Since the New Year started our televisions have been showing us all kinds of fat families, fat people, big fat dieting, celebrity diets for fat people… And of course Lorraine Kelly’s TV show on the Biography Channel working to help a group of four people labelled by the tabloids as ‘Britains Fattest Family’ – The Chawners. I have managed to avoid all but the latter…
The youngest daughter of the Chawners, Emma, famously auditioned in the X-Factor and from there onwards, the family have written about, hurled abuse at, had their thousands of pounds of benefits scrutinised and been complained at and chastised by many sectors of the public and by the tabloid media.
When watching this show, I never know whether to laugh or cry to be honest. The mother of the family, Audrey, was asked by the nutritionist to name something she ate that she considered healthy… When she replied ‘trifle’ I nearly wet my pants with laughter and the nutritionist looked like he wanted to do the same.
Ok, so I get a bit incensed when I see their reluctance to accept and embrace the very expensive help they are being offered and I can’t help thinking they are setting themselves up for more abuse with their lazy, lethargic and infuriating behaviour in this TV show… But should we expect anything else?
In his time, he said some pretty cool things did Aristotle, including this “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” And boy when you have years of bad habits, even the most accomplished of experts can struggle to rustle people out of them!
It is one of the first lessons that any dancer learns: if you want to go up, you have to go down. If you want to soar with the greatest of ease, first you must bend your knees.
It is a lesson rich with implications. For example, a movement a dancer does might seem to be leading in the opposite direction of where they want to go… I want to go up! It might seem to delay gratification. It might even seem to pose an obstacle to what you desire. The reverse is true: going down is the movement that subsequently enables a dancer to go up.
Further, since it is impossible to stay up forever, going down is also the movement that enables a dancer to land without falling. It is her ability to complete the arc of a jump that gives that jump its dynamism and punch.
This logic characterises so many natural processes and is a powerful metaphor for what I am writing about today. It is not just a question of balance, but of a rhythmic oscillation that involves moving in two opposing directions in order to move at all. We must exhale to inhale, sleep to wake, eat to run, and so on.
It is a logic that shows how the mind needs to work with the body.
So when I watch Audrey Chawner barely being able to crawl up her stairs at home, yes, she has to crawl and cannot walk up them…. it made me think; she needs movement practices that encourage her to bend her knees.
In reality and metaphorically.
The family are being frog marched into fitness centres and laughed at for barely being able to do any exercise other than walk from chair to chair in tandem… Then sat alongside nutritionists for their ignorance to be highlighted (the mother refused to acknowledge that cheese had any fat in it!)… Then they are filmed lazily slumped in front of the television planning the next 28 hours of viewing and soap opera consumption!
Not once has someone considered that the mindset needs to be worked on… Motivation needs to be worked on, habits need to be broken, new behaviours created… They need to learn how to bend the knees of their minds too!!!
We take it as a sign of advancement that, in the middle of a cold winter night, we can be wide awake, surfing the net on our iPhones in a warm, well lit room, drinking coffee and eating bananas….
Yet our insulation has often become isolation. Living in contemporary times, we hardly even connect with our physiological selves and hardly ever learn to bend our knees first, in order to then climb higher…
To balance any upward upward flight, then, we need to engage in practices that draw our attention back down into our bodies, out through our senses and also in through our minds… Our minds need to be open, alert and actually be used on a regular… Those cogs need to get whirring!
The Chawner family are sure to be pleasing the TV company, further exasperating their viewers, but I feel for them. They know no better and need to learn more than just some conventional rules. They need to be taught how to use their brains in my opinion… they quite clearly are not using them at all right now and none of them are being encouraged to discover it… Their brain and mindset are the key to their change in my opinion….
Thanks for a great article Adam, I really enjoyed reading this. XX
Thanks Helen – good hearing from you 🙂
Very interesting article Adam, thanks.
I don’t have Sky so have not seen the programme, although have heard about it. As someone who has in the past been far far larger than I wanted to be, I really do feel for them, with a big dollop of frustration. I would have loved the help they are getting! I agree wholeheartedly that the mind needs to be helped along with all the ‘body’ advice. I probably have read every diet book ever written but I still did not get to grips with my weight until I finally worked out that I needed to, and got, my ‘head space’ right – what I call my ‘click’ moment. I am not sure any diet book I read ever discussed using your mind in any useful way at all.
We can lock this family up in a room and just feed them fruit and veg until they are smaller, but what will they learn from that? I still have a little way to go before I am the shape I feel is right for me, but I know I can do it because my mind is driving what I do, not my belly.
I want to scoop this family up and tell them that they do have already have a way out, it’s a sad situation and not unique just to this family.
Thank you for your comments and your candour Lindsay… You illustrate my point very well 🙂
Good hearing from you, A.
Great post, Adam, thanks.
The example for your metaphor seems to have many, interconnected layers to it and in my mind, the first task might be sorting out the priority of a multi-pronged solution. It seems that along with motivation, habits and new behaviors as you’ve mentioned, there’s also a good amount of re-education (about nutrition and physiology) that needs to occur. On a deeper level, if a victim-mindset is at the crux of all this (“this problem has happened to me” or “I’m like this because of my genetics”), very little of the other strategies have a hope of working.
So, my question is, “How do you discover the “first domino” that, once tipped, allows the rest to fall into place?
Thank you for your contribution again David.
I think persistent exploaration with these people and a really good psychological appraisal is how you find the ‘first domino’ – just as you would any therapeutic client.
You have a thorough and comprehensive period of assessment and discussion and explore solutions… Then you’ll tweak the solutions as you progress through it… Just as with any good quality therapeutic response.
The show was on again last night… I despaired that yet again, nothing was done with their mindset… they are just being bludgeoned with fitness gurus, celebrity TV chefs and having their failings highlighted on national TV.