URBAN JUNGLE, ADVERTISING & FAT SHAMING

So, following the reading of a rather inflammatory post on The Salott last week, I decided to write a blog post. The blog was regarding fat people on planes. With a unique perspective I decided to post my views. The response to the article was fantastic, and I thank you all for your input. During this process, I was directed to another trending article at the time. It was regarding Urban Jungle and their most recent advertising campaign.

I was asked to give my thoughts on this, so decided another blog piece would be the perfect response. From the outset, I would like to make one thing clear. I did not find the advertising particularly offensive. And it did not feel an overwhelming sense of outrage as a result. Yes it’s true. Urban Jungle tried to be modern and progressive in their campaign and ultimately came off as slightly insensitive. And in this day and age a slightly different approach might have made sense.

The problem with this whole situation was two fold in my opinion. On one side Urban Jungle were indeed slightly naive in their approach. Especially considering on the whole they do not stock merchandise or more specific the clothing sizes for for the very demographic they were poking fun at. This in my opinion was a big mistake. If you talk the talk, you have to be able to walk the walk. However, on the other side, I found many persons who were greatly offended to be a little over the top in their criticism. I believe the words fat shaming were used.

In saying that, I know how very easy it is to be oversensitive about having a weight issue. For a very large segment of my life, starting from my early teens, resurrecting again in my early twenties and continuing into my early forties, I carried a lot of shame on the issue. And ultimately it is this shame that makes one over sensitive. Thankfully I have learned to be more accepting to my situation, which has helped with a lot of the heartache, but for the longest time this was not the case.

In fact in my early years this oversensitiveness would get me into a lot of trouble. I would be teased incessantly about my weight and eventually found myself lashing out violently. It was a tough time. During that period I did many things that I regret. And dished out a few beatings that I wish I hadn’t. But I learned to control my rage over time. It was hard, especially considering the shame was always simmering away below the surface.

Long story short, I understand with great detail what it is like to be sensitive about an issue. Fast forward many, many years and it is an issue I can now say I deal with in an extremely open fashion. I still have shame, and if I could change it with the flick of a switch I would, but accept more who I am, and the cards that I have been dealt.

Now back to this original Urban Jungle issue and the ensuing social media debate. As I stated above, the Urban Jungle advertising didn’t surprise me. What did leave me in a particular state of shock was the amount of times I witnessed persons who took a completely ignorant approach to the argument. Their argument was that the advertising campaign was spot on. If you don’t want to be fat, get off your arse and do something about it. WTF? There were many, many commentators who followed this rhetoric and I found it rather disgusting to be honest and I was totally disappointed.

The ignorant understanding that every body type is the same and can achieve the same results with the same effort was a shock to me. I never thought anyone would be so disconnected from reality to be able to think such a thing. And, I can assure you it is absolutely not the case, and for every single person it is different. I have trained and dieted my whole life, sometimes on a very good regime, at other times not so much. But I have never been able to maintain a decent level of continued weight loss.

At one point, during the back and forth on Facebook, the collaboration between obesity, being overweight and mental health came into the conversation. One rather immaculate ignoramus commented as follows: “And what the everlasting shit does being fat have to do with mental health? If you’re fat , maybe you should be responsible enough for yourself and lose a few kilos?” This is one of the most hurtful, uneducated responses I have ever read in my entire life. Normally I am calm during such debates, but this one comment made my blood boil. Almost took be back to the days when I would lash out violently. I felt those old emotions coming back.

It was disappointing to read to say the least. I can say, with 100% certainty, after years of collaboration with medical experts, that there is a very large connection between mental health and weight control. And in my case it certain accounts for 50% of my battle. It is at this point, that I feel the need to open the door on my personal life a little more in the hope that it can serve as a opportunity to educate those that just cannot understand it.

Without going into detail, I had a very difficult upbringing. A broken home at an early age. There was an alcoholic at home resulting in a lot of drunken rage and severe depression. I was subjected to years of intense emotional abuse whilst at the same time having absolutely no support system. No one to rely on. It was a living hell and I will never, ever recover from it.

To this day I find myself in semi intense therapy to try and help me cope. To be clear, I am not ashamed of it and wish to stand up as an example to others who have had rough patches in their lives. Without therapy, I am really not sure if I would still be here today.

