John Walsh: You're not fat. You just need to put on some height

Notebook

Share

On my last surgery visit, my GP was in a cautious mood. "Your cholesterol is up," he said, peering at a printout, "and your blood pressure, too. Let's see what a change of lifestyle will do over three months."

"What do you mean, lifestyle?" I didn't like the sound of this.

"Oh, you know," he said guardedly. "Diet. Abstinence. Exercise."

"Are you suggesting, Doctor," I asked coldly, "that I'm too fat?"

"Not at all," he said. "I just think you might like to assess your ingestion of certain foodstuffs, with a view to weight loss."

"You mean I'm too fat?"

"No, though you might wish to monitor your patterns of consumption, of both liquids and solids..."

"You mean I'm..."

Only now do I see what he was up to. He'd clearly got wind of a new report from an all-party Parliamentary group called Reflections on Body Image, and its main Reflection is that people shouldn't be allowed to call other people "fat". The group wants to discuss amending the Equalities Act to put "appearance-based discrimination" on the same footing as racism, ageism, sexism and prejudice over disability or sexual orientation. If they do, it'll become a "hate crime" to draw attention to a person's size or weight – even if it's a doctor telling a patient (e.g. me) he ought to lose a few pounds.

We don't, by and large, go around calling fat people "Fatso" or "Lardarse" or "Gutbucket" even if their silhouette is less than Greek. We left such childish insults behind in the playground, or in previous centuries (when Beau Brummell, the regency swell, fell out with the Prince Regent, he cut him in public by asking an acquaintance, "Alvanley, who's your fat friend?" The Prince never spoke to him again.) We know schoolchildren are sensitive about personal remarks – as David Starkey found to his cost when, on the TV documentary Jamie's Dream School, he called a kid "fat" and incurred the wrath of the whole class. We are sensitive about each other's peculiar bodies. We'd probably welcome some discrimination. But to call any reference to someone's avoirdupois a hate crime is nonsensical.

It will ensure that, when considering applicants for future jobs, employers won't be able to ask important questions: "Do you think your weight might be a problem when pursuing villains down the high street?" or "Do you think you ought to lose half a stone before taking on the crushingly rude Year 8s?" or "Will your body be perfectly safe on a construction site involving ladders and scaffolding?"

My father, a GP, favoured a direct approach. He told people they were "in danger of falling into obesity". Most patients heeded his words and resolved to change. One didn't – an Irish roofer called Pat, who refused to accept he was morbidly huge, until the day my father, adjusting his spectacles, gazed at a Height/Ideal Weight graph on the wall. "According to this, Pat," he said, "you should be eight feet 11 inches. Do you think you could manage that?" It did the trick.

Heavy mob brought to book

I don't know how high Brent Council's reputation used to be, but after Tuesday's 2am raid on Kensal Rise library – 15 intrepid security guards and 12 brave policemen snuck in like thieves and removed books, photographs and memorial plaques – it can't get lower.

The invaders were trying to evade the wrath of local residents, who'd proved hard to argue with and were negotiating with the council to run the library themselves – but you know what? The council got fed up with all the chat, the bourgeois rabbiting, the liberal bellyaching, and decided to get hired muscle in to sort it.

What a loutish response from people supposedly directing the local community. Wouldn't they be better off working as bailiffs?

j.walsh@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible