Caroline Verdon: My name is Caroline and I am obese..

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There’s a sign on the M621 near Holbeck that’s been causing a bit of a stir.

It’s part of an advertising campaign from Cancer Research UK and features the word ‘obesity’ with a few letters missing and beneath it “Guess what is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking?”

Comedian Sofie Hagen tweeted calling the ad campaign fat shaming and asking for it to be taken down. Cancer Research responded by saying it isn’t their intention to make anyone feel bad about their weight and that they were just raising awareness about the link between obesity and cancer.

As an obese person, I am well aware of the link with cancer and I am also well aware of fat shaming. I’ve been judged on everything from work ethic to personality all based on my appearance. I’ve even been spat at and called fat in the street before by a stranger who drove past me as I was waiting to cross the road. That is fat shaming and that is unacceptable (as is slim/skinny/fit/muscley/any shaming) The Cancer Research adverts don’t do that. They haven’t made any judgements about me they’ve simply pointed out a fact, in the same way that the earth revolves around the sun and that mosquitos kill more people every year than sharks. Just facts.

The problem is, it’s all very well pointing out the link but how do we solve the problem? The epidemic is huge and it’s not for a cancer charity to solve, it’s bigger than that, but it certainly got me thinking.

Since I was 18 I’ve dieted, to the point that I’ve not gone longer than three months off a diet and I’m nearly 35. I’m not anti-fat. I cast no judgements on anyone’s appearance and this also isn’t about mine. It’s about how healthy I am. Healthiness comes in different shapes and sizes. We all know by now that BMI isn’t the be all and end all but as a broad guide it is useful – the majority of us aren’t athletes or actually big boned so as a basic tool it can offer us some guidance. Of course there absolutely are bigger people who are actually healthy and smaller people too. Of course. Health isn’t one size fits all, but in my case, I am definitely not one of those people. I am obese in an unhealthy way and if that isn’t already affecting my health then it soon will. I don’t want to die from something preventable. I’ve got a husband whom I adore and a toddler that I would like the chance to see grow into the incredible man I know he will be but as someone who has tried really hard over the last 17 years to get healthy it’s difficult to know which way to turn. I’ve had PTs suggesting healthy is taking 168 tablets a day and other nutritionists who claim sugar is the devil whilst a different one says shakes are the key.

What is the actual truth? How can we battle obesity when society is so happy to peddle inaccuracies and not just peddle them but make money from them as well?

Alongside this billboard campaign Cancer Research has a huge area of its website dedicated to what actual healthy eating looks like in practice. It’s useful and it will help but it’s not the sole solution.

It’s all very well saying we should cook more but who can find the time every day? Families now are more likely to have working parents who often can’t afford to live in the same areas in which they work which means many of us are out of the house for 13 hours each day. Getting in at 8pm and then cooking every night isn’t always feasible. It’s one of the reasons why we buy so many ready meals and takeaways and eat out more than our parents did. This week Public Health England called for a 20% reduction in calories in foods produced by retailers and manufacturers and that’s got to help too but still, the problem is bigger than that. If we want a real change in obesity levels then we need to admit that the increase is caused by hundreds of factors from the cost of fresh food to working hours to lack of education and everything inbetween. If we want things to change then everyone has to be that change - the government, industry,the NHS, the monitoring of the diet industry, the work/life balance and ourselves. Unless we all take that first step and admit just how huge the problem is we’ll never have a chance of fixing it. I’ll go first - my name is Caroline and I am obese.

Vuvuzela right of passage

If you ever wondered if ‘Yorkshire Drizzle’ cooking oil had another use outside of the kitchen I can confirm that the answer is yes.

Monday night saw me smothering my toddler in the stuff in a bid to not have to dial 999 after he got his leg stuck inside a vuvuzela.

You’ve forgotten what a vuvuzela is? Let me refresh your memory – it’s that terrible conical plastic horn that was used a lot during the world cup a few years ago that makes an awful honky noise.

The only bonus of it being stuck on his leg was that he couldn’t blow it at the same time.

He’d been merrily squeaking the life out of it when I made the mistake of going to get a cup of tea and in the time it took, he thought it’d be a great idea to shove his foot in the end of it.

Apparently it’s a right of passage for your child to get stuck somewhere and from the sounds of things, I got off lightly (Arthur’s leg is in one piece but more’s the pity so is the vuvuzela).

Jen in Holbeck’s daughter managed to crawl inside one of those claw grabber amusement machines when she was 18 months and Janet in Morley called us to say she was woken up to the sound of blood curdling screams when her three- year-old managed to catch his wotsit in the zipper of his sleepsuit.

The moral of the story is always wear pants to bed!

Only sing when asked

This week me and my husband went to the First Direct Arena to see Elbow and they were incredible.

I know this sounds pretentious but going to one of their gigs isn’t like going to see a normal arena show or a performance.

Somehow they manage to make it feel like an intimate gig even though there were about 13,000 people there.

We had Elbow’s ‘One day like this’ as the first dance at our wedding and so the band and that song holds a special place in our hearts.

It was a great night but I feel like there ought to be a rule when watching a live performance – only sing when asked.

The woman behind me belted out every number. Really loudly. It didn’t matter if it was an upbeat number or a solo ballad, she turned it into a duet.

What’s the protocol on offering a stranger a gag?

Caroline Verdon is one half of the breakfast show at Radio Aire. You can hear Caroline and Ant between 6-10am every weekday morning.

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