Billy Bunter was the child subject of a comic character of my childhood. Billy wore glasses. He was overweight. His character did not represent more than one child in our very large instructional class. Even if there was one child in our class which was overweight the child wearing glasses was in a different year level. Due to our limited vocabulary the overweight child was called “Fatty”. The one wearing glasses we named “Four Eyes.”
Nicknames were a popular way of labelling classmates. I was named after the cartoon bird “Woody Wood Pecker”, because it had a semblance to my surname and the my hair stuck out like a wood pecker’s crest because it was strong and unyielding. Variously the name was shortened to Woody or Pecker and I wore either of these names until I left school at 18. From that age the people calling me these names have just faded from my life.
Over the years it became improper to single people out and label them according to some attribute they showed the world. (At least politically incorrect language is now frowned upon in polite society.). In my experience children have always been cruel to one another at name calling.. They possibly are today, after all, left to self-management they possibly still resemble the characters in Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”. (I remember “Piggy” as an adorable little chap who was given a hard time by his fellow travellers).
Piggy, Fatty, Four Eyes, Bluey and Spud are common cruel names. Spoken with malice they were supposed to hurt. I am sure they did/do. The child with resilience able to struggle past the hurt may at some later stage in life be embraced by his peers for some innate skill he possesses – while those who have injured him, now admire a hidden talent . Then the slur of the nickname is worn with pride, however the damage done by the many to the few always hurts.
As a young man I was slight and athletic no one would – even in jest- call me Fatty. Over time I became sturdy, round and today my BMI label says I am obese. I have become Fatty.
This fatty grew old and invisible. It happened sometime in my sixties. I began to notice I could walk around in mixed company and no one noticed I was there. When I had settled into my septuagenarian years I entered a water aerobics class in Torquay. (Water aerobics is a gentle exercise older women take up in an aquatics pool in my neighbourhood). So as not to draw attention to myself I went to the class with my wife and hid away in a corner of the pool at the back of the class. Initially I was very self-conscious and concerned the class members possibly disliked a male in their midst. Fortunately many of the women had accepted another Bruce before I even started, so being male was nothing more than being a novelty. In time Lloyd would occasionally join our group and together we beat the water into submission. (I wish.)
Seven years later I report my classmates accept we all attend the class for fitness. The name Water Aerobics is not a misnomer. I puff, pant, and gasp for air because it is a very energetic aerobic workout. Being in a warm pool it is as easy as you like, but at the same time water is as hard as cement to move when the speed of your movements increase. It induces fitness. At the end of class I feel worn out yet exhilarated.
The only times we have missed these sessions are holiday periods and our recent lockdown. In those off periods I balloon. When I return to the pool and concentrate on my core my shape is more manageable. As a result I miss not going. To return and face the hard work of pulling myself back from obese to look overweight requires stamina. Consequently have learned not to look at the clock when I miss a week. The 45 minute sessions seem to go on for hours if I dare peep.
It is so hard to return to fitness I look for a pool whenever we are away. During the first year or so of these lessons we were on the road and we stopped in Moree. It was a novelty to hop into the Artesian Swimming Baths. The water is in six large pools. The temperature varies in each one – from 40 degrees down to air temperature. It is common to see lots of old Victorians up there in the water. The advice is not to linger in the hottest pool for more than 15 minutes, yet the hardened old travellers seem to be happy to sit motionless in the water like buffaloes for hours. When I jumped in I used some of the aerobic moves to strengthen my core – the wizened regulars were aghast someone dared move the water for 15 minutes. Mind – it was very challenging to go from that temperature to the water of a regular out door pool.
Our body shape seems more related to genes than it does to diet, (excluding the influence of hidden sugar). People of all races seem damned when a likeness for sugar ruins their regular diets. Friend Lyn says it depends on calories in verses energy output. She is right of course nevertheless my inclination is to go with my first statement. I only seem to fight obesity whenever my weight increases by a kilogram or so otherwise I lay down the gloves and that is my prejudice.
Overweight kids are so common in this decade being the class “Fatty” is no longer rare. I pine for those wishing to change their lot and recommend Water Aerobics for the day when they want to change their future. At least they will build up their core muscle strength.