I’ll admit something I’m not proud to say: I have a prejudice against fat people. I’m a fattist. I have many excuses for my judgemental attitude. For a long time I felt that the obese were simply people who lacked my discipline. Why couldn’t they just get up every morning at 6 am and run several miles? Why couldn’t they just limit their breakfast to a single slice of buttered toast, lunch to one sandwich and dinner to water and a piece of chicken? I did.
It was many years before I realised that I struggled with disordered eating, but that never quite removed the taint of moral superiority that I had about my weight. Even in the times during my childhood when I lived in Nigeria and was derided for being too skinny (the traditional beauty ideal in many African countries is bigger and curvier than in the West) I could never quite shake the feeling that I was still better off.
But times they are a-changing. As looking well-fed is becoming easier to achieve in Nigeria, it’s becoming more socially desirable for women to be slim. The slang word Leppa, which used to be a derogatory term for a skinny woman when I was growing up, is now used positively. Women now talk of going on diets, and mornings in middle-class and affluent neighbourhoods are awash with potbellied residents marching about in jogging suits - exercising. And for the first time, I’m seeing obese children.
I have come to understand that obesity is not a lack of moral fibre. It’s an addiction. But unlike narcotics like cigarettes and heroin, its users don’t even know that they are junkies.