A couple of years ago, I wrote a post on what it’s like growing up dark-skinned in a nation obsessed with fairness—not justice, cos let’s face it, that we are not, but milky white skin. I got a lot of feedback on it, because many related to the real struggle that comes with it.
Here’s the post for those who missed it:
There is one more thing, similar to this, that gets talked and written about a lot, that I want to add my two cents to. Weight.
Since I was a teenager, I have battled with weight problems. After being a really skinny kid, I suddenly gained a ton of weight after being diagnosed with PCOD, one of the most common issues faced by women today. I literally bloated overnight.
Since then, it has been a constant struggle. Today, when I look at my college photos, I realise how thin I was! But back then, I thought I was a cow.
|2010 (don't miss the stunning style statement)|
Late in 2014, coincidentally, soon after my wedding, I ballooned again, the PCOD back with a vengeance. I was bloated, missing my periods and generally in a fair bit of pain. My clothes weren’t fitting anymore and I felt disgusted every time I looked in the mirror.
But worse than that were people’s reactions to this. Every other day, and I am *not* exaggerating, I would get text messages solely to tell me I’ve put on weight. Like someone on WhatsApp would open the conversation with, “You’ve gained weight’—not even ‘hi’. Or someone I would call to wish on his/her birthday, and would be talking to after months, would be like ‘I saw your pics, how did you put on so much weight?’ Or better yet, closer friends, who didn’t care to sugar coat, would be like ‘You’re so fat.’ ‘Lose some weight.’ ‘Why have you ballooned like this, Aunty?’
And every time this happened, my self-confidence would crumble just a little more. I often wondered, what made people say those things? Was it a sense of voyeurism, in thinking that someone looks worse because she’s fat? Is it supposed to be funny that this person has packed on some extra kilos, no doubt cos she’s eating everything in sight? Or is it just cos we, as humans, love putting others down?
Once I got over myself, I started working out, trying to eat right and taking care of my body. I became unhealthily obsessed with my weight. I stopped wearing sleeveless clothes or anything fitted in fear of being further shamed. My close friends started pointing out that what I was doing and how I was thinking was not productive, but I couldn’t stop myself.
Once I lost *some* of the weight, I started to regain my confidence, perhaps not so much because I looked different, but because I started feeling better in my own body. After moving here, because of a drastic change in my lifestyle (I went from being Boi to the bai), I lost more weight without even realising it.
Immediately I started getting, “Oh, you’ve lost a ton of weight’ or ‘you look so much hotter in Dubai than you did in Bombay’. Now, I won’t lie, like most women, I love hearing the three words, ‘you’ve lost weight’. Even now, for every three people who say I've lost weight, one person will say I've put some on, and it will hurt. But every time I get the compliment, I can’t help but wonder, ‘so, I wasn’t hot or pretty or attractive or basically good enough cos I was chubby?’ So now, if I put on any weight back on, I’ll go back to being not-hot?’
It’s pretty terrifying, to be perfectly honest, and more importantly, it will be impossible for me to ever get that bikini body I want (I’ve never worn a bikini in my life). You know why? Cos I LOVE FOOD! I try eating healthy for two days and by the third, I’m craving biriyani, pizza and cookies. Every time I decided to try eating clean, I tell myself by the end of the day, ‘what if you die tomorrow? Is that salad the last meal you would want?’
So yes, I may have lost some weight and regained some of my confidence (thanks mostly to my love for clothes and lack of self-control when it comes to shopping), but I still have a tummy, one which I keep telling myself is actually just bloated and not like that for real, a double chin, flabby arms that will.just.not.tone, and a few dimples on my thighs that aren’t as attractive as those on one’s cheeks. I don’t work out as often as I should, I eat way more unhealthy junk than I should and I do feel jealous when I see friends in bikinis or with flat tummies or pronounced jawlines, especially if they haven’t had to work for it. I am but human.
I guess the point of this post is nothing but to urge people to be kinder. Yes, you should look after your body—lose the weight for your health, not because of what others think of you (note to self and my sister, just fyi), take pride in your curves (the one thing on my body I love) and remember that when someone calls you fat, they may mean it with malice, but more often, they don’t, and while you will obsess over it for the next few weeks or lifetimes, they have already forgotten about it.
And the rest of you, be nice. You never know what kind of struggle a person is going through and frankly, it’s none of your business. Like our mammas taught us ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’