Perpetual dieting — trying this, trying that — can be miserable and counter-productive, and tends to mean that one is flailing around with conflicting advice, rather than observing one’s own body. It’s a complex situation made worse by the very bad advice we’ve been given by authoritarians for four decades.

          I guess the distinction I’m making is between being unwilling to diet EVER — like Burchill — and being someone that is constantly chasing a retreating goalpost. To diet is to change eating habits to lose weight, most of which will end up being fat. There’s nothing sinister in it, and it does tend to improve health. Person close to me was fat once, suffered from nosebleeds and spontaneous pains, and probably wasn’t viewed with complete respect at work. He tackled the weight problem in his 30s and, from the point of view of long-term disease, didn’t tackle it a moment too soon.

          The key is to eat in a way that doesn’t deprive you either emotionally or physiologically. It’s not about being an extremist. I eat cakes and treats of all kinds — just not every week. What you don’t have you often find you don’t miss: against Kingsley Amis’s comment I would put my own: The pleasure is fleeting but the fat stays with you. So does the ill-health that obesity can bring.

          One further observation is that Ms Burchill is happy in her marriage as a larger lady. I would say that the opposite is much less likely for the very large man — and I don’t mean tall! Women with extra fat just have more of what they would have anyway: they’re the softer sex. But a totally soft man is a turn-off, is often secksually incompetent, and in turn loses libido because he knows,/i> that he’s nobody’s dream. A fit man with a fat wife may be perfectly happy, but a fit woman with a a fat man is likely to feel very deprived.

        • davidshort10

          It is not a cultural norm. It is inbred. People who are fat have always been disliked. In the past it was because they were viewed as having taken too much and fatness was equated with wealth. Now, it’s the opposite. The JB article is about either/or not about the real ‘norm’ which is a normal weight for the frame the skeleton that was designed to carry it. If you look at photos from only a generation or two ago or of your family, you will see very few overweight people and no obese people. This is a very modern state of affairs. KH is an awful human being but she is not stick thin, so it’s not KH or JB but JB versus the human race. And worldwide there are al lot of stick-thin people, but they didn’t get their X-ray figures by choice. The Spectator shouldn’t run this click-bait sort of rubbish; leave it to the Daily Mail.

          • Julie Burchill Raven

            I want to see your sexy form NOW!

      • Iron Fact Checker

        Ragen Chastain is also a charlatan who who never graduated from college but calls herself a “UT alum” and “trained researcher”. After a long string of office jobs and failed business, she figured out how to monetize “Health At Every Size” through blogging and speaking. She has “national dance championship” titles at the lowest newbie non-competitive level of a small regional dance circuit that used to be called “Fun Country”. She is the slowest finisher in the history of the Seattle Marathon, taking over 12 hours and holding up the race volunteers for four hours after the last finisher, a 77 year old lady. She walked a 5K in 70 minutes after berating the volunteers for not having 4XL t-shirts. She is “training” for an IRONMAN in October that she has no intention of actually entering because it’s physically impossible at at her weight over 300 lbs (e.g. her required power output in the bike section is higher than world champion female racers).

        She also makes truly bizarre claims like being able to read people’s minds or that her mother “sold” her for an air conditioner in Mali because 300 pound women are the “standard of beauty” in country ravaged by poverty and malnutrition.

        Ragen uses her false credentials to advise her followers to ignore the advice of their doctors and give up on losing weight. She claims there is no evidence any more than a tiny fraction of people lose weight, no evidence obesity causes any health problems, no evidence losing weight improves health, etc.

        • Hmm, I did get the sense that she was not a model of reason or knowledge when I did a quick check of her book on Amazon. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen so many one-star reviews of one item!

  • Ngaire Lowndes

    Thin = healthy? Really? I have four dear friends, whom I met studying law 20 years ago. One is, like me, rounded; the other three are rail-slim and elegant. And half-crippled with knee, hip, and back problems… unlike me and the other ’roundie’!
    Carrying extra weight is by no means an inevitable route to joint failure and early mobility problems.

