Interviewing Sir Michael Parkinson and why we need to take the bullying out of obesity

PUBLISHED: 15:56 17 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:58 17 October 2014


Parky interviewed the greats and is now our own ‘living legend’, but it is hope for the future which inspires him as a local charity patron

It’s not often you get the chance, in my job, to interview the most famous interviewer in the land. Usually you just bump into each other at functions, or you work alongside them - which I did 25 years ago at TVam. And that person is Sir Michael Parkinson.

But Parky came into my studio just recently to talk about his life and his work, and his support for a movement which is growing bigger and bigger in our patch, and will one day provide a children’s hospice for the hundreds of kids (and their families) in our area who sadly need such help.

Windsor parents Fiona and John Devine set up the Alexander Devine Trust in 2007 to make sure that children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions have access to the specialist palliative care they desperately needed when their son, Alexander, was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Tragically, he died when he was just eight years old. But his family are determined his legacy should be in a bricks and mortar hospice that’ll help others - a multi million pound dream that’s fast becoming a reality. At present, families from all over the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire area have to travel many miles to get to a hospice. It’s high time we had our own, says Parky. And that’s why he’s a patron and a hugely active supporter.

But when you’ve got hold of Parky, how can you NOT talk about the golden age of chat shows, of which he was King, and the hundreds of legends he met and interviewed. Like Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Mohammed Ali, Robin Williams and Joan Rivers? Sadly, I’m also the king of the obituary, he remarked. Every time a legend dies, they pull out the Parky interview. And the one he missed? Met briefly but never was able to interview? Sinatra. “We tried and tried to persuade him, but you know what? He just didn’t NEED it. So it never happened…”


Take the bullying out of obesity

Every so often, university experts come up with research that is so blindingly obvious you wonder why it’s worth stating (and how they got the funding!). And that’s what I thought when I read recently that UCL researchers have found that bullying people about being fat actually makes them fatter. Duh, I thought. I’ve been saying this for years, in my campaigning for more compassion in the treatment of obesity. But then, perhaps others will only believe such evidence once it is universally recognised by academics.

I’m not surprised at the findings - that making people feel ashamed and unworthy simply makes everything worse. When I was very overweight, I didn’t ever need to be told I was fat - I could see it with one look in the mirror. Which would send me straight for the biscuit cupboard! Seriously, fat is so often caught up with feelings of confidence, self-worth and even depression, that a diagnosis of obesity would only exacerbate such negative feelings. Surely we have all read about people who’ve been driven even to suicide because they deemed they were fat and ugly and therefore contemptible?

That’s why we have to somehow reach a total change of attitude and make it a health issue not a fat issue. And, ironically, this also means that some thin people will have to face up to the fact that they may be unhealthy too. And so the message has to be not about size, fat and appearance but about what really matters - your health. This means combining it with other health messages too, like smoking and drinking. However, that’ll require giant health campaigns a generation of new and specially trained professionals and the money to help people make healthy choices. So good luck, Britain, with that. I just cannot see it happening even though it’s so desperately needed. You see, healthy messages are boring and being prejudiced and nasty about fat is easy. I suspect we as a society will opt for the latter for a long time yet.


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