The reality show Slim Possible hosted by Lilian Muli on Citizen TV is on its 3rd season. It features a cast of overweight women, most tipping the scales at over 100 kgs motivated by a huge cash prize to make a total lifestyle change in order to lose weight. The biggest loser ends up as the winner. If the audition interviews were anything to go by, then a fair chunk of women in our country are dealing with major body image insecurities. The show has received a lot of flak from fitter members of the public. Firstly the sashaying Lilian Muli as host is almost cruel. Besides having a totally different body type, most show contestants would really need surgery to look anything close to her. A host with an Oprah Winfrey body type would have reflected an attainable goal, I think. The other reason is that in a country where the vast majority scourges for their daily bread, (remember Kenyans for Kenya campaign) losing weight is a privilege that should not be flaunted on national TV. Nonetheless the show is relevant.
Our society by and large is getting heavier. Modern living makes it a lot easier to get obese and unhealthy. Our nutritional sense has gone haywire and what is consumed as food is mostly advertised junk. Like our chubby friends and relatives living in the Diaspora, our new consumption patterns show on our puffy cheeks and baggy frames. Exercise has become a class privilege only available to paid members in a gym and the pace of life leaves hardly any time for physical fitness. Rising incidences of lifestyle diseases among young people is old news. So the anxiety expressed by those women categorized as obese by the weighing scale is real.
Those who reside on the weighty side of the scale experience discrimination in a society of slender people. Fat which was just another physical description turned into a derogatory word and use of euphemisms is now standard practice. This is why we say, big boned, voluptuous, rubenesque, shapely or curvy. Fat people receive more stares, are prone to name calling and fall more easily to stereotypical victimization, “you are lazy and greedy” and are blamed squarely for not keeping the public standard. Our society is making no room to accommodate people above the standard weight. Public transportation costs more, dignity is squashed in tiny toilet cubicles and fashion hardly caters for the plus size client. It is a lot harder for women than men.
Contemporary media has consigned female beauty standard to a single category as reflected by lead characters in TV soaps, news anchors, pop idols, beauty queens just to get started. Advertising bombards women with these images daily and it is not hard to understand why most women feel tubby placed against the ideal. Yet, a lot of the women who think they are not attractive would have no problem attracting favourable attention with a little self confidence and fashion sense. Especially as there is no such thing as uniform category for women we describe as fat. I speak for most men who love proportions because it makes women look more feminine. Hence the phrase, “more woman, to love”. What we see depends mostly on what we look for. Ultimately, it is the person residing in the body that makes it alluring.
The final emphasis therefore should be on habitual physical fitness and nutritional awareness. We could start with cutting the advertising lies, lest our children will continue seeking vitamins in margarine. As for weight management, a glimpse at the broad physical state of the political leadership and it is clear everyone needs to eat less and run more.