SAD VICTIM OF A WORLD WHERE FAT DOESN'T FIT
SUSAN Murphy was 29 when she died from an operation to help her lose
At 19 stone she was obese, unhappy and having been defeated by
countless diets, decided on the drastic measure of a gastric bypass.
No one risks major surgery unless they consider it the last desperate
resort, and by all accounts Susan's life had become utterly miserable.
"She was so ashamed of how she looked," explained her sister, "that
she hated going out." For the young single mother of five-year-old
son Jacob, this would have been an impossible situation.
Every motherly duty must have been a nightmare with the daunting
prospect of meeting "yummy mummies" - fit, agile slim-hipped women
who would have tried to look past Susan's bulk, but not quite manage
to hide their pity or disdain.
We live in a fattist society, obsessed with body image and the
seriously overweight woman who claims to be happy is a rarity these
If size zero is frowned on then so are sizes 22-plus. It's why,
cosmetic surgeons tell us, the number of liposuction operations,
despite being painful and dangerous procedures, jumped by 90 per cent
in 2005. Even Geordie men are having their beer bellies sucked out,
for heaven's sake.
So great is the demand for nip and tucks, one medical group is
launching six new clinics around Britain to cope.
Maybe it's down to TV programmes like Ten Years Younger or the
obvious success of Sharon Osbourne's surgery that we've bought into
the idea of quick-fix routes to perfection.
Certainly vanity is no longer considered an indulgence, but an
acceptable human condition.
To this end we're bombarded with gizmos to make ourselves flawless.
The attitude is simple: "If you're not happy with something, change
And there's no shortage of surgeons, pills, potions and injections to
make it happen.
Really, we're told, there's no excuse not to make the very best of
ourselves. Small wonder then, that Susan preferred to sit at home,
trapped in a body she felt wasn't fit for human consumption.
I bet she looked at pictures of her former slender self, before
giving birth, and wept tears of frustration and guilt because
climbing a mountain would have seemed more attainable than conquering
the problem of her weight.
It's not hard to imagine, either, how she would have reacted when
told there was a "quick fix" for her too.
A gastric bypass is not a simple routine operation and Susan would
have understood the dangers. But she was insistent because she
wanted, like other mothers, to take her boy swimming, go cycling or
kick a football in the park.
Being fat, to her, was as debilitating as any physical illness and as
isolating as a mental one.
Which is why, before the operation, she wrote Jacob a letter, one
that she could never have expected him to read.
"Mummy," she explained, "would do anything for you, get the stars
from the sky if I could. But Mummy has carried a lot of weight in my
head and heart and body for as long as I can remember - I don't want
my baggage to become a weight you have to carry. So when nice doctors
said they could help me with getting the weight off the outside,
Mummy thought very long and carefully and said, 'Yes please.'" Is
there a woman in Britain who could say, hand on heart, they wouldn't
have done what Susan did?
The pressure to conform is enormous and in this homogenised world to
be different is to feel alone and scared.
Ironically, the mum who said that she'd do anything for her son "even
get the stars from the sky" was unable to give him what he wanted
most - his mummy.
What's really sad is that one day Jacob will be able to say he didn't
care whether his mummy was fat or thin.
He just wants her back.