It’s 3AM and I can’t stop thinking about it. ‘It’ being the past. ‘It’ being the first time when I realised I wasn’t like the other girls. I was only twelve years old when I realised that there was something about me that needed to be changed. Usually, it is common for most kids to be living their lives to the fullest and make the most out of their childhood, so when they get older, they can reminisce about all the crazy activities they’d engaged themselves in, to laugh about. But in my case? I don’t have much to say, as I spent almost 22 years of my life feeling sorry for myself even though I had no reason to. My first experience with body-shaming happened when I was in the first grade. I was a healthy, well-fed, chubby looking kid. My mom made it a point to ensure that I was well-looked after and that I got to experience all the joys that a typical mother would want to provide for her loved one.
What mother wouldn’t?
I wasn’t academically gifted, but I did enjoy a few subjects that I fairly excelled at and genuinely enjoyed. I was a slow learner and had difficulty pronouncing certain words, when my class-teacher assigned my partner (the girl sitting next to me) to tutor me. Out of frustration and due to my incapacity in understanding what was being taught, the girl grunted “why don’t you drink some oil and become more fat?” Fat. That dreaded three letter word that had come to become so much more than just being the bane of my existence.
At that time, I was only six and couldn’t understand why that girl was being mean to me. I mean…what did she want me to say? Should I have apologised for not being the child of a well to do celebrity? Just so I could fit into their standard of popularity? But ladies and gentlemen…this wasn’t the first time that I had encountered an unpleasant experience like this. Mind you…a few of my own relatives dared to make disparaging comments about my appearance, which only added more negativity to my low-self-esteem. There were moments where I absolutely loathed looking into the mirror, because of what I saw in there. A lost, miserable thirteen-year-old girl who questioned her existence every second she could get…every day. Thirteen was the age where I wondered why my arms and legs weren’t skinny like the models I’d see in the fashion magazines. That was also the age where I’d started to dig my own grave, as I fell victim to bulimia and orthorexia.
Fast forward to 2022, I’ve lost twenty-one pounds of shame and I’m feeling much more confident, in comparison to how I used to look and feel. I wanted to change because I wanted to look and feel good. And most of all…I wanted to feel powerful all the time. I changed because I did it for me. Now that I think about it, here are my thoughts when it comes to being ‘body-positive’ and ‘accepting oneself.’ This is coming from someone who enjoys being healthy and fit and before you guys jump the gun at me…hear me out. Body positivity is not a positive movement, as I don’t condone obesity and leading an unhealthy lifestyle in any given way. I am, however, a definite supporter of health, fitness and turning your flaws into elements that need to be embraced.
Oftentimes, we see the models on fitness magazines considered to be healthy and fit. Well, looking like a supermodel shouldn’t necessarily be associated with fitness, as having muscles and six-pack abs is only a by-product of being fit. To me, when I see an eighty-year old man or woman going for sprints, long walks with a purpose and playing various sports activities they enjoy partaking in…that to me is healthy. A disciplined, consistent and harmonious routine that will give you a life of longevity.
That to me is being healthy.
That to me is being fit.
From my perspective, I wanted to lead a better and healthier lifestyle. I wanted to change and be a better example and I wanted to do it for me. Not because someone else had asked me to. The thought about being able to kick some punching bags, with my arms tied behind my back at the age of seventy-five. The thought about leading a longer life was what motivated me to make changes in the way I was leading my life. Not only that…but I also learnt to accept myself and know that I can’t look like anyone else…when I can be the best version of myself.
Obesity raises the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, the most common causes of kidney disease. Even if you don’t have diabetes or high blood pressure, obesity itself may promote kidney disease and quicken its progress. There have been a few cases where obese people can be healthy, yet, it also shows us, that obesity even on its own, carries a certain cardiovascular risk even in metabolically healthy individuals. At the end of the day, overweight is overweight. And instead of glamorising obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, why not we strive to promote and glamorise a healthy body and mind? Why not glamorise a healthier and better, disciplined lifestyle?
Where consistency is celebrated?
Which brings me to my next point. Body Shaming in any given form…it’s not okay. What other people do with their bodies shouldn’t be our business, neither should it give us the audacity to make a comment on someone else’s appearance, even if it’s disguised in the form of a joke or even if we intend to mean well. It goes both ways: fat shaming and skinny shaming is not okay.
I’ve seen how social media filters can affect one’s self-esteem. Social media can negatively affect body image by over-exposing you to “idealised” body types. While posting selfies may help body image, trying to edit out perceived flaws can be harmful. I’ve seen how most models that appear in fashion magazines are said to be the epitome of ‘health and fitness’ which isn’t always the case. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. I’d recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine who used to be a model until she switched her career to become a nutritionist and she told me something that left me baffled. She mentioned that, whenever she would go for shoots, she’d sometimes skip meals and not eat anything for two days just to “Maintain” her appearance for the shoot. The only thing she would have was either water or an apple, and exercise vigorously at the gym, in achieving that physique. And this is one such method she would never recommend to anyone.
Her condition had become so bad, there were days where she had difficulty in doing simple things, such as waking up (due to the overwhelming exhaustion) and even consuming food because she would find herself throwing up whenever she would try eating something and it was that serious. Another reason she quit was because she didn’t want the people around her, mostly women and young girls, to believe that looking like her is considered to be beautiful.
I’d recently watched a documentary where a former Victoria’s Secret Model, exposed the harsh realities that took place in the industry. From drug usage for losing weight, to gruelling workouts sessions incorporated with poor nutrition and then comes sexual-harassment cases…not everything that glitters are gold. Not every skinny or overweight person is considered to be healthy. Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. That being said, it is our mindset and the way we lead our lives that need to be protected and well-looked after. As cliché as it may sound…we have to treat our bodies like it’s a temple.
Balance is the key.
With that being said, if there is something about you that you feel needs to be changed for the better, remember that you are changing for yourself and you aren’t doing it to seek other people’s validation. Do it for you. Do it for your mind. Do it to lead a better now and a better, unfiltered and balanced life.