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Today’s programme was pre-advertised as:

Should there be a ‘fat tax’ on sugary drinks and fast food?

This week the government announced a new healthy food school meal initiative across England. This is part of the solution to tackle the growing obesity issue facing the UK. A quarter of British adults are now thought to be obese. The NHS spends around £5billion a year on treating conditions linked to obese patients. Prof Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, told a committee of MPs that “we may need to introduce a sugar tax”.

Would you support a new tax? Should we pay more for unhealthy foods? Or, would this be a case of a nanny state telling us what we should eat?

You can have your say by voting on the question now online or live via SMS during Sunday’s programme: Should there be a ‘fat tax’ on sugary drinks and fast food?

I sent a tweet several days ago – and I think Graham’s were too. As I continue to work with Beyond Chocolate, and think about all the reasons that we eat other than because we’re hungry, an interesting watch. In many ways a ‘fat tax’ doesn’t seem to make much sense, but if that money encouraged food industries to use ‘proper ingredients’ rather than cheap ingredients such as palm oil it might make some sense… we can live in hope – my tweet was slightly ironic I think!

Thanks Vicky for picking up the emotional eating line – was worried amongst the group emphasising education, which seems straightforward, but research has shown that people’s ideas of what is ‘healthy’ change over time, or people return to ‘calories in = calories out’ and I’m not sure it’s that simple either… bits to chew over!

[BOOK REVIEW] Am I Beautiful by @ChineMbubaegbu (with @beyondchoc)

am-i-beautiful-post-cat-6I ordered this book as soon as I knew it was in the offing .. and then was even more chuffed to win a copy through the following tweet:

‘Beauty is … learning to love ourselves as God made us … and then turning that love out to our neighbours!’ @drbexl

So, what follows is potentially rather vulnerable (as is Chine’s book) – for some reason, it’s easier to share about depression (that invisible illness), than it is about feelings about my body (which is clearly visible!). I was going to review the book anyway, but hear that those who benefit from @beyondchoc are often too embarrassed to share their stories, so here’s part of mine…

I’ve never been skinny (in the way the world would like us to be), but after joining the gym at 18,  my brain capacity improved no-end, with the side-benefit of being pretty fit, although I joined Slimming World in 2006… which I think mucked up my brain pretty thoroughly. In 2008, on a trip around Europe I got a chest infection, piled on the weight, and never quite found a way to lose it. At the end of 2009, tired of beating myself up (and never really becoming a ‘dieter, aside from that spell with Slimming World) I went to a session with the Beyond Chocolate sisters, and then to their roadshow the other weekend, sharing how they have sought to free themselves from the diet/body obsessed mentality of our culture, learn to accept that we come in a range of sizes and shapes, and that our bodies, if not buffeted by society’s strictures about “should”, “must” and “will-power”, and the odd things that we eat because diet companies say that they are good for them… will settle into where it was designed to be. Since going in 2009, I stopped piling on weight, though I’ve not shrunk … but one step at a time…. Watching a range of women of all shapes and sizes, writing down things that they say to themselves, and then saying that publicly to the person next to them starting with “You” was pretty powerful… we would never dream of saying such things to other people!

So, with that, and with my time with Hannah Jean, and an assorted collection of inspiration online, I sat down to read this book, particularly interested in the Christian perspective on this topic, and finished it in one sitting. A brief extract:

When we look in the mirror, as many as 8 out of 10 of us are not happy with the reflection peering back at us – and more than half of us will be seeing something that is not a true reflection of what we look like. Eve was really lucky in the Garden of Eden as she had no one to compare herself to. We, as twenty-first century women, are not so lucky. The advertising, media and entertainment industries bombard us with images of an ideal towards which we strive as the ideal moves further and further away from us and becomes less and less achievable. As a result, many of us are living with this constant feeling that we have failed; that we are inadequate and undesirable. This can affect not just what we see in the mirror, but how we relate to the outside world.”

