“My goodness you have gotten so big”, said my grandaunt as she patted me around my hips while I was serving myself dinner. I raised my voice and (jokingly) said “why don’t you find something else to talk about?” I’m sure my annoyance was palpable because the very next minute, I found myself in an altercation with her son (who also just happened to be on the keto diet) who found the moment opportune enough to comment on the food on my plate while I was eating.
When I replied that I didn’t like him saying things like that, he countered by saying he didn’t like what I was doing either.
Now, this is an all too familiar situation and I’ve had to use aggression (both, active and passive) and sarcasm to get people to stop talking about my body in the past.
“It isn't fair, I am eating carbs after a while now.”
“It's my fault, isn't it?”
“Wasn’t he just trying to help?”
“Yes, I have put on the weight I had lost during the lockdown”.
The old feeling of shame, embarrassment and a desire to hide myself often resurface before I can assert my right to stand my ground. In fact, that’s precisely why I made a promise to myself and my body that I would treat it with love, kindness and respect to rekindle the connection that had long been severed through messages of shame since I was a child.
A long while of carrying the “you’re fat” message has led to a lot of regret, and a realisation that I never truly appreciated my body when I was fit and may never ever appreciate myself unless I make a conscious effort to do so even when I am not. Previous attempts at weight loss have contributed towards a dismissive/ disconnected relationship with my body. Excessively exercising or eating erratically, pushing my body, not listening or pretending not to listen to it when it hurts, the sleep I need, or more importantly, avoiding the hunger and thirst pangs I often feel but actively avoid. I managed to shed the weight, but it came at a cost; an attitude I developed towards myself and the unconscious disgust at my “fat” physical form.
I starkly remember raising my hand in class and saying “lazy” as one of the attributes that come to mind when we hear the word “fat”. Other terms like lazy, greedy, and dull also came to my mind, but they’d only asked for one word.
For some reason, I attributed those qualities to myself, thinking that if I called myself out, then I would do something about it. I'm sure that’s why people think that if they point out to a “fat” person that they are “fat”, make fun of their body, or make a snide comment in passing, the person will feel like doing something about it. I don’t know whom that works for, because the message doesn’t register as “I care about you, and I hope you are taking care of your health”. When I register a fatphobic comment, it is internalised into my framework of “I am not good enough”.
The subtle messaging around us that depicts overweight individuals as objects of disgust, ridicule and that constantly feeds us beauty standards, through the bodies that are in the spotlight is the same media that I have consumed and has led to dismissing myself and the fat person that is me (and sometimes, in me).
The fat person in me does not have anyone in her corner, the fat person in me is nervous about eating, and the fat person in me sometimes believes that they are a mistake for existing.
It has taken me a while to eat my food without experiencing guilt over it. Be it the guilt of eating too much or that of eating too little. Because when you eat too much, I am used to hearing about how it is going to make me fat. And when I ate too little, I heard about how it was a bad idea to “diet” in such extremes.
Just as berating a child who is having difficulty with their studies is a poor strategy for their academic performance, in the same way, fat shaming and fat phobia are poor strategies to aid weight loss.
Coming from a place of care, while looking after your health might put you in the precarious position of self-love (I say precarious because that on its own is a difficult but rewarding journey of sorting through one’s own biases and reconnecting with one self), that journey may end up being a more significant addition to your weight loss journey than actually losing weight.
I used to cringe at “thin” people calling themselves “fat”; it was a personal insult to me, a person who is in fact, “really fat”. But now, I just feel sad, because I have realised that I have done it too, and at some point or the other, so have you.
We have all internalised these standards and objectified our own bodies to the extent that we are not able to recognise or appreciate our perfectly-functioning bodies till they really malfunction or till we are reminded through social media with some level of regret, that “It wasn't so bad after all!
I have noticed that when I am in a calm, relaxed state of mind, I very naturally eat consciously and pay attention to my body, and when I don’t, there is almost always something that seems to be going on under the surface. But now, instead of getting annoyed with myself for missing the memo, I am kinder to myself. And no, that has definitely not helped me lose weight, but has helped me accomplish something I have had the greatest trouble in doing:
That of loving myself a little, and being kind to myself, and that to me, currently outweighs any “health” or cosmetic benefits that weight loss may or may not bring.
Zena is the Sr. Psychologist at TTC.
Zena has no time for idle chit chat, she likes and regrets taking everything too seriously. (Is there even another way?) Most of her life journey has been consistently and seriously (*eye rolls*) been invested in getting to know herself better and she isn’t quite there yet. Apart from that, she is committed to her cats (read: crazy cat lady), likes simple things, family time, sunsets, the ocean, a good nap, observing plants and people (in the non creepy way) and the occasional solitude.