With obesity becoming a national obsession, it is clear that the terms ‘thin’ and ‘fat’ are wholly inadequate to describe the range of widths of the human form.

I spent my teenage years in Skegness (somebody has to), where humankind not only comes in every shape and size, but also is prepared to display that on the seafront, whether or not it is attractive to the rest of us. My father and I therefore adopted a shorthand for pointing out noteworthy specimens more accurately and, in the event of being overheard by the person in question, more safely.

This appears to us just as necessary as the Beaufort Scale of Wind Force, which is similarly based on observable characteristics rather than scientific measurements. Like Sir Francis Beaufort, we modestly offer this under our name as the Emmens Scale of Flab.




Starving – normally only seen in famine areas


Emaciated, clinically malnourished; if found in developed countries is likely to be a victim of an eating disorder.


No fat whatsoever. Thin. What used to be called ‘heroin chic’. Think fashion models like Miranda Kerr and Filippa Hamilton.


Slender, but at least has benefit of some muscle tone – e.g. Paula Radcliffe or Victoria Beckham amongst the women; Mo Farrah amongst the men.


Normal curvy in the case of women – the Sun would refer to them as “cor wotta stunner!” – so their Page 3 girls would be examples, and indeed, most leading actresses between 20 and 40. Men are nicely developed and still have tight bums, such as most athletes and many actors and musicians – say from Lewis Hamilton to Daniel Radcliffe to Justin Timberlake.


Women are “buxom” – think Barbara Windsor in her Carry On days, or Renee Zellwegger in her bulked-up role as Brigit Jones – and men are “stocky” or “thick-set”, for example Eamonn Holmes or Adrian Chiles. Tend to bulge a bit in the tummy area when seated. If you get a chance to check it out, you will see some cellulite in the thighs and buttocks region of women, and ‘love handles’ at the waists of men.


Plump. Women are still curvy, and typically have a rounded bust and bottom but also a rounded tum. May still have shapely calves but the thighs are cellulite-ridden, and some women show signs of double chin. Men often retain slim legs but acquire the “beer-belly” bulge around the waist. This is the point where the ‘muffin waistline’ becomes more marked over tight belts. Examples: Adele, Liza Tarbuck, Victoria Coren-Mitchell, James Corden, Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden)


Definite double chin and flabby jowl. Bulges now really noticeable around tight clothing, especially bra straps and belts, like the Fat Slags from Viz. Broadness of bum becomes evident when seated. Examples are Lisa Riley, Beth Ditto, Johnny Vegas.


For women, the bust has become a shelf beneath the double chin (thanks to industrial strength bra technology), broadness of bum becomes evident, thighs now too big for normal slinky feminine walk, resulting in audible swish as they rub past each other. For men, have developed a bust and started to lose a distinct neck. On public transport, overflows onto adjacent seats, so not a popular neighbour when travelling. Examples: Dawn French (before the diet), Robbie Coltrane, John Goodman, Eric Pickles.


Centre of gravity definitely lowering, as waist and hips now broadened more than bust, which is as a result less pronounced. Now very reluctant to bend down. Walking now only possible with a distinct waddle and much expenditure of energy; hence often to be found seated, when flab descends to level of seat creating a pyramid shape. Example: the late Richard Griffiths


Bust finally disappears having been lost in the rolls emanating from the torso around it. Generally egg-shaped, can be noticeable how small hands and feet are in comparison to the rest. Rare. No celebrity examples.


Walks with difficulty and not very far; no discernable waist or bust, whole torso including head becomes like an egg, pointed end uppermost – even neck so thick as to merge head into torso. Very rare, seldom seen in public.


Housebound or even bedridden, finds it extremely hard to walk, and cannot get in or out of a car. Will live on ground floor only at home because stairs are impossible. May even be unable to get through the front door. Extremely rare, not seen in public.

For what it is worth, I consider myself probably nearer 5 than 4…

On a scale of 0 to 12

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *