If you are chubby as a kid, you are branded as cute. But as you age, the chubbiness starts to take an ugly form if the so-called ‘baby fat’ doesn’t go away. When I was 21, I weighed a staggering 90 kilos. Having always been on the heavier side, I didn’t think much of it, not even when I was teased in school, till a visit to the doctors scared me out of my wits. The doctor bluntly told me I’d have to lose a good amount of weight if I wanted to live a healthy, long life. He said I was the ‘perfect candidate’ for all sorts of life-threatening diseases.
I knew losing weight wasn’t going to be easy. But hearing the doctor say those words acted as a motivational boost that I needed in order to start exercising and eating healthy. By eating healthy, I mean I had one fruit a day to start with, gave up my much-loved Fanta and replaced it with water (to a certain extent) and then gradually worked on my eating habits. I lost some weight, five kilos I think, and gained it all back. The cycle continued for a while before I took to the gym and got some expert advice. Then I began to steadily lose weight. Now, I weigh 51 kilos and fit into jeans so small, that I sometimes feel a little giddy as I pull them on. I feel good about myself, and that’s been the best thing about this weight loss journey.
There was a time when I used to shun all parties and family dinners because I knew someone or the other would inevitably say “jhan motaye chau” (you have become fatter) or “dublaunu paryo aba ta” (you have to lose weight now), and that would make me feel really, really bad about myself. My hands would get all clammy because I’d feel so judged and ridiculed and I’d be unable to eat or drink anything. And that would make people throw comments like “teti dherai khane ta haina raicha” (she doesn’t eat much), or “khako herda ta dubli nai hunu parne” (her food habits don’t match her size) my way.
At one point of time it became so infuriating that I simply started to stop going anywhere. I didn’t even make it to my high school reunion because I knew I’d feel out of place in a group of skinny and fit girls. Also, when everybody seemed to be getting better with age, all I seemed to be doing was becoming huger. So I hid. I didn’t go out and meet anyone and the few friends I had, I lost touch with them all. I did everything to hide but nothing to change how I looked and felt about myself.
Gaining weight, for those of us who take comfort in food, is a slippery slope. The more weight you gain, the more you take to eating. You think you’ll have that one last pizza and then go on a diet. You make elaborate plans to cut off all sugary drinks and desserts from the beginning of the next month. You exercise, for all of five days, before falling back into your old routine. What happened with me was because this is the age of instant gratification and I didn’t see immediate results (like beautiful collarbones and a cinched waist) after exercising and not drinking Fanta for two days, I would immediately go back to my old ways.
When my relatives see me now, they often ask me how I managed to lose so much weight. Some even want to take credit for it, and ask me to thank them for the pep talk they gave me. They don’t know that their ‘pep talk’ just made me dislike them even more. It did nothing to help. Don’t they know that fat people have thick skin? Literally and figuratively. The thing about weight loss, I realized, is that you need to be motivated enough to embark on a long and tedious fitness journey. And what might be a motivational factor for me might not work for you and vice versa.
For me, my relatives and friends commenting on my weight was not the reason why I felt I needed to lose weight. Yes, it hurt and I wished I could fit in smaller sized clothes. I even dreamt about losing weight, becoming skinnier than the ones who always talked about my body, and flaunting it in front of them. But they were fleeting feelings. Nothing ever compelled me to actually start exercising, eating right, or doing whatever it took to actually become a decent size, and not a herculean mass moving around.
My mom always tells me that if you feel like you are doing something for reasons that aren’t your own then you are never likely to stick to it. Every day, there are many people who ask me for advice on weight loss, and while I do tell them what can and should be done, I also make it a point to tell them to do it for themselves and not because someone thinks they should lose weight. If that’s their reason, I tell them, it will just send them on a vicious cycle of losing and gaining weight.
For me, the health reasons were purely my own. I didn’t want to die, at least not till I reached the age of 80. And I definitely didn’t want to die because of a heart attack or some other similarly frightening reason like the doctor said I would if I didn’t lose weight. What years and years of taunts and tactless remarks from many people couldn’t do, one comment from the doctor easily set it into motion.
Now, I feel lighter, better, and I don’t need to hide anymore. The confidence that comes with looking good is beyond describable but that doesn’t mean I was any less happy when I was overweight. But the strange thing is that people respond to me way better now than they did when I was heavy, and this of true of strangers as well. I guess we do live in a society that gives outwards appearance way too much importance than it should. But, having said that, I don’t believe in losing weight just to look good. You are as good as you feel and nothing can change that. But if you feel lousy about yourself (if you hide like I did), then maybe it’s time to do something about it.