How To Be Fat - Edinburgh Fringe Review

Women’s bodies are constantly objectified by the media, yet if they don’t possess the ‘right’ physical qualities in tolerable proportions they are vilified. For many who should know better, overweight women are not considered to be acceptable in our society.

Mathilda Gregory tells us in ‘How to Be Fat’ that she has let society down by not being a healthy weight and in her show (which is a mixture of stand up and a presentation with slides), she tells us how she is sorry and what she has done to try to change.

Mathilda talks through her diets - in her discussion on Slim Fast! she exposes the diet industry. Slim Fast! (previously owned by Unilever and sold in 2014) specifies that as part of the diet plan, you must eat products manufactured by its subsidiary companies including Knorr and Flora.

She talks about how Dove (also part of the Unilever family) had a campaign to celebrate women with ‘real bodies’ and ‘real curves’ but those curves were T & A – what about the belly curve? Is a fat stomach desirable?

Of course, all branded diets are big business, designed to make you buy their food and for ultimately the diet to be unsuccessful for the majority, who put the weight back on and have to diet again. I know this is true from doing Weight Watchers and Rosemary Conley (which went into administration- although the latter seems more principled than the former).

Mathilda talks about greed vs vanity and she jokes that greed won out. She shows us slides of everything she eats and drinks on Instagram. Nothing is a super-size portion and there is no food shown that other people wouldn’t want to eat, although I didn’t see any fruit, water and not much veg. I know from my dieting experiences it is not just quantity of food it is calories and fat, and how much exercise you do. To be healthy requires a lifestyle change and commitment.

If Mathilda is happy why should she change? Why is it anyone else’s business? Why should an overweight woman apologise to society?

Mathilda talks about how a fat person is not “allowed” to say they are fat. If she says she is fat, people tell her she isn’t.

I like that Mathilda has taken control of her life back. She’s not going to be pushed around by the media, by the diet industry, she doesn’t have to apologise – it is her life and her body and she can be herself.

Speaking personally, my only worry as a fat person, is how healthy or not I am for my young son, as I want to play with him, keep up with him and be a responsible parent. It is in my interest to lose weight for health reasons, not for appearance.

I respect people taking control of their life and being themselves, and I am very glad Mathilda talks about being fat - I am not condoning being obese as a positive lifestyle choice because of the detrimental effect on self-health and I should point out neither does Mathilda, she talks about her choices.

If people want to be healthy, they need to be helped – not manipulated by the diet industry. Educated about food and exercise by professionals who don’t have ulterior motives.

At the start of the show Mathilda says there are three types of people who can tell you that you are fat: 1) When it’s shouted out of the window of a white van as it speeds past 2) A child 3) A medical professional when they refuse healthcare.

I think every white van driver who has insulted fat people should be made to watch this show.

‘How to Be Fat’ is an honest, heartfelt show and it’s great that Mathilda does it. It has also motivated me to do something – I’m going to read ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ by Susie Orbach.

(c ) Wendy Thomson 2015 @topgirls
reviewed Thursday 27th August 2015, ZOO Southside, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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