Now back to the issue of mental health and being over weight. I am going to admit something that I have never admitted to anyone before outside of my immediate family. And this is something that has been ascertained through my work with a psychologist. Due to the many years of constantly living in fear at home during my youth, I never learned the ability to love myself. The emotional shaming and consistent abuse received during this period of my life served to leave me almost permanently disabled. To the point that till this day I do not have the ability to really and truly love myself whilst also finding it very difficult to accept love from anyone else. This is an unfortunate fact.

And this is where the whole thing becomes relevant. According to specialists, the reason why I have failed over and over and over again to lose weight is because at the very core of me, deep inside my subconscious, I hate myself. And there in lies the truth. Because of this my mind sabotages my body. Because i don’t deserved to be healthy, look good, be loved, I am constantly sabotaging my own efforts to rectify the situation. How is that for a mind fuck.

For the record, I am not writing this for sympathy. Or to gain any extra love. These days I am working hard on a balance and am in a relatively good place. The reason I share these details on my life and battle is with the hope that some of you can look beyond what you see, feel or think. And understand that the world is not just black or white. There are indeed many, many shades of grey.

I know that the damage I have suffered over the years, especially mentally,can never been repaired. It is something I must live with and try and maintain. And this could be the same for many many people. So the morale of the story is this. If you find someone being overly sensitive about something, more than likely there is a very serious underlying reason for it. So instead of shaming that individual even further, perhaps try and be the better person and show your support. At the end of the day, you will lose nothing, but they may gain a lot.

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Discussion

  1. Janet

    Thankyou SO very much for being so open, sensible and sensitive – I feel I was reading my own story and my own misery as I’m sure many many others have. Three years ago I managed to lose 20lbs, I felt great, I had more confidence, clothes fitted without stress – it was a good time. Then things fell apart for various reasons. I have no friends or family here (I’m British), a rotten marriage and food and alcohol are my friends. Although I don’t get drunk I drink every night, which gives me the munchies and so it goes. I’ve piled on the weight again and I’m disgusted. I’m afraid/ashamed to seek help (everyone knows everyone’s business). I don’t have a life I have an existence, which I hate and I know it’s my own fault. So, is there a connection between mental health and weight?? Absolutely. I’ve battled with my inner demons for many years and sometimes they just gang up on me but I can always rely on my best buddies – food and alcohol – to help me out. Thankyou again for being so raw and open and honest. I hope I never have, nor ever will make anyone feel the way people have made me feel. I wish you the very very best x

    1. davidoziborg

      Thank you very much for your kind comments. If I may give you some advice, you should drop this being ashamed thingy, because trust me, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. Ever since I managed to control my shame (I still do feel ashamed sometimes, but I don’t allow it to overwhelm me) I have felt so liberated. So do yourself a favour and try and accept you for who you are. Even if you are depressed, drink to much and eat too much. So bloody what. That is you, and anyone who doesn’t appreciate that does not deserve to be in your life. There is only one person in the world you need love from, and that is yourself. Trust me. Good luck and keep fighting the good fight. Love and hugs.

  2. Owen

    Hi,
    I believe that your argument on this subject is completely wrong, I understand where you are coming from however there are always two sides to every story. First of all, I am complexly against “fatshaming” and one should always try and encourage people to make a change. Nevertheless, in my personal opinion I believe that Urban Jungle are doing just that, if you want to change something you have to work for it and work hard for it.

    First of all, yes, I do have what people would describe as an athletic body, and I was born with decent genetics. However, I have been working out for as long as I can remember, football, PE, Athletics, Gym, etc at least two hours a day, every day (Except Sundays, rest day) for as long as I can remember. When I used to represent my country I even used to train 4-5 hours a day (while doing a bachelor’s degree in marketing and an ACCA degree) not because I was forced but because I wanted to push this body that I was given beyond its limits, because from experience, I know that the best feeling in the world is after your last run, when you fall to the ground, trying to catch your breath, trying hard not to vomit from the fatigue, thinking to yourself why you are doing all this, only to go back the next day and do it all over again.

    However, you are right, working out is not easy, I too had my bad period in life and when I retired from athletics, I thought that I had done enough, that I should just enjoy life and that my training days were over. I thought that 2 5-a-side games per week would suffice to keep looking and feeling good. My God was I wrong, within two years I went from 85Kg six pack and all to 100kg without a single pack in sight. I had gotten comfortable, lazy to be exact, and every day I would come up with new excuses why I should not work out and that I’m just fine the way I am. Well you know what, I was not fine, and I’m sorry to say that anyone (majority of Maltese population) who is in the situation I was is not fine. You are unhealthy, irrespective of how you look, I still looked very decent at 100kg, and if I was a woman the dress would have still looked good on me, but I did not feel good, not even one bit.

