Posts Tagged ‘obese


‘It’s not a fashion show, you know’ and other things parents do to get you bullied

There can be few more compelling reasons for the continual use of contraception than Channel 4’s latest snapshot of the youth of today, Boys and Girls Alone.

A bleak, black-hearted representation of Britain’s under-11s, it should immediately become a compulsory part of sex education lessons, offering teenagers a grimy window on a life spent single-handedly raising a limb of Satan who’d rather gnaw off their own arm – or their mother’s – than raise their obese arse from the sofa to make a sandwich.

The programme charts the progress of 20 children aged eight to 11 who are left to their own devices for a fortnight in two separate houses, one for boys and one for girls. Several of the children are fairly pleasant, harmless creatures who carry themselves with a degree of pride and self-belief. The other 18 bully these children relentlessly.

This is one of the nice kids. Look how much shes enjoying the social experiment!

This is one of the nice kids. Look how much she's enjoying the social experiment!

It’s like Lord of the Flies made flesh, every worst-case scenario that topped the bill at the multiplex cinema inside your brain on school nights, a chilling reminder of what being young was really all about: trying to avoid being the one with fleas and shitty shoes that everyone picked on.

Though it’s fashionable to remember our childhood as a lemon-sherbert flavoured rainbow of joyousness where we danced in sunbeams and played tiddlywinks in the street, the truth is that being a child was relentless rounds of fear, loathing and desperately trying to fit in.

For a start, children are the harshest critics on the planet and nothing whatsoever gets past their cruel scrutiny – they’re like Exocet missiles with their sights firmly trained on any perceived deviation from the path of total and utter normality and conformity.

In adult life, you’re unlikely to give a monkey’s chuff what anyone thinks about your trainers, your bag or your hair colour. When you’re at school, these aren’t mere trifling matters, they’re the very currency of social acceptability.

One shopping trip with a penny-pinching parent of the ‘it’s not a fashion show, you know’ variety can lead to a long, slow term of abject misery spent dodging verbal and possibly physical assaults from herds of burly halfwits wearing designer coats.

In addition to the ruling fringe of insane despots intent on emotionally scarring you for life (school bullies, teachers, career advisers) you also had to contend with the fact that at any one time, half your friends hated you or were talking about you behind your back.

And at the end of the day, where did you go? Back home where the iron fist of parental dogma ruled the day, preventing you from doing 99 per cent of the things you enjoyed on the unreasonable basis that they cost too much money/were perilously dangerous/could result in an extended stay in a young offender’s unit.

Lord, it was wearing.

Having spent two-thirds of your youth desperately wishing you were considerably older, you landed in a disgusting shared house with a group of people you wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire, arguing the toss about who used the last of the milk or left the gigantic floater in the toilet.

Then the terrible realization hit you: that adult life is dreadful for a whole set of new reasons, all of which you have to pay for by direct debit from your account, not your parent’s.

You guys are the best! But just to clarify, after graduation, I never want to see you again. Ok? Cool! Lets steal a traffic cone!

"You guys are the best! But just to clarify, after graduation, I never want to see you again. Ok? Cool! Let's steal a traffic cone!"

The children in Boys and Girls Alone are swiftly realizing that while it may be fun to spend all day engaged in arm-to-arm water pistol battles, wet clothes and muddy knees don’t get the tea on or stop a chunky girl from a terrifying London estate belittling you in the kitchen. Despite being followed by huge, lumbering cameras (and huge, lumbering social workers) the children appear completely oblivious to the fact that their every move is being watched by Big Brother and, more to the point, Big Mother in the viewing suite.

It took about 20 minutes for things to get really feral, and about two hours for all-out turf warfare to break out. What started out as an interesting social experiment quickly became a form of sadist’s bingo, in which we all wondered whose personality would completely unravel first, leaving only a child-shaped, rocking shell where once a small human had been.

Still having the time of my life!

Still having the time of my life!

After two hours programming, viewers could be forgiven for thinking they were watching footage from Camp Delta and Camp Echo at Guantanamo Bay but for the fact that the Boys and Girls Alone weren’t wearing orange hoods and were doling out their own ‘coercive management techniques’ rather than waiting for a prison guard to do it for them.

