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Jeans Shaming

Raise a hand if you can still fit into the jeans you wore when you were 21. Of course it’s a ridiculous question but it comes from a moronic article in the Guardian this week.

Here’s the opening;

“People risk developing type 2 diabetes if they can no longer fit into the jeans they were wearing when they were 21, according to one of the world’s leading experts on the disease.”

Ok, so that’s 90 percent of us completely screwed. The world-leading tit behind this twaddle is Professor Roy Taylor, from Newcastle University. Here’s his argument, based on his small-sample* research study:

“As a rule of thumb, your waist size should be the same now as when you were 21. If you can’t get into the same size trousers now, you are carrying too much fat and therefore at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even if you aren’t overweight.”

It’s a  joke, right? I doubt I can fit into the scarf I wore when I was 21. And it was one of those big Duran Duran new romantic scarves too. Just like this hideous bag-over-your-head project from 2016 there’s so much that’s wrong, damaging, and utterly fuckwittington about the whole piece that it’s hard to know where to start but I’ll give it a go.

This knob Roy seems to be suggesting that 21 years old is the marker for prime health. At 21 in England, we’d already been smoking and drinking for at least six years. No-one was fussing over paleo or worrying about our carb to protein macros. Bread wasn’t the enemy, it was the protective lining before a night out drinking. Beef broth was the Bovril that my grandpa drank to help with his ‘digestion’. Plant-based eating? Yeah, but only because my mother, watching too many episodes of the Good Life, planted various hideous vegetables in the garden which were then served up looking deformed, over-boiled, or still with mud attached. I remain wary to this day of farmers market vegetables. And what did our eating habits matter anyway? We were all going to live forever. And if we didn’t, we were going to die of Aids, not Type 2 Diabetes.

The good old ED days.

And then there’s eating disorders. Not as talked about back then in the pre-Diana days but equally as prevalent. At 21, I smoked too many Marlboro Lights, drank too much Gin, and lived on toast and bars of ExLax chocolate. And no, eating disorders aren’t funny, and no I was never in any great danger, but the thrill of being noticed for my steadily decreasing weight is something that still lives with me almost 35 years later. And jeans were the greatest measure of my success. When skinny jeans were in, our ‘rule of thumb’ was to buy a size so small that you couldn’t even get a thumb inside the waistband. When you took them off you’d have the full imprint of the button and the zip seam on your skin. Then when peg jeans came in mid-80s, you needed a belt to get the full cinched-in effect. Perfect for the eating-disordered. As the saying goes, ‘Nothing tastes as good as the feeling of stabbing your BIC biro nib through the pleather to make an extra belt notch’.

I’m competitive in all things, including self-destructive behaviours. If I’d heard this twat’s advice when I was 21 it would have been just the motivation I needed to try and fit into my 11-year old self’s jeans. Though I was actually a lot healthier at 11 than at 21 so maybe Taylor got his numbers wrong and should have gone with a pre-pubescent jeans goal to keep us extra motivated.

Pontins Peaky Fookin’ Barmaids. 1986.

I have an uneasy history with jeans. Not being American, and having WW II generation parents, we didn’t grow up as a multi-jeans-owning family. My dad never owned or wore jeans. My mum had one pair of black jeans. I had one pair of jeans for scruffing around in but the rest of the time was swanning about in ra-ra skirts, opaque tights and pixie boots. Any money I made from my Saturday job went to Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins. And no, I couldn’t make my own clothes, and nor could Molly Ringwald if she too had to work with a hand-cranked vintage Singer Sewing Machine from 1800.

Jeans to feel sad in.

In 85-86, the must-have jeans were Levis 501’s. They were modeled by Nick Kamen in the famous laundrette ads where he strips down to his keks in full view. Being broke I had to choose between cigarettes or a sandwich most days so I wore the Nevis knock-off brand jeans from the Greek Cypriot market in Green Lanes. My local laundrette looked nothing like the Nick Kamen one. It was managed by a Cypriot woman called Dodo who would yell at you if your coins got stuck in the stupid coin slot thing or if you spilled any powder on the floor. She’d do an angry sweep with a broom and always hit your ankles.

Nowadays I have two pairs of jeans. They’re identical and I’ve been wearing them for at least 8 years. They’re KUT FROM THE KLOTH brand, with double zips below the pockets that don’t actually zip and holes in the right knee only. They also have some spandex in them and are stupidly soft. And the days when I can pull them on and off without undoing the zip (NO. They are not jeggings) are the trouser equivalents of good hair days. But on the days when all my clothes feel tight and I’m uncomfortable and lumpy in my skin, my mind easily drifts back to days of restricting and purging. I usually attribute the feelings to hormonal changes or to drinking white wine the night before or eating a whole bag of Trader Joes Swedish Fish. But I’d never considered that I might just be ‘too heavy for my own body’ until this.

Yup, here he is again:

 “These results, while preliminary, demonstrate very clearly that diabetes is not caused by obesity but by being too heavy for your own body.”

I can accept that a 50kg kettlebell Turkish get up is too heavy for me. Pasta for lunch is too heavy for me. But the idea that my own body is too heavy for my own body is mind-blowing. And really shit.

But don’t worry, because here’s his solution:

“The participants, who had an average BMI of 24.5, followed a weight-loss programme that included a low-calorie liquid diet for two weeks – where each day they were consuming only 800 calories a day through soups and shakes.”

800 calories a day? Soups and shakes? Didn’t BMI ratios and this Biggest Loser style speed weight-loss get discredited years ago? Starve your participants just long enough to record the results and then let them loose on some chips. But if you want amazing results then why stop at two weeks? Why 800 calories? Why not abandon your test subjects on a mountain and make them fast for 40 days and 40 nights? Jesus did it and in some of his pictures he looked a bit skinny fat, especially in denim. And no wonder he wasn’t tempted to break his fast if all the devil was offering was a flask of consomme or a Slimfast shake.

I’m angry. This was a wasted opportunity to talk about Type 2 Diabetes and how to assess and mitigate your risk. But instead, this knobhead decided to grab himself some headlines and look like a complete dick who hasn’t actually considered that bodies change with age, with pregnancy, with global pandemic induced stress. So it forces people like me to respond. But people like me also go to the source of the study and find that the ‘small-sample’ wasn’t just small, it was so tiny it would barely fill a medical specimen jar.

The results of this study were based on: TWELVE PEOPLE. NO, NOT TWELVE HUNDRED. JUST TWELVE.

The size of the average Church of England congregation. A case of wine. A dozen donuts. Twelve sticky buns.

Up yours, Roy Taylor.



1 thought on “Jeans Shaming”

  1. Maggie, this is so spot on! And so funny! And so serious. I loved the photos, too. And your perfectly pointed sarcasm…
    And your concern for people with diabetes.

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