Miriam Margoyles is elderly (78-years old), she’s fat, she’s Jewish, she’s gay-ish and she used to be an actress. I remember her painted green as Grotbags in a witch’s cap. She’s invisibility squared. But she’s BBC’s documentary crew’s go-to-pensioner. The female equivalent of Louis Theroux, but rounder and without the cocked eyebrow. Miriam Margoyles is the Olive Kitteridge of BBC.
I’m old enough to remember there not being an obesity epidemic. One third of British adults being morbidly obese. In St Stephen’s Primary School in the sixties there were no fat kids. Apart from Meta Bell (*I’ve changed her name not to protect her privacy but because I can’t remember her name, which is a better reason than anything Google or Facebook will offer you).
I’m also cynical. When I hear government health warming I listen for money talk. Torsten Bell (no relation to *Meta Bell) suggest Tory cuts since 2010—taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich—has led to social insecurity. A rise in child poverty in the last four of five years and an estimated five million children below the poverty line by 2024. Fling into the equation, cut of around a billion pounds from local authority budgets have wiped out Sure Start, one of the projects that was proven to work and the mass closure of youth services. In England and Wales, for example, with an average cut of seventy percent, 750 youth clubs axed and 104 closed in London since 2011.
Paradoxically, kids are getting fatter as they get poorer. Before we get into fat shaming and the Victorian equivalent of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Cookery and Household Management, with advice about how to keep your socks up, we should keep in mind the five million kids that are written off every year, economical casualties. The best examples, of course, come from this cohort. The Monty-Pythonish we were poor, but now we’re thin and rich, exception to the rule, rule. This paradigm is frequently highlighted to show the system is working and if you’re failing, if you’re fat, it’s your fault—being poor is no excuse (buy the latest Mrs Beeton’s podcast).
Shaming and blaming, is nothing new. If Jeremy Kyle was a virus it takes more than frequent hand-washing to shake him off. Here we have Miriam going to a fat boot camp to talk to survivors. £600 gets you a spot in the tent in the garden. £1400 per week, gets you a room. It’s all-inclusive. Eat green leaves. Exercise. Weight drops off quicker than your pay packet after an agency takes its cut.
Will, for example, went to Eton or Harrow and then University, piled on the pounds, but lost four stone after a week in boot camp. He was 28 stone. Losing the first few stone is the easiest part. Miriam asks about his sex life. She can be blunt that way and sometimes it’s funny.
Georgia is less funny. She’s a food addict. We follow the she’s-doing-really-well film mantra. She lives semi-permanently in boot camp. Her parents support her.
As we know most folk that lose weight, over time, put it back on. I don’t have any answers that don’t involve structural rather that personal change.
Here we are in fat is a feminist issue with Miriam attending a plus-size dance class with twenty-five plus size dancers, whopping it up. I wasn’t convinced. I’m not sure what this programme is meant to teach us, teach me. Miriam is watchable. But it’s empty viewing calories. Middle-class twaddle.