Katie Hopkins’s #myfatstory is a story of vulnerability

Katie Hopkins pic courtesy of TLC
Image copyright of TLC

Last weekend, Katie Hopkins starred a in two-part documentary called My Fat Story on TLC.

In three months, she gained 42lbs to take her from a BMI of 15 (a BMI healthy minimum is 18) to a BMI of 26 (lower end of the overweight category). Then, she lost weight by eating normally – i.e., whatever she wanted, and exercising for two (TWO) hours a day.

The documentary was formulaic but Hopkins was game, shovelling down 6,000 calories a day and sleeping with a sick bucket by her bed. She did the obligatory US trip to do an all-you-can-eat-burger challenge and visited a 57-stones lady, of whom she said: ‘I would rather be put down…’ Both in the UK and US she repeatedly said: ‘I hate fat people.’ Until she gained weight and then she repeatedly said: ‘I hate fat people for doing this to me.’

Her goal was to show everyone that if we eat less and move more, we lose weight.

Eat less, move more is a fundamental truth known to every dieter the world over. And, really if it was that easy, then the dieting industry, which in the UK alone, is worth £2 billion would not exist.

Life coach Martha Beck, in her book 4-Day Win, says that the problem with most overweight people is not that we lack willpower or are ignorant of the basic principles. It is because of the way we think about food: Eating is deliberate behaviour which is compelling and addictive, and leaves people feeling completely out of control where food and eating is concerned.

Hopkins did not understand this and admitted that she has a purely functional relationship with food. It was only when she gained 20lbs and felt a bit weepy did she realise that people do not overeat on purpose.

And, this was where a whole other story was going on.

At the beginning of the program, Hopkins’s metabolism was so fast, she was able to consume 4,000 calories daily without any weight gain. She ran marathons, took 20,000 steps daily (double the recommended daily target) and exercised for two (TWO) hours a day. She also, had no compassion for anybody, not even herself.

In the middle of the program, Hopkins was at her fattest. She HATED herself and was ashamed of her body, which led her to state that she had always been proud of her previously skinny strong, body. ‘It is my armour,’ she said. And without it, she was vulnerable.

Professor of Sociology, Brene Brown has studied vulnerability for many years. In her book Daring Greatly, she echoes Hopkins’s comments about armour.

Brown says that people armour up to prevent feeling vulnerable, afraid and, ashamed, and warns against doing this, because whilst these feelings are hard to bare, if you hang on in there, vulnerability really is a gift. For, it is the birthplace of creativity and love and all the good things that give our lives meaning. During her research, Brown has collected many stories of vulnerability and how being able to express and manage vulnerability is the best way of connecting with others. For, we all have a story, we all want to be heard and understood. We all want to feel loved.

And in the documentary, once Hopkins felt vulnerable, she went around connecting with people and collecting their stories too. She seemed genuinely amazed at how easily people trusted her with their stories and was empathetic towards them.

And, this would be where the turning point would/does occur in all good stories. For the antidote to shame is empathy. Empathy for oneself and for others.

Alas, this wasn’t one of those stories.

Once the weight came off, Hopkins’s empathy disappeared, back on went the armour, her vulnerability disappeared, and her attacks on overweight people became more and more vicious. She obviously felt more comfortable that way.

My theory is that having been discharged from the army for being ‘medically unfit’, Hopkins never got over it. Feeling vulnerable and ashamed, she turned her anger and disappointment firstly on herself, and then, on the people who are unfit in her eyes. There was never any empathy, no antidote to ensure a turning point. And, therein lies the real shame and real story of Katie Hopkins #myfatstory.

With that amount of energy, and access to a national platform, had Hopkins been able, she could have used her time and energy to understand, to inspire and uplift us all into a more creative, empathetic space of shared connectivity and meaning. Instead, she never learnt anything and began once more to attack and belittle a whole section of society, and most likely herself.