    So last year, as a New Year resolution (I know nobody keeps those) I decided to get back in shape and find the beast that I lost within me again. I can tell you it was not easy, even for a former national champion, it was not easy at all. I had to start from the very beginning, it’s even harder when you are a former athlete because you would still have that sense of pride that you are an athlete and that your body can do or lift anything, but it cannot. You hit the bench, thinking you can easily lift 90-100kg only to realise that you cannot even lift 50kg. But you start, you start doing baby steps, and day by day you build on the previous day, till you reach you former peek levels/records and you start beating them one by one, and I have to say, the feeling is incredible. It was not easy, it took me 10months of waking up at 5.30 every day to fit in a 2hour session before work, and it would take a normal person who never trained even longer, but step by step you can achieve anything.

    You said that every body type is not the same and that with the same effort not everyone can achieve the same result and you are completely right, however I can assure you that if anybody can commit themselves to at least 1.5-2 hrs a day, you can achieve whatever you want to with your body. It might take 6 months or 6 years, but if you show up every day, you give your all every day, If you know you left everything you had on the gym floor every day, no matter how you look, you will feel like a hero and you will achieve what you want. The difference between those who complain and use your type of logic and those who are fit and healthy, is that the later show up every single day, you might be born with an amazing body, but if you do not put that body through hell every day, that body is useless. And my argument here is not between fat and thin, its between unhealthy and healthy.

    You also got the argument on mental health completely wrong as well, with all due respect to the specialists you consulted. It is not mental health that leads to obesity problems, it is the lack of physical activity and sports at a young age that lead to mental health issues later on in life. You also said it yourself that today you are in a good place because you are working hard. So please do not use mental health or allow others to use it as an excuse not to work out. Yes, at some level it might be true that during difficult times you would not want to exercise, however it’s up to you to get up in the morning and show up at the gym, track or streets. It’s up to you to choose if you start your day on a lazy note or if you start your day by kicking ass. So honestly, if in your life you did not put at least the same level of effort as I did in your training, diet and lifestyle you have no right to criticise the opinion of the ones that did just because they tell lazy people to get off their ass and start training. You have been given a body, irrespective of how it looks, it’s up to you if you should call, raise or fold.

    1. davidoziborg

      Hey there. Wow. That was a response. And an interesting story in itself. I am however going to have to disagree with some of your points. Where you are right is that without effort, nothing will happen. An effort must be made, and a serious commitment at that. I am happy that you have the strength to do that. And long may it continue. Not everyone has that strength however and I am afraid to say that your comments regarding mental heath show you have very little understanding on the subject. Let me stay specific here and I can tell you from my perspective. Like I stated in the article I have had no control over the situation for the past 25 years. I have tried over and over and over again to stop my overeating, and comfort eating. But have failed ever single time. Should I say it is being lazy or an unwillingness to change? That would be a ridiculous argument considering the amount of effort I have put in over the years. As I said, I am happy that you have found a solution that works for you and that you can start your day by kicking ass as you put it. But you cannot paint everyone with the same brush. I wake up every morning wishing the earth would consume me there and then, thankfully as the day unfolds I can eventually pull myself out of the hole.

      1. Owen

        Thank you for your reply,
        David, the mind is an incredible thing, it can make you great and it can destroy you, for a fact everyone at one point in their life will experience some kind of mental health problems, but it is how you react to it that will make you or break you. I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but we all have our problems. I am dyslexic, till the age of 16 I did not know the difference between d or b and I still get confused between right or left to this day plus a million other things. All my life teachers never believed I would add up to much yet today I’m more qualified than anyone who has ever said that about me. But I wanted to prove them wrong, I had to study harder than anyone, while you probably know the difference between for example their & there automatically I have to stay remembering the story I invented to remember the difference between them, and I came up with all kinds of different stories about hundreds of different words just to be able to remember how to spell them because my brain cannot do that automatically. I’m not saying it’s all bad, dyslexia was the greatest gift I could have even been given because I can see and imagine things that normal people would never even think of. I’m not saying this so you think how great I am, I was lucky to have had a good family and I understand how important that is, but we all have our problems.