    • Robert

      Thousands, literally, of medical studies show that being slim prevents multiple health issues. However, enjoy your couch, your Twinkies and your sitting.

      • Does anybody actually eat Twinkies any more? They ought to be stuck in Lucite as a museum exhibit!

      • Mr B J Mann

        No.

        People tell you that thousands, literally, of medical studies show that being slim prevents multiple health issues.

        Actually, while gross obesity might lead to multiple health issues:

        Thousands, literally, of medical studies show that being slim causes multiple health issues.

        Thousands, literally, of medical studies show that being “normal” weight causes multiple health issues.
        And that being “overweight”, and possibly even at the bottom end of the latest definition of “obese”, leads to better health and longer life than being “slim” or even “normal” weight!

  • The best advice I can give is to do the Swedish diet. Eat like the Swedish, they have a very hearty diet and they are rarely overweight. Using good fats is crucial to being thinner. Do the Swedish diet and you will be thinner.

    just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

  • Robbydot1

    Good for you, Julie.

  • Jo90

    I had to check whether I was reading the Big Statesman. You’re ‘All the same’.

  • FYI the podcast given above has nothing to do with this article. Oops.

  • davidshort10

    OK, nice to read this for a bit of a fillip when one is overweight but generally people are not happy being overweight, whether they are healthy or not. It is still a big stigma in society, one of the very few left – you can call someone a fat bastard without risking arrest (for the moment), and it makes you feel uncomfortable almost every second of the day. JB gets away with it because she doesn’t have to go to an office, dress well, look after kids (including playing with them), is judged only on what she produces at home, and can booze at any time of the day for the same reasons. And these conditions are probably the cause of her being fat. If she feels physically and psychologically comfortable then she is probably one in ten million. And it’s a big if.

  • JonBW

    Quite right; good for you.

    Healthy lifestyles simply increase the likelihood of an extended and miserable old age.

    And the truth is, they cost the taxpayer more than obesity, drinking, smoking et cetera.

    • davidshort10

      ‘Heathy lifestyles’ increase the likelihood of having an enjoyable and comfortable life in the present. No one knows how long he or she will live. Each person is not a statistic. If you are normal weight, and reasonably fit, you’ll enjoy life and all its pleasures, however long you live.

      • JonBW

        Lifestyle is a matter of choice; statistically, people who live healthy lifestyles live longer but have greater healthcare needs overall because of the age-related illnesses they experience during the last few years of their lives.

        • Hi Jon. You are of course right about longevity, and yet I see lots of people not exerting themselves to be healthy who live well into their 80s and 90s. They do nothing more than walk about, and even if they swim, they’re not well-muscled or athletic. My grandparents both have serious conditions — Gma has had long-term type 2 diabetes and hypertension, among other things; Gdad has struggled with a motor-neuron disease for many years. They both are big in the belly. But she will be 88 tomorrow, and he will soon turn 90. The point is that I’m not eating and exerting as I do so that I can live to be their age or even older: I probably have the genetic health and wherewithal to attain that already (barring accidents). The point is rather that I don’t want to struggle with the so-called ‘diseases of Western Civilization’ even as I attain that old age.

          Not only that, but I and others like me have what I think of as a ‘prudential vanity’: I want to be cute and stay cute because that wins friends and influences people (like Miss Brahms declaring that if a fire broke out in the store, she would be the first to be rescued). Health and good looks tend to go together, for the obvious reason that signals of health are interpreted as beauty. Note that I’m not talking about se xual attractiveness: that’s irrelevant. But I’ve seen ill health and especially fatness destroy people’s looks — quite good-looking people, at the outset — and that is so sad because the fall from health and grace didn’t have to happen.

          • Violin Sonata.

            Hello sorry for butting in.
            You’re both quite right, to a point. My sister ( unlike me) as always had a healthy lifestyle, good food and only drinks alcohol at weekends ( I think) and is quite slim.
            She’s recently found out she’s a issue with a organ and will
            need to take medication for always.
            Sometimes things just happen, regardless of what you do or don’t do. Everything in moderation as they say.