I’d like to read it again more slowly, but a few thoughts:

  • We are all (men, women and children) made in the image of God. (Have you seen the wonderful UGLY Models Agency?)
  • We need to be honest about our struggles, and build each other up (not beat each other up with ‘diet tips’).
  • Our bodies, and our feelings about them, should not stop us from fulfilling our God-given potential in this world… nor from standing-tall and confident!
  • Why are we spending all that energy worrying about ourselves/our looks when we could be using that energy becoming ‘world-changers’.
  • The difficulty of looking at ourselves naked in the mirror… without the covering of clothes (as did Adam & Eve), and the story of Kjerstin Gruys who took 12 months without a mirror (love these vintage pin-ups on her blog).
  • Some are prepared to wait for eternity to feel beautiful, but the Kingdom of God starts now, so seek a true picture of ourselves, and be satisfied with it now..
  • How much do we spend on hair and beauty products … and would we bother if no one could see us?
  • “… just because I don’t feel beautiful, it doesn’t mean that I am not beautiful. Feelings have never been given the task of seeking truth.”
  • We cry over the shape of our bodies, we go to extreme lengths to get them to a shape that conforms to our own perceptions of ‘beauty’ which are so strong in our culture…
  • The world tells us that we should constantly be dissatisfied with our image – Romans 12: 2 says otherwise.
  • We have been conditioned to believe that external beauty = lovableness … so if we see images of Jesus, they are always ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ type images … but people turned their faces from him… was any of this to do with a lack of physical beauty?
  • Wow, the pain that Chine went through in getting corn-rows of relaxants into her hair … to conform to an afro-carribean standard of beauty.
  • Food is never just about ‘eating’, it’s either under or over eating .. especially when food forms the basis of so much of culture.
  • The dangers of living in a comparison culture – we could be happy with what we have – but we see what someone else has and it seems better, more attractive than ours/us.
  • The single life, feeling the need to ‘be beautiful’ – despite Christian culture saying its about the beauty within, see few Christian men praying for a ‘Plain Wife’…
  • The moment of putting up a new Facebook photo, and waiting for people to ‘Like’ it… a form of affirmation.
  • What can we do to change things for the generations to come – how do we ensure that they don’t suffer the same mental traumas that we have…

The only thing I’d really have loved to have seen changed in the book was where at the beginning/end of each chapter there’s an image of a conventionally beautiful woman – of the kind we see in health & fitness magazines … I would love to have seen a collection of different women there! An inspiring read for many women (and men) who are caught up in our culture’s obsession with ‘the body’ and dieting… and yes, let’s talk about it…

And a thought from my own book (coming February 2014):

In 2010, a Home Office report warned that the “drip-drip” exposure to sexual imagery – including pornography, “lads’ mags” and sexual imagery in advertising – was distorting young people’s perceptions of themselves. They reported it was “encouraging boys to become fixated on being macho and dominant, and girls to present themselves as sexually available and permissive.”[i] Too much emphasis in porn on ‘the perfect body’ is leaving young people unhappy when their own bodies don’t match up.[ii]

[i] ‘Should children be taught that porn is not real?’, Vanessa Barford & Nomia Iqbal, BBC News Magazine,, 24/10/12

[ii] ‘Internet addiction: Cybersex and pornography’,

As Chine says, she’s not got this all sorted either … but we don’t need to be sorted to share each other’s journeys. And yes, I still go to the gym, but I tend to go to classes that I enjoy and swim a lot!

The big fat body shape debate…


Is fat still a feminist issue? As obesity rates soar while plus-size is celebrated, one writer says we need to destigmatise skinny, while another argues it’s healthy to show women in all their splendour

Read the full article in the Evening Standard, ahead of Plus Size fashion fair.

And you know what I agree with both writers … it’s not a black & white issue … I don’t feel so healthy right now, but also I have other things to deal with first… but I have at least found a better range of clothes to wear thanks to Hannah!