Watching hateful juveniles dissolve into weeping snot factories is, of course, horribly compelling, although nothing you won’t have seen on countless occasions if you’ve ever hosted children’s birthday parties or visited a shoe shop on the last day of the summer holidays.

As far as I can see, the moral of Girls and Boys Alone is that children are absolutely bloody vile. So, no change there, then.

* The Woman in Black apologises for her unscheduled absence. Too much work and no play makes the WIB a dull girl, although my dull is still a gajillion times more awesome than most people’s.


PE knickers and the newest way to skive school – get so fat you can’t fit under a desk

School children have come up with a cunning new way to skive lessons – they’re becoming too fat to fit under their desks.

According to a policy commission on the future of education, standard school furniture is based on measurements made in the 1960s when children were smaller and thinner. New research suggests that the average height of children has increased at the rate of 1cm a decade, with the majority of growth in the lower leg, and that the prevalence of obesity among pupils has risen from around five per cent in 1985 to 15 per cent in 2008.

Positively anorexic in comparison to schoolchildren in 2009

Positively anorexic in comparison to schoolchildren in 2009

I’m not sure about you, but when I read those figures I’m not worrying about school furniture, I’m worrying about 1,000 years hence, when all our children will have lower legs that are a full metre longer than they are today.

They’ll look like grasshoppers. Finding them a pair of trousers or some wellies that fit will be even more of a nightmare than it is now.

Additionally, if the obesity crisis continues rising at its current pace, those spindly lower legs aren’t going to be of any use whatsoever – the first time children stand up they’ll buckle under their own gigantic weight and need to be wheeled around on giant skateboards for life. Thank God I’ll be dead by then.

According to studies, unless schools start ‘going large’ with their school furniture orders, children’s schoolwork could suffer as back pain distracts their attention and causes absence from school.

We may not have had an over-sized obesity problem at my high school, but we did have more than our fair share of those freakish early-developers who reach puberty at six and look like 45-year-olds by the time they’re 12, and they managed to fit under the desks.

As for myself, I certainly wasn’t overweight at school, although I may have been slightly under-height for my weight.

But even at my lowest height, ahem, I could still fit under a school desk and have room for a copy of Jackie magazine to read during geography, particularly when we were learning about the import and export trade in Nigeria (a subject as relevant to my life then as it is now, ie not at all).

Maintaining a healthy weight in those days meant not being so fat that your thighs persistently rubbed against the chewing gum left on the bottom of the desk by its previous occupant. These days it means being slender enough not to require being washed with a rag on a stick.

Namby-pamby excuses about desks and bad backs would have been met with hollow laughter and a month of lunchtime detentions in the lair of the terrifying bearded maths teacher whose hatred of young people was considered a bonus, rather than an impediment, to his teaching career.

It practically took the production of a death certificate to get you out of PE lessons, let alone ordinary lessons, and even if you had that, you’d still be expected to carry the netball bibs, keep score and apply pressure to wounds when required.

Forget about small desks and chairs causing backache, the PE knickers at my school in the late 1980s caused the kind of injuries to one’s self esteem from which many, including me, never truly recovered.
Even the good-looking twig-legged girls struggled in those monstrosities, so for those of us who had nice personalities and arses so large they had their own gravitational pull and corresponding solar system, the knickers were an appallingly unsubtle form of torture.

Quite why fostering team spirit amongst people that, on the whole, you probably wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire was considered edifying is anyone’s guess.

More to the point, why that fostering had to be done while wearing a huge pair of pants made from  an exotic blend of manmade fibres – one stray spark during hockey practice and the entire school could have been blown sky-high – also remains at issue.

Skiving PE, unless you were a future Oscar winner, was difficult, but avoiding communal showering was attainable with that classic Get Out Of Jail Free card – your period (unless you were a boy, when it was less likely to work unless you were dealing with one of the foreign student teachers).

There were many girls in my class who appeared to defy biology and have their period every single week of the month in order to evade the showers, but it was when it came to  swimming that the menstrual situation got really out of hand.

In the end, we needed a letter from our parents to prove the painters were in – teachers rightly feared a situation where only one student ended up in the pool, the pregnant one from the fourth year who realised the period excuse was out of bounds for at least nine months.

Come to think of it, even she could get behind a school desk. Just how big are kids these days? Should I be saving up for a winch for when my children hit puberty?