          • Hi: no such thing as butting in! It’s a free-for-all, so no one can be rudely interrupted : )

            The problem with moderation is deciding what ‘moderate’ is. Like: ‘a balanced meal’: to some people that might mean having all the macronutrients represented on your plate (protein, carbohydrate, fat). But balancing that way might result in a too-high carb gram count, or it might mean adding cheese (I’m thinking of my vegetarian ravioli lunch), which might provide protein but also adds a whole lot of calories. Maybe it’s better not to be so ‘balanced’ (my lunch wasn’t).

            The other thing is that moderation is not always a good thing: ‘moderation in moderation’, I would say. Merely moderate levels of democracy wouldn’t suit me as I’m immoderately fond of freedom. I’m an immoderate reader of books. Some would say that I’m an immoderate blogger, and they might be right, but then I find them immoderately stimulating and I’ve been known to laugh immoderately at blog exchanges, which is very good for my lungs, heart, and mental health. I shall now end here before my reply becomes immoderately long :^0

          • Violin Sonata.

            What about human genetics, is our life mapped out for us at the moment of conception dependant on the health of our parents and therefore nothing can change a persons destiny regardless of what you do, eat or drink to stay healthy.
            Or can we change that course dependant upon what kind of life we live, a positive attitude , diet etc.

          • Oh yes, I’m sure it’s a mix of both.

          • AnneTeak

            Does that include the people who were living next to Chernobyl?

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            I have to say that writing skills get to first base with me. Humour’s good too, but so many two-dimensional humourless rubes fail to grasp the obvious intent.

        • davidshort10

          ‘Lifestyle’ is a matter of choice for a very small percentage of the human race. And my point is an individual is an individual. We all know healthy people who have suddenly died and fat smokers who carry on and on and on. My main point is that you live a better life (‘lifestyle’) when you are of the weight nature intended. You can still enjoy the occasional fag, the odd ice cream or two, the large brandies after dinner, the cheeseburger, and so on, without becoming a lard bucket, wheezing you way through life, sweating, looked at with horror as you lumber down an aircraft (Oh God, don’t let it be her in the seat next to me!), the choice of sweatpants as your daily garb, not being able to play with your kids or grandkids, the general disgust people feel for you, and so on. It is a very recent phenomenon. Burchill can get away with it. She probably hasn’t got all that much money. Her bestseller was 30 years ago, but she can vegetate and live on cheap choccie and not have to face the consequences for a while.

          • Violin Sonata.

            Maybe Julie Burchil, just has good genes.

          • davidshort10

            Because she bangs on about her weight and chocolate buying in just about every article she writes, which admittedly is not that many nowadays, I suspect she has some self-loathing.

          • Julie Burchill Raven

            I’ll actually PAY! Bet you look like, mmm, MARK RONSON…

          • davidshort10

            She’s probably got lots of pairs but can’t even dream of fitting into them ever again.

          • Julie Burchill Raven

            I CRAVE AN IMAGE OF YOU!

          • Perhaps he’s short? And has ten of something. Let’s hope it’s a bit more than 10 quid. Or maybe he’s short 10 quid. Either way, it doesn’t sound promising.

          • JonBW

            I agree with quite a lot of that; however, the fact remains that ‘healthy lifestyles’ prolong life but often add years in which quality of life is massively diminished. If we promote them, we have a moral obligation to care properly for the greater numbers of elderly people with disabling conditions that will live amongst us as a consequence.

            And your views are based on a particular aesthetic view: personally I’d rather sit next to the obese individual than the evangelical health fanatic droning on about their exercise regime and complaining about smokers.

            Perhaps we should all just recognise that we make different choices and live and let live.

          • davidshort10

            I don’t understand why people don’t get it. It is not the obese vs the health fanatic, it’s about the fact that until recently almost all of us were ‘normal’ sized. We would sit next to a normal-sized person, which so far is still the case on most flights I take and I travel a lot but I expect it’s different on budget and holiday charters. Average sized people will also have life spans that fit the normal distribution curve. Some will pop off in their 50s, more in their 60s, most in their 70s with a minority going into the 80s and 90s. And not all of the last lot will suffer dementia or strokes. Kingsley Amis lived a long enough life and the last time I saw him he was happily knocking them back with old friend survivors such as Peter Quennell and Lord Kirkpatrick (?) who was his wife’s second husband. He was in the pub up the road from the house he shared with his lordship and his wife in Primrose Hill. Not a bad ending at all.

