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“So, tell me about your childhood,” my therapist asked me. I told her about the time my family members forgot me in a crowded street in Delhi when I was seven or may be eight. “I am not sure if it is a dream or it actually happened,” I added. The truth is I still don’t know. I have many memories of my mother leaving me behind with my extended family. In all honesty, I said, “I love my mother and I do not blame her for anything.”

“Once, my mother called after six days; there were no mobile phones then. I held the green receiver of our phone close to my mouth and I asked her, “When will you come back?” “Soon. Do you want to talk to your brother?”” I don’t remember what happened after that. My brother went places with my mother and I stayed home doing I don’t remember what. She did not leave me behind because I was a girl, she left me behind because I was a fat girl.

“She once asked me not to eat butter chicken pieces because they were for my brother. She once shut me in a room because her friends had come over and she was ashamed of her fat daughter.” I was not allowed to eat butter because I was fat, and honey was precious, hence, for my brother. This was just the beginning and it continued all my life. I cannot pen down the number of ways it messed up my mental health and my entire existence.

I left home to study somewhere far away and I always avoided visiting during holidays – the good thing is no one even asked. Once, my mother called and said that they were going to visit my brother in Delhi and on their way back they would come and see me. On the day they were supposed to arrive, she called me and said that by mistake they had booked a flight back home and will not be able to come. Their ‘mistake’ still breaks my heart in innumerable ways, but I was relieved.

Every time I went to see a doctor for issues unrelated to my obesity, the only cure they had for me was that I need to lose weight.

I am always envious of people who have happy memories about their childhoods. Most of mine revolve around my body and what others thought about it. I want you to remember that my body is all that mattered about me, not my physical health, not my mental health, not my feelings, not my emotions, but my round, flappy body. All my life, being fat bothered me in a number of ways, but mostly because it bothered my mother and people around me.

When the time would come to go back home from anywhere, I always automatically remembered that I was fat and unlikable to my mother. Of course, in school I was bullied and people, including my teachers, called me names. Less in school, and more at home, I was taught that I was unlovable, ugly and in need of a change. A constant reminder that I needed to fix something, and it was my job alone. Things could have been better – if people around me believed I need ‘fixing’ they should have helped me. But the inclination was more to criticise, make fun of, abuse and demoralise. I was all alone in this.

I still see myself through others and value their opinions, which have always been negative, about myself and my body. Consequently, I was never able to cherish anything that happened to my body. I disassociated with my body completely and I ignored every sign of bad health my body showed including the ones that had nothing to do with my body weight. Through these violent, abusive and socially sanctioned events, my own body became ‘the other’ and I lost a sense of self and I struggle with it till date.

Recently, somewhere on social media, I read about a woman who had cancer that remained undiagnosed for three years because every time she went to see a doctor, they told her that all her problems were related to obesity. It instantly reminded me of my childhood. Every time I went to see a doctor for issues unrelated to my obesity, the only cure they had for me was that I need to lose weight. The worst part was what followed this ‘diagnosis’, my physical and mental health was ignored for nearly three decades. When I was diagnosed with PCOS, doctors told me I am infertile and not how PCOS has slowed down my metabolism and causes hormonal imbalance in my body. “Your chances of conceiving are bleak and if you stay fat you will be childless.” “If that is the only issue, does that mean I am healthy?” I asked my doctor. At that point, he reduced my entire existence to my reproductive function and my health became secondary.

Also read: How Being Body-Shamed Left Me Traumatised

Getting out of this circle of abuse is not easy and is a long process that many of fatphobes will never understand. I was never afraid of being fat and I have never been afraid of food, but I have always been afraid of fatphobes and social/cultural standards associated with bodies of women. The diet culture and fatphobia eventually changed my relationship with food and led to the two eating disorders, two mental illnesses and two physical illnesses that I have been suffering from for two decades.

For whatever it is worth, I always tell myself that most of these mental illnesses and physical illnesses that I suffer from are because of everyone, including my family members, who are hiding behind the seemingly innocent language of “good health,” “self-improvement,” and “the best version of you.” You are the preparators of numerous illnesses and problems including lack of self-confidence, self-trust, and insecurities amongst fat women because, you are fatphobes, misogynists, and sexist.

The abuse that fat women face is unique to women alone. Boys/men who are fat in no way face anything similar to what fat women face. I have had fat men call me names and I always wondered that, him being fat too, what gave him the right to call me names. Later on, I found the answer: it was his masculinity – fat men are better off than fat women. That is why in our society fat men may marry thin women and fat women face rejections.

Fat women are objects of physical and sexual abuse and the burden of the abuse is to be shouldered by fat women. “Why are you pulling my cheeks without my permission?” “Because, they are so fluffy, and I just cannot control myself.” “Stop pushing me, can you not see I am ordering food?” “Shut up fatso, we have to order before you otherwise there will be nothing left for us to eat.” “Do not tell anyone we do “this”, no one else will do it with your fat ass.”

I have had fat men call me names and I always wondered that, him being fat too, what gave him the right to call me names.

To tell you the truth, what bothers most fatphobes around me is not that I am fat but that it does not bother me, and that I like myself. Throughout my life people have asked me, “Don’t you want to lose weight and look beautiful?” “But I am beautiful?!” Liking myself the way I am hits them hard and fatphobes always have this insatiable desire and socially authorised power to attack fat women and undermine their confidence.

When a fat woman is not bothered by her fatness and rightly so, the fatphobes will ensure that they punish you for being fat in one way or another. Most of the times, fatphobes succeed because, in our society fat inferiority is practiced in many ways and is the ‘normal’ standard. These practices and standards have gone unquestioned for far too long. There is a need to question these practices and call them out as prejudices and biases against fatness and especially fat women.

I know that in this very moment you are labelling me as someone who promotes bad health. I know of so many thin people who are never called out for being unhealthy. Why only fat people? This is a question we all need to ask ourselves. Thin people are not force fed but fat people are forced to starve to meet the societal standards of a normal body. The false association of thinness with healthy often leaves out the negative effects of diet culture on your health. That, however, is not a consideration because, the superior goal never is health, it is always a thin(ner) body. I for one have never been able to associate the word dieting with its false claims of health.

Also read: Fat Shaming Is A Feminist Issue And It’s Time We Talked About It

I gave others a lot of power to decide how I felt about my own body – but not anymore. I am reclaiming my body, my beauty, my mental health and a space where I feel safe about myself. There is only one way to do it. People have to stop marginalising and ostracising fat people and we have to stop letting them do that. We all deserve to live a life we choose for ourselves despite our body types and shapes. As I write this article, I am pregnant with a beautiful baby and when I look at myself in the mirror, I shake my baby bump and my flappy body on a count of three, two, one…


Featured Image Source: Beautiful Decay

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