Models of Every Shape & Size

Got a real interest in body image stuff, etc. and remembered seeing some stuff about this in the press, but here’s it’s academic credentials in Times Higher Education:

While some younger Chinese women responded favourably to “idealised Western models”, North American women felt frustrated or insulted by magazines using models whose appearance was “not realistic and not attainable”.

They were more likely to want to buy the clothes worn by a model who “mirrors their size, their age and their race”, the research found.

Dr Barry said it was now up to the industry to take note of “the case for diversity in fashion”.

Read full story, and find out about Ben Barry on Wikipedia, or visit his website.

“Big Fat Liars”

What do you think of this story in the Evening Standard this evening?

We all tell the odd lie. I maintain, for example, that I have no idea how the teapot in my kitchen lost its handle. And when I missed my yoga class last week it was – of course – because I was feeling unwell.

Since we’re taking confession, hands up if you’ve ever told this one: “I deserve this large slice of chocolate cake because I went for a run yesterday.” How about: “I never eat junk food. I have a very balanced diet”? Ooh, you big fat liar!
The truth is, according to a recent poll, that women tell almost 500 lies every year about what they eat, with the top fib being, “It was only a small portion.”

Meanwhile, the overweight among us are either oblivious or won’t admit to being fat. Despite an obesity rate among UK adults of 24 per cent, only six per cent of men and women identify themselves as obese.

“There is a great deal of denial – unwitting and deliberate – surrounding obesity and food reporting,” says Professor David Haslam of the National Obesity Forum. “Part of the problem is that adults and children compare themselves with their peers who are fat, so they don’t see anything out of the ordinary.”

Random Wanderings Around the Net…

Barbara Sher

My random wanderings around the web tonight started with an email from Barbara Sher… I picked up her “What do I do if I want to do everything?” before I went travelling, and it was a great revelation (I need to do the activities, although I read the book cover to cover!)… scanners are not diletantes, but exceptionally intelligent with a lively sense of curiosity! Listen to Barbara Sher (geniuspress) talking about ideas she’s been working with for over 30 years (or follow her on Twitter:

Scanner Links

John Williams, aka “The Creative Maverick” (first came across in careershifters… yes, this man is a true scanner!) is the obvious man to follow. Inspired after a retreat with Barbara Sher, he set up Scanner Central in London (no, I’ve not made it there either). For the April event we’ve apparently just missed Beyond Chocolate (which I remember seeing on the TV at some point, if it’s been around for a while).

Other Links

  • Checked out “Gifted Adults” on Google, see also here, after Sher indicates that many scanners are also gifted adults… I fit quite a lot of the bulleted list, but I’m definitely no introvert! Is that a form of cyberchondria?.
  • Yesterday I found myself on Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness pages
  • In December I went on a course with Chantal Cooke, Nick Williams, Niki Hignett
  • Tonight I downloaded ‘The Imposter Syndrome‘ article…, I can remember talking about this with one of my PhD supervisors (Professor Joyce Goodman) – it’s very common amongst female academics, apparently! (Also on “Changing Course” with Barbara Sher and Barbara Winter… who works with Nick Williams!)
  • Checked out “Anybody“, which looks to challenge the links between culture and body image.
  • Rechecked Serenergise, where I gained my ICF-Accredited coaching certification.
  • Rechecked PALS, which I need to see if I can unzip now I have a laptop that works… David Lett and John Evans, who have a vision to get more life-coaching style skills into schools.
  • Checked out “The School of Life“, where you’re being asked to rebel against APPLYING for jobs, and to create your own job spec, and see if employers pick up on it. Well, why not?
  • Read an article on Eric Gill, recommended by @tonywatkins on Twitter…. for whom I’m supposed to be writing an article tonight, instead of which I’m surfing. I’ll get there!
  • This morning I read C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” – thought-provoking stuff (see p.46, where Screwtape encourages Wormwood to let the humans think that ‘religious’ is just another phase to go through…)