          • JonBW

            The evidence shows that the likelihood of developing dementia and some other age-related conditions increases as you get older. So if you live into your late 80s or 90s the chances of being affected by them increases dramatically. People who are a ‘healthy’ weight and don’t smoke tend to live longer and will thus over their lifetime, be more likely to develop these conditions.

            That’s why the incidence of these conditions is increasing and why the NHS is overstretched.

            Of course there will always be exceptions, and anyone might be struck by lightning or hit by a bus, but that is the statistical reality.

          • I think you’ll find that the dementia patients have a lifetime of extremely high processed-food, high-sugar and high refined-carbohydrate intake. This is why lessening carbs is so important for all of us, whatever our age right now.

          • JonBW

            Actually the evidence is that if you exclude all other factors (diet, genetics, smoking, activity) the risk of dementia increases purely as a result of ageing.

            And the latest research suggested that obese people were less likely to contract dementia over a lifetime.

          • But that’s like saying, ‘if you excuse actual causes, what you are left with is the timeframe in which those causes develop’. So much is blamed on ‘ageing’, only because very young people haven’t been abusing their own systems for years (knowingly or not) and haven’t had time for it to catch up with them!

          • JonBW

            Except that ‘ageing’ is an actual cause of ill health… if it wasn’t we could realistically hope to live forever.

          • Yes, but the number of years lived, all by themselves, are much less important than people tend to think. A lot of people use their numeric age as an excuse, like the person that says her knees are bad and after all she’s 80: um, her knees were bad when I knew her at 60, and they’d been bad for a good 20 years before that (combination of an injury, sticklike quadriceps, an unathletic disposition, and a refusal to do the minor work to build leg-strength). There are other examples that come to mind, but that will do. What I see is people not so much ageing as allowing themselves to age — prematurely. Saying for instance that at 56 ‘I’m closer to 60 than 50’ is asking for permission to give up, now.

          • JonBW

            Unfortunately the number of years lived do, nevertheless, have an impact on health independntly of any other controllable factor.

            If you take away all the attitudinal and behavioural factors you cite (which are quite reasonable) you are still left with that fact.

          • Yet there are some people that never get heart disease, never have diabetes in any form, or IBS, hypertension, chronic allergies, osteoporosis, arthritis, serious hormonal imbalances, cancer, memory loss, or even such relatively minor complaints as conjunctivitis. They live a long time in their prime. Others seem to lose their prime quickly and descend into the diseases just mentioned — and it’s no accident that one thing is very often found with another, in a complex of predictable health problems that are rarely found in non-Western peoples. I can’t do anything about losing pigment in my hair: that’s the build-up of natural hydrogen peroxide working there, over decades of living. But other things are very much tied to diet and behaviour and everything I’ve read has educated me on this score.

          • davidshort10

            All those millions of very old dementia sufferers over stretching the NHS which they have paid for all their working lives. How wonderful it is that grossly obese young and middle-aged people with diabetes, stuffed to the gills with drugs, and getting about on ‘free’ motorised wheelchairs while not working and not paying tax or NI are not a burden on the public purse.

          • JonBW

            I quite agree that people with dementia deserve much better care and treatment; personally, I am happy to pay more tax if that’s what it takes.

            However, there is very clear evidence from research that people who live ‘unhealthy lifestyles’ cost the state less in health treatment over a lifetime than those who live healthily (because they tend to get ill more quickly and have conditions that cost less to treat). That’s not a comment on the morality of the issue, but simply something we have to consider when making policy.

            The extent to which they contribute (or not) through taxation is a different question.