        All I would like to say is that yes, it is hard, making yourself better is hard, you have said that you tried over and over again, that means that you quit over and over again, all I’m trying to say is DO NOT QUIT, keep trying, even if you do not see any progress keep trying, you might have put an incredible amount of effort but please keep putting in more, it is not easy, if it was easy it would not improve you. Yes, your mind will tell you to quit, mine tells me to quit every day, your biggest opponent is yourself, you can either beat him or let him beat you. As I said, you can either stay behind your desk complaining about the cards you were dealt, or you can wake up tomorrow at 5.30 and go for a walk, then the day after jog a little, and the day after jog a bit more, and don’t do it to lose weight(that’s the worst kind of exercise), do it because you want to be one of those people that gets up early and kicks ass, do it for yourself because physical activity is part of who you are, if it wasn’t for the strong mentality sports gave me, I would probably be complaining the cards I was dealt too.

        1. davidoziborg

          Fair play Owen. I am really happy that you have overcome and persevered in your life, and I am still hopeful, that one day I will find it for myself. For the record, I do gym twice to three times per week. My fitness level is not to bad. I do wake up at 5am already just to be at work just after 6am. I am afraid I don’t have it in me to wake up at 4am. 🙂 And I don’t usually get home until 7pm in the evening. I have a busy work lifestyle, but unfortunately a sedentary one. I am man enough to admit that there are ways for me to improve, and I don’t want to use my diagnosis as an excuse. But, it makes the challenge more complex for sure. Your story is motivational and can perhaps help myself and persons in a similar situation to keep trying and not give up home. There were two sides to this blog/story. Side one, the over sensitivity of people and the notation that for some there may be a specific reason for it. And side two, the over harshness of criticism towards such people from people who tend not to understand. Hopefully through our conversation here we have given people from both sides something to think about.

          1. Owen

            Thanks, I normally never post anything online but i enjoyed this. yes people are oversensitive and one should never offend anyone with anything, unfortunetly not many people have good argument skills. But trust me the human body can achieve anything if you dare to put it to the test. The other day i saw a video of a guy with both amputated legs doing things at the gym that i could not do yet, if that guy is not finding any excuses no one should.
            Have a nice day and keep active

    2. davidoziborg

      Oh, and just quickly I can tell you it’s very easy for someone who does not have or understand having mental health issues to have your opinion on the issues at hand. Because you don’t know what it is like. If you were to step into my shoes for even one month, perhaps you would get it.

    3. Janet

      I found this post extremely insulting and typical of the attitude of a lot of poorly informed people. “your type of logic …” and “argument on mental health completely wrong as well …” good grief you sound so arrogant. I hope you never have loved ones suffer from this problem – and it is a huge problem – because I don’t think you have the tolerance or the knowledge to deal with it.

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    I am mildly overweight. I have not always been, and was actually rather skinny when I was younger. I can actually trace my weight gain going back to 6th form, where looking at my peers, I was always made to feel inferior. Although I did have a very close knit group of friends who were extremely helpful at getting me through those years, the so called “elite group” were the ones always snickering at the others who never looked as good as them. I guess I was weak, I let it get to me, even though I never showed it. I used (and still do) humour to cover what I really feel inside, how I slowly started hating myself, my looks, my physique, and my thoughts.

    I can totally understand how this is a mental problem, and I agree that people who have never really experienced it cannot really understand how losing that weight for people like us is much more than just going to the gym everyday, and eating healthy food. It is a mental state which you are in, and cannot really get out of. There are its ups and downs. Thankfully, I now have a very loving fiancee who is always there to listen to me, and help me through the bad times.

    Again, I would really like to thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I never really sought any professional help, however, knowing that I am not alone is a great help in and of itself.

    1. davidoziborg

      It is my pleasure, and always remember you are not alone. I get it, sometimes it can feel real lonely, even when you are surrounded by loved ones. But keep reminding yourself that its ok. I went through the same things at school. It was tough. But I think, you, me, and many others need to learn to let go of all that stuff. Just love ourselves and learn to enjoy our lives on our terms. Let us just say we are all a work in process. Much love.

      1. Janet

        OMG – many thanks and Haggis for this thread. Maybe there won’t be a lot of replies but I’m sure it will touch a nerve with and give comfort/hope to so many people in the same boat. Thanks for the hugs – I needed one 🙂

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