Recently, I lost a LOT of weight and the world around me lost its cool. I felt like I suddenly lost the membership of a non-existent sorority club that thrived on 7AM snack of potato wafers and chola bhatura. In all my gastronomical sincerity I never was that morning chola bhatura person. I will not allow the pleasure of looking at before-after of the transformation here for I have had enough of that body shaming.
Interestingly, another ‘intelligent’ wing of that non-existent club also started labelling me the way they generally, ignorantly and hypocritically label women who wear lipsticks and stilettos. To lose weight was an act of betrayal to that club – both the wings I mean. To lose weight was so very un-feminist of me! Seriously women? Let me set this straight for once and for ever, neither I was a constant seeker of an illusion of some body type nor did I hate the way I looked. I loved my body then and I love my body now. For whosoever’s sake, cut me some slack. Please. Also, stop with those labels already, if not, go find the glorious “We Should All Be Feminists” and read. In fact there are many great reads gathering dust waiting for your divine touch. It may seem like an outpour of freshly brewed venom to some but I am still dabbling in the great art of ‘let it go’.
The journey of my weight loss began in the moment when I was lying on the hospital bed after a surgery and my doctor was blasting me with well meaning but not at all sugar-coated words about the harmful effects of obesity. I was ashamed and sedated and all I remember today is that I resolved to live a healthier and more balanced life from that day on. I healed and took up a weight loss diet routine, followed it religiously and here I am today, dealing with body shaming in all its subtle and obvious forms.
I healed and took up a weight loss diet routine, followed it religiously and here I am today, dealing with body shaming in all its subtle and obvious forms.
After all the high profile weddings this country has witnessed and after the upcoming general election, story of my weight loss is the third most discussed topics amongst my relatives, friends and also a few people I exchange niceties with. People have way more time than we think they actually have. They waited for the opportune moment to talk to me and enquire, “What did you do?”.
Not being an instant casual chit chat person, it was quite a task for me to stand in the washrooms, libraries, hallways, corridors, bazaar and even classrooms (I teach to live and vice versa) to give a detailed chart of my daily routine. Initially, it felt like all the victories at the end of battles feel like. I was happy to see the outcome of my efforts and I wanted to tell people the same thing my doctor told me, only in better words.
The other side of the story is not similar. In the process of chit chatting and doling out my meal plans left right and centre I have been shrinking inside. The whole meaning of my life and its existence is consumed by my body. My body was never the meaning of my existence. I feel reduced. The human being I am is of no consequence whatsoever. “You look younger”, “You look so pretty now.” “Oh, now you can wear this or that” are no compliments, I tell you. They are the sleight of the hand ways of the same body shaming that was done to me before the weight loss. I remember a childhood friend saying, “Why do you need to buy fancy clothes? Won’t you look fat in all of them?” I remember all the advices given to me for undertaking strenuous exercises, watch some television channel for early morning yoga session, drink this or that potion of some home-made magic, eat this, try that – all of it making me so shamefully conscious of my body. Those compliments do the same to me. I do not question their intention.
There were a few unsolicited advices that lingered between the line of a depreciating mockery and a sarcastic comment and sounded something like, “Oh stop now. You have overdone it”, “Now, you don’t look good. I liked the chubby you”, “You look like a ghost of yourself.” That caught me off guard. I express my inadequacy to deal with them. I simply do not know, specially when some of them came from the same people who had earlier handed me the recipe of a potion.
I do question, however, the way I am being looked at now. I thought I managed to look fine before, I do the same now. For most part, it did not matter to me much. What changed ostensibly for everyone is that I came closer to a very constricted, bigoted, and highly problematic idea of beauty. One needs to question their aesthetic sensibility if they have such a one-dimensional notion of beauty.
What changed ostensibly for everyone is that I came closer to a very constricted, bigoted, and highly problematic idea of beauty.
How unimaginative and sad a place this world is with such a limited perception of a woman’s beauty. There is no heroism in losing weight. It is merely a matter of discipline. There is no loss of self esteem in gaining some. I was told by one ‘well wisher’ of mine (we all have too many of them, I guess) that such transformations make one confident (of what, I could not fathom then). In that moment, I was the most diffident self of my being, ever in my life.
Of all things, confidence is not a slave of some body type. I do subscribe now to eating healthy. I have realised the value of a sound body and its crucial role in easing the way to live a life one wishes to live. I have adopted a disciplined way of eating healthy. The way I look now is the visible effect of that healthy living and not the cause. I will continue the same life style for the rest of my life because being healthy is my primary concern. My body, though, will change again. It is bound to. There are a whole lot of mechanisms, processes and metabolism related issues that bundle up together to do that. I am no expert at that. I am, however, morphed into an expert now to deal with body shaming. That is yet another way in which body shaming functions. It makes you a pro at dealing with it and that is extremely mean of the world which is inhabited by billions of human beings and so many body types.
Rittvika Singh lives in Delhi – the city she has to reluctantly call home now – and teaches English at University of Delhi. Her areas of interest include Indian Theatre, Performance Studies, Indian Writing in English or Translation and Cinema Studies. She habitually scribbles poems, weaves stories, reads books, and dares to write academic papers.
Featured Image Source: Siya Woman