          • davidshort10

            You keep going on about ‘research’ that backs up your opinion but do not quote it. Do fatties as a whole cost more in their lifetime to the NHS than the total of very old people with dementia, and surely any accounting of this would include how much they contributed to the system in the first place. Following you argument, the government should be encouraging people to eat six big macs for breakfast so they do not become a burden on the state in later life.

          • JonBW

            The evidence for healthcare costs is here:
            http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050029

            Obviously the question of how much different groups contribute is a different one entirely: presumably you’d have to account for healthy people who don’t pay tax.

            My argument though is simple: the idea that we can save the NHS by promoting ‘healthy lifestyles’ because they reduce healthcare need is not supported by evidence… and its prevalence is dangerous.

          • davidshort10

            Well, some of us think the question is related but it doesn’t matter too much when we have a no-blame, no extra contribution, free at the point of entry. Your ‘evidence’ is not complete. Common sense in any event tells us that maintaining a normal weight contributes to well-being and good health throughout life. Now, when people who are relatively young are obese they are a burden on the health service when formerly people of that age were not.

          • JonBW

            That’s quite true (and I don’t disagree with your point about ‘contribution’).

            However, common sense also tells us that an individual who lives the healthiest lifestyle possible will, eventually, suffer some kind of illness. And the evidence is that the illness they suffer will cost more to treat than the illnesses suffered by people who don’t live healthy lifestyles. That’s why lifetime healthcare costs are highest for people who are non-smokers and not obese.

            My view is that people should be allowed to live the way that they choose, but expected to contribute through work and taxation; my fear is that by assuming that promoting healthy lifestyles will reduce the costs of the NHS we will fail to provide for a ‘healthier’ (and therefore ageing) population.

          • Julie Burchill Raven

            PHOTO PLEASE!

          • Guest

            Excuse me for butting in here, but the argument about the health costs on the economy is getting really thin when one considers how much extra VAT they pay on food – and, I might add, on the useless diet drinks, diet classes and fast food outlets?

          • Eurocentric

            The economic argument is getting pretty thin when you consider how much extra VAT is paid on all the extra fast food, plus the useless diet drinks. In all fairness I’ve lost more slim friends to cancer than bigger friends to heart attacks. Cancer costs a LOT of money to treat.

          • Julie Burchill Raven

            SHOW US A PHOTO!

          • Anthony Trollope died suddenly from a stroke while laughing his head off. Sounds good to me. I watched my f-in-law die after a difficult but mercifully short case of ALS (formerly known as a long-dead famous American baseball player’s disease), and I mean I saw him take his last breath (after a wince of pain). He couldn’t be revived though several burly firemen went through the motions (his heart stirred bec. of the drug they injected him with; but I knew his brain was gone). All these people that want to live to 100 or more: what are they hoping to die of?

          • davidshort10

            And it is not a ‘particular aesthetic view’; it’s about sitting next to a fat bugger taking up your personal space. I don’t have to listen to a health fanatic but I do have to put up with a gut in my elbow.

          • JonBW

            I’ve given up flying and feel much better for it….

  • UncleTits

    Oh no! Not another fatty having a go at fit and healthy people in order to rationalise being fat! Enjoy the diabetes etc, Julie, but the quality of whatever life we have is important for some of us. That includes feeling great after exercise and, for many of us, it also includes a sherbit or two at the weekend. They are not mutually exclusive activities. Aristotle’s golden mean never gets old – unlike us.

    • davidshort10

      And her knees will give in sooner or later. She’ll find that out on the odd occasion she leaves the couch or her desk to stock up on chocolate.

      • MrLouKnee

        Theres an obesity crisis in this country and women like Julie Burchill are responsible for it. Fat women like her appear on the TV, in glossy magazines and in the newspapers and young vulnerable teenage girls see her and think its normal, acceptable and even desirable to be obese which pressures them into eating more.

        Fatties like Burchall need to understand its not normal to be fat. There should be a ban on obese women like Burchill appearing in the media. Fat women like her cost the NHS billions every year

  • tolpuddle1

    Never “diet” – that’s beating yourself up, behaving like a sergeant major to yourself, placing yourself under a bootcamp-regime.

