First things first, I am fat. Not very fat but definitely a few pounds on the upper side of the scale. I have been fat since I was 11, right at the time when I welcomed puberty in my life. But honestly, hormones or not, I was meant to be fat because I detested any sort of sport or physical activity. As a child, I was selective of what I invested my time in. If anything fell out of my comfort zone or if I was bad at a thing, I would never do that; and any sort of physical exercise always has been my Achilles heel- I couldn’t even run straight and I believe I still can’t. So in order to hide my ineptitude at sports, I decided I would never commit to them. Also almost everything that I enjoyed as a child/teenager required me to sit at a desk like studying (yes, I was the nutcase who enjoyed studying), reading and watching television. I used to dance a lot in my younger years but I gave up on that entirely as I grew up to be too conscious. I was an active child otherwise, like I had no qualms in helping my mother or running an errand or simply working on something. It’s just that nothing that I did was physically challenging. So for the first 11 years or so, my body cooperated and then one day the fat started to show.
I did not see the first signs. I think I have always had the tendency to be in denial of things that can potentially inconvenience me in the future. So when my legs began to look bulgier, I took no note of that. It was only a couple of months later when the winter arrived that I could see that I did not fit in any of my jeans. It was heartbreaking. First, it was the jeans, then it was my priced denim skirt and then a couple of shorts that I loved wearing during summers- clothes continued to not fit and life continued to seem more heart breaking with each passing day. I became more selective in what I wore because I did not want others to take note of my newly acquired fat. But of course those tricks work only in your brain. Almost everyone I knew noticed. My mother did and she tried persuading me into losing it. At some point in the year, there was always that conversation where my fat was brought up- almost during every summer vacation when I was surrounded by my much leaner cousins or when I was reading about celebrity weight loss stories in a magazine that if I can read about it then why can I not do it for myself. The words began to hurt.
Eventually, I started rationing my diet. I have never had a huge appetite. I have always eaten three meals of home cooked food. Even though I enjoyed chips and carbonated drinks my access to them was limited. So out of whatever I was eating, I decided that the safest meal to skip was the breakfast. Gradually, from skipping breakfast I made my way to eating only a meal in a day and 1-2 cups of coffee. I was 55 kg at 17, which is good for a person who is 168 cms tall. But even then I was unsatisfied. I wanted to look thin and 55 wasn’t cutting it out for me.
When I say that we are taking the wrong approach to fat, I am trying to draw your attention to the fact that we want to lose the fat because we want to look thin and not because we want to be healthier. For almost a decade, all the unsolicited fat advice that has made its way to me rooted from the premise of body shaming. My fat seemed undesirable because ‘log kya kahenge’ (what will other people say). Almost everyone around me had me convinced that you work towards weight loss for validation from others. Even if you stand at a healthy weight, you are supposed to work for a leaner body frame because that is what is deemed to be acceptable in our society. And by that standard, I have never been at the acceptable level. I have always felt that push that if I lost a few more pounds, I would look prettier.
I had a weak immune system when I was in school. Every blood test that was taken till the time I was 18 showed that my hemoglobin levels were shy of the normal level. Given how little I ate, the poor blood results were meant to be. At 18, I went to college and things began to change. For the first time in my life, I began to value food- thanks to the scant meals available to me as a paying guest during the first two years in college. I craved my mother’s food and hoarded on it every time I was home. Also, I came to realize that eating less doesn’t guarantee weight loss- because I was eating less in college and my weight did not change at all. When I looked up for information online, it affirmed my doubts that curtailment of meals in fact forces your body to hold on to the existing body fat because the body needs that much energy to keep going. Among a number of things that I stumbled upon was ‘Fitness Blender’ on YouTube.
Fitness Blender is a fitness channel run by a young couple who upload a number of doable/achievable workout videos on YouTube. If you see their channel or visit their website, you will realize that they have a number of short to long videos catering to different fitness needs with beginner/low impact modifications. The young couple and their channel has been the catalyst in shifting my perspective towards weight loss. They have made me understand that you should not work towards fat loss because fat is stigmatized. In fact, fat is a stigma for all the wrong reasons; it is a stigma because you’re scared that the neighborhood aunties are going to comment on it, because you’re scared that your fat will make you stand out among your group of friends, because you’re scared that when you meet your extended family a year later they will make a quip or two on your weight gain. Rather, fat should be stigmatized because obesity is the home to many long term chronic diseases. We should be mindful of what we eat not because we are trying to aim towards a certain waistline but because our food is responsible for making or breaking our health in the long run.
I have been working out for four years now- on and off. I have no weight loss to back that claim. But I can see how my body has changed. A lot of exercises that I struggled with in the beginning seem doable to me now. I can now last a 50 minute workout. I can lift weights now. My body is much more flexible than it ever was. To a person, who detested any physical activity as a child can do a number of fancy sounding exercises. And even though this has not yielded into a substantial weight loss figure, I find all of this empowering in a way. I have started eating like a normal person and my blood results have improved a lot. I can feel how strong my body feels now and I have come to understand that the thin waistline that I had always aimed for and the means that I had taken to achieve that would have never made my body feel how it feels presently.
Why am I writing about this today is because I have struggled a lot with my body weight and eating habits. Even after a lot of self restraint, I could not stop myself from gaining weight. If only, someone had told me to not rely on the dubious crash diets or crash workouts back then it could have saved me a lot of time, energy and mental peace. So if you see someone around you who is struggling with body weight please do not body shame them, please do not insist them to lose weight for ‘acceptability’; instead help them find them a sustainable way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
On a side note, have you over thought something that you wanted to write about? I have over thought writing this post for a long time now. I still am not sure if I should have written this.