PA Archive/Press Association Images Obesity is an issue Ruth Field says we need to tackle more openly.
# tough talking
'Sometimes you just need to tell yourself you're a fat b***h and get off the couch'
The best-selling author Ruth Field says we need to open our eyes to Europe’s obesity problem.

WHEN SOMEONE PENS books with titles such as ‘Run, fat bitch, run!’ and ‘Cut the Crap’, you expect them to be a straight talker. And, it’s fair to say, Ruth Field doesn’t disappoint.

In fact, Field is almost evangelical in her belief that straight-talking is something we need more of as western Europe “sleepwalks” its way into an obesity epidemic.

And the person we need to be most critical of is the one reading this sentence.

“The human condition makes us excuse making machines,” Field told The42 this week.

“It’s part of our fundamental nature to come up with excuses not to do stuff that is good for us. You have to accept that those excuses are going to keep coming at us. I mean, I have those excuses, they same as everyone. The difference is that I override them.

“Part of getting fitter or getting healthier is accepting that you will try make excuses but you also have to find a way of overcoming them, find a voice that’s more powerful than the excuse-making voice.

“I do sometimes think that shocking yourself into doing it is good. I don’t know if that works for everyone but it works for me. So rather than sitting on the sofa and feeling comfortable with yourself, ‘I’m not so bad, I’m just a little bit overweight’ or whatever it is, it’s better to be a bit hard on yourself.

“Maybe instead you should tell yourself you’re a fat bitch or a fat bastard and get off your arse and do something about it.

“That might seem harsh but western Europe is eating itself into an obesity epidemic and we’re collectively deluding ourselves that we’re not.”

Excuses are easy to come by of course and a particular bugbear of Field — who will be giving her no nonsense advice at the Unislim Health and Wellness Show this Saturday in Croke Park — are the ones handed on a plate to people.

“It drives me nuts when I read stuff that says ‘you’re fat but it’s not your fault’. It’s so obviously not the case. Anyone with half a modicum of common sense will know that in the vast, vast, majority of cases being overweight is to do with having a less active lifestyle than previous generations and eating more sugar.

“There are other factors, there’s no doubt about it. There are some very obscure diseases that do cause obesity but there has not been a explosion in those diseases in the last 40 years.

“It really frustrates me when people are looking for excuses when the obvious reason is right in front of them. They’re eating too much and not doing enough exercise.”

Hers may be a no-nonsense approach but it’s grounded in genuine concern for the men and women who buy her books or read her newspaper column. Field also understands that it’s not easy to lose weight which is why self-criticism and self-discipline is just one approach.

If you’re fit and healthy yourself, but living with someone who’s not, helping them can often involve just making smaller changes over time.

“My husband was two and a half stone overweight, sugar addicted and exercise averse so he was my experiment when writing ‘Cut the Crap’. But for him, and for a lot of people, there is no diet pill — so to speak — instead it’s all to do with regular exercise.

“Once you start exercising regularly, your metabolism starts to speed up and in your mind it makes a connection between putting the right things in your body and what you get out of it.

“So, for me, exercise is the answer and adopting a crap cutting approach for your diet. Maybe it’s as simple as giving up that packet of sweets or chocolate biscuit with your cup of tea. It’s gradual, it’s not about going out and buying rice cakes and quinoa straight away.

“There’s nothing faddy, no rules, just starting to look at your diet and removing the really crappy elements, then the less crappy but still bad for you elements. Everything else comes from that.

“For my husband, it took him the best part of two years to lose that two and a half stone whereas he could have lost the weight in two months on a fad diet but is has come off and it has stayed off.”

Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images / PA Wire/Press Association Images

One area Field is especially passionate about is the issue of childhood obesity, something she says parents can be reluctant to deal with.

“It’s becoming such a problem and there is a lot of pussyfooting around the issue. To give them their due, I think the medical profession are probably a little bit more robust about dealing with obesity or overweight issues in children than they tend to be with adults.

“Children that present as very overweight will be very quickly told — or their parents/carers will — that they are overweight and here’s a correct diet. But try get a GP to say that to an overweight parent.

“This may sound blunt but there are just so many fat kids and if you spent an hour with an overweight child, you could see within that hour exactly why they’re fat.

“They’re eating too much junk food and sugar and they’re never outside. When I was growing up we were out all day. My mother would tell me to come home a six and not a minute before. You’d go out with a couple of sticks and a ball and you’d be running around all day, burning off fuel.”

Field does admit, however, that even when parents think they’re doing the right thing for their kids, it’s actually the wrong thing.

“When I was writing ‘Cut the Crap’ I was shocked by how much sugar is in food and drink that looks healthy. One organic fruit juice or organic yogurt, for example, takes a child over the daily maximum level of sugar that’s set out by the World Heath Organisation.

“So if you give your child an organic fruit juice and yogurt for breakfast that’s already twice their daily allowance of sugar and they haven’t even left the house. There’ll be so many parents who don’t know that.”

The result:

“Sugar is addictive and, without being too melodramatic about it, if you start off as a kid on a high-sugar diet it’s very difficult to break that habit. I know I can sound harsh on people but I do realise that it’s really, really difficult to lose weight and the longer you’ve been dependent on a sugary diet, the harder it is to give that up.

“I never had that kind of diet and I accept that makes it a bit easier for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like cake and pudding but the difference is I’m not craving it.”

The Unislim Health & Wellness Show featuring inspirational talks from Bressie, Ruth Field, Derval O’ Rourke and many more takes place in Croke Park this Saturday, 18 April. Tickets are available here.

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