    Just eat sensibly.

  • davidshort10

    I just hope it’s not Julie Burchill next to me on the plane when she next goes on one of her boozy holidays. (And would a man have said that 30 years ago when she was slim and hot?)

    • Julie Burchill Raven

      Mmm, show us a photo of yourself, HOTTIE! Don’t be shy! And it’s unlikely, unless you fly Club?

  • Robert

    Routine exercise, it’s not just about living longer, it’s feeling better while you’re breathing. It’s about getting around easier without the pain and the wobbling. Clearly another overweight peep wanting to justify it while trashing those that take care of their bodies. See how sitting on your big duff, on the couch, works for ya. Good luck with that.

    • AnneTeak

      All the runners, joggers and sportspeople who I know got either dodgy hearts or painful knees when they got to around 50. So they are not exactiy feeling much better than anyone else.

      I knew two senior men who decided to improve their health with exercise and go by office stairs – instead of using the lift.

      One died on the stairs, the other had a heart attack and only just survived.

      It’s a silly comparison.. Comparing type 2 diabetes, brought on by eating too many doughnuts, with sport-induced bad knees.( Around a third of type 2’ers are not badly overweight)

      As for travelling in an aircraft, I just hope I don’t get seated between a crying baby and a very self-centred stupid person – who likes taking a lot. As long as I can read a book in peace I don’t care about anyone’s shape.

      Whatever your lifestyle, you are bound to end up getting something.

      …And it’s normally an illness present in the family.

      • Mm, I wouldn’t recommend running/jogging for that reason — sprinting is natural for the human being; marathons are not (as evidenced by the fact that the first such runner in ancient Marathon was also their first casualty). But just about everything else one can do will result in better joint, bone, and muscle health, not worse.

        • Mr B J Mann

          Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
          I read somewhere that prehistoric man used to chase his prey till it dropped from exhaustion: apparently we can run for longer than just about any animal.

          • I’d be very skeptical about any claims about prehistoric man, myself. A lot of tosh is spoken. As I said, we are in general designed best for walking, with a secondary capacity for a sprint. Marathons were never in our interest food-wise and I always think marathoners look stringy and unhealthy rather than ideal. Also, we are not prehistoric men, and things (including our genes and physical capacities) have changed since then. :^0

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Sounds as though there was a level of cooperation. Prehistoric men?

  • ajcb

    My uncle used an antique expression to describe an overweight relative: he said, with sympathy, mind you, that her problem was one of self-respect. I think that is the crux of it, rather than health or longevity. When I lived in France and people called me “Madame [Surname],” I did actually sit up straighter and try to play the role properly, with more self-control, personal tidiness, more awareness of how I was perceived, more respect for those in my surroundings and the way in which we all raise the bar together (and the way the indecorousness/indiscipline of fat lets us down collectively).

    Somehow starting with the youth rebellion of the 1960s, Brits and Americans succumbed fully and fatally to a kind of militant slobbishness, morphing eventually into unisex baggy toddler clothes and behaviour, leavened only by occasions of getting dressed up (as tarts, unfortunately, indistinguishable from prostitutes, I am speaking literally now: go to the West End and try to identify a prostitute who is not in fact an ordinary girl “dressed up.” Good luck.). Hence our nostalgia for “Mad Men” ways of dressing and deportment for grownups, or for James Bond, when his sort of urbane style is gone forever (though we managed to salvage his sort of casual misogyny, lucky us). It is not this way everywhere. France I mentioned; Japan is another place where the arrogance of the self-righteously overweight and slovenly is not noticeable, much less overwhelming, as it is here in the UK.

  • MacGuffin

    Oh, all this nonsense about slim people getting dementia! Well, so what? Better to be attractive while young and at least have something nice to be confused about when senile, instead of being fat and looking back on a sexless, joyless existence with pitiless clarity.