I think all this trouble began when they got rid of the nit nurses.


Harness the power of your children’s annoyingness to lose weight and tone up

There’s good news and there’s bad news.

The good news is that doctors have discovered that six minutes of exercise a week does as much to improve a person’s fitness as a regime of six hours every seven days.

The bad news is that you still have to do six minutes of exercise a week.

According to the Journal of Applied Physiology, moderately healthy men and women could cut their workouts from two hours a day, three times a week, to just two minutes a day and achieve the same results.

Of course I’m not entirely sure what a “moderately healthy” man or woman is like, but presumably they do everything in moderation, and therefore smoke only five to 10 cigarettes a day and eat deep-fried Mars Bars just on Fridays and Bank Holiday Mondays.

Anyway – presuming you’re moderately healthy (somewhere between terminally ill and Madonna) you can get away with “enduring the discomfort of high-intensity activity” for six minutes a week by “cycling furiously on a stationary bicycle in four 30-second bursts”.
This seems but a simple step up – or perhaps down – from what I’m already doing, which is driving while furious in 30-second bursts in snarled-up citycentre traffic in a car which is normally stationary. Perhaps this makes me more than moderately healthy.

For those of you less active souls, you’re going to have to find a stationary bicycle, which means strapping your entire family to the saddle of your normal bike and trying to make it up Mam Tor or Snowdon or visiting a gym and unleashing a whole new level of self-hatred into your life.

By rights, when you visit a gym you should be surrounded by grossly obese individuals wheezing like punctured bagpipes and sweating like onions in a hot pan – after all, they’re the buggers that need it.Instead, you find yourself in a sea of pure muscle, searching for an inch of body fat like Zammo hunted for heroin on the toilet floor at Grange Hill.

Why aren’t these people out celebrating the fact they can see their toes?

If I had abdominal muscles that could crack walnuts, I wouldn’t be in the bloody gym every night – I’d be dancing on a table in Stringfellows andinviting some bloke from Hollyoaks to open his beer bottle on my navel. This kind of attitude is, of course, why I do not have abdominal muscles that could crack walnuts.

Facing facts, the very best you can hope for at the gym is that there will be a sizeable contingent of desperately ugly people who work out obsessively because they want to make sure that, at the very least, they look OK from the back.

Perhaps it’s possible to bypass the stationary bike and substitute cycling for other forms of equally strenous exercise, like “enduring the discomfort” of taking the children shoe-shopping, or listening to other people’s kids singing at school shows.

Granted, my fitness plan takes an hour and a half a day, five days a week, but I think you’ll find it easy to fit into your daily routine without having to waste six precious minutes cycling nowhere when you could be using that time to eat a bun.

Start: 3pm. Finish: 4.30pm. Special equipment needed: children.

How it works: You burn off calories depending on the activity you undertake. Your aim is to burn off more calories than you ingest, but if you break even, frankly it will be a miracle. For example, the following activities burn off the following number of calories:

1) Rush to complete work before leaving for school run: 40 calories.

2) Rush from work to school, fail to find parking space. Finally find space 1.5 miles from the playground, limp to school in high heels while mowing down as few tinies as possible, arrive eight minutes late (again) and receive disapproving frown from classroom assistant: 150 calories.

3) Have a bar of chocolate and can of Coke at the shop while buying “sorry for being late (again)” treat for daughter:  minus 800 calories.

4) Attempt to squeeze through the gap between the hedge and the row of 4x4s parked between shop and car: 200 calories.

5) Argument about why I cannot buy another jumbo pack of cereal in order to get a mini light sabre which will inevitably be blue again, because we have a backlog of 478 cereal packets at home and we still haven’t found a green light sabre (substitute for whichever toy/book/pointless piece of tat is currently being given away by cereal companies): 70 calories.

6) Try to get children to eat dinner, including the “children in Africa…” lecture: 600 calories.

7) Eat children’s dinner because it shouldn’t go to waste: minus 800 calories.

If you feel particularly strong, you can supplement this plan with extra options, such as chasing children up and down stairs brandishing a nit comb (100 calories), removing plasters from their knees (200 calories) or explaining the facts of life to them (9,000 calories). Suddenly cycling for six minutes a week doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.

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