  • James

    I grew up with a fitness freak in my class at school who trained every day as well as ate only healthy food – never smoking or drinking alcohol. In stark contrast, I am still alive at 43 despite smoking and drinking during my life and never compromising on an English breakfast.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Here in Japan (stop me if you’ve heard this), slim women are the norm, fat ones the exception. Notice that I omitted the word “young”. So if you like um fat, ugly, opinionated with an “all men are rapists” attitude, stay right where you are guys. If not, ship yourselves somewhere east of Suez. You’ll think you’ve relocated to paradise side-stepping that distasteful process of dying. So say to yourself, “I may not be God’s gift to women, but sure as Hell I deserve more user friendly home comforts providers”.
    And they call me a masochist.
    Jack, Japan Alps

    • That’s very nice, Jack, but I’ll remind you that nice girls live west of Suez, too. : )

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        You know, you might be well advised to take on board my suggestion in reverse. The “English lady” image still has some life on it, and in the right environment a Brit chick could crack a far better deal in the spouse acquisition stakes than she could in UK. Because there have to be moments when you feel that British men are the worst option for British women. And obviously the reverse applies. Presupposing obviously that you reside in YUCK.
        And that’s best advice you’re likely to get all week, month …
        Jack, Japan Alps

        • I’m sure that for some it is good advice. In my case, the livin’ is easy in the American South. Good men are to be found in most places (not all): the trouble is that by a certain age, they’re usually married.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Got to catch um young… After a messy divorce it’s a case of once bitten …

        • What on earth is “YUCK”, or are you just a Japanese pretending to write and speak like a Yank?!

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    McDonald’s and the other fast food outfits: Destroying the health of the nation. This and every other nation.

    • Nonsense: have you actually been to a McDonald’s in the past decade? There are loads of salad choices; you can choose to use the add-on seasonings or not; you can eat the burgers with the bun or not; and the unnatural fat they cook their fries with was forced on them by the health lobby, when previously they had used tallow, which is much healthier.

      Don’t blame obesity on restaurants: blame it on the so-called nutrition experts that have led us astray for so long.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        There you go again, making assumptions about someone you know nothing about. Well, ignorance is Brit. The McDonald’s plague is worldwide.
        When on the third world Asia backpacker trail, Malaysian food is so bad you wouldn’t give it to your neighbour’s cat (except perhaps in Chinese-run Penang), so you are tempted to give McDonald’s a second look. An opportunity to stock up on the free salt, pepper, sugar, power milk, tomato ketchup … plus the free WiFi to book the next leg of the journey. So you feel obliged to buy at least a drink. But everything on the menu is so sweet.
        “Don’t blame obesity on restaurants: blame it on the so-called nutrition experts that have led us astray for so long.”
        There are some revealing clips on YouTube proving that outfits like McD add an ingredient that turns off the “I’ve had enough” gene. Thus encouraging the mug punters to “pig out”.
        So not as clear cut as you might suppose. But hey, thanks for the second bite of the apple pie opportunity.
        Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

        • What is the ‘special ingredient’ then? Sounds like paranoia to me.
          And I didn’t assume anything. You posited; I asked. That’s OK.
          I don’t eat at McDonald’s. If I travel long distances, I eat elsewhere or pack a lunch. But I do know that fast food is not what it was, and in some ways that makes it worse than it was, and in some ways better.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            I’m talking of some three month on the road in up-country third world Asia. Or is that a little out of your territory?

          • Something Less Controversial

            I would like to jump in here and ask if you have ever tried their Caramel Frappes ? They are Divine. Don’t be so quick to Judge McDs.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Most admit that McD’s Caramel Frappes has to date eluded me. The big question is the sugar content? 131 Mac outlets to close in Japan; good huh!
            Here’s one for you, banana flavoured vanilla yogurt. Then there’s tako yaki. Dead easy to make at home if you can find the mould.
            Pig out, guys.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Try “Supersize me” to get to first base but there’s other relevant material out there. Understand that I have no interest convincing those who have no interest in being convinced. You need to rise above hostile debate. It’s all about a search for enlightenment.

          • I don’t need to do anything, as I’m above it already.

        • “Backpackers” like you should get your smelly poor backside OUT of the Spectator site. You are TOO POOR to entitle an opinion here!

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