If you have never been overweight; never been fat, then you cannot possibly know the agony people struggling with weight go through. You cannot know of the shame and the tortured thinking. You cannot possibly realise what each morsel of food means; the guilt, the ‘tomorrow I will fast or I will walk for an hour more’ to punish yourself for eating what you believe you shouldn’t have eaten. If you have never been overweight you cannot know how obsessed with the scale you become. You cannot know how the scale becomes your enemy -the indicator of how your day will go. If it moves in the right direction then you laugh in relief and your day has started off well. But when it shows an increase, you feel angry and deflated and just generally pissed off with the world. Your whole day has gone down the tubes-you might as well eat that donut now.
You cannot know what it is like to eat around other people-at work, at a wedding or even at a simple family gathering. All eyes are on you and those eyes are saying : “you are fat! you are not even supposed to be eating at all!” Some actually say it- loudly and with twisted satisfaction.You cannot know the humiliation when you go in for a fitting for a new dress. Or into a shop to find yourself something for Eid or a special occasion. When nothing fits and the insensitive sales clerk tells you there is nothing for anyone your size and you had better not even try.When the rude matatu tout tells you, ” mama utapita kweli hapo” when you try to squeeze in through that impossibly small gap between seats and then all the other passengers laugh.Somehow, standing calmly minding our own business, people manage to single us out for bullying. We stand out like a sore finger. Some random stranger will feel it is his duty to point out your size (As if you were not already painfully aware of it). You feel like you are being asked to apologise for your existence; for taking up so much physical space.
The Hurtful Names
Oh and the names you get labelled with? “Big Mama” “Yokozuno(really, comparing a lady to a Sumo wrestler?) ”
and other names I will not mention here because of good manners.And this is what an adult goes through. Imagine a poor young child going through this. I can tell you it was not easy growing up bigger than all my classmates, being mistaken for sixteen years when I was eleven; mistaken for my sister’s mother when my sister is much older than I am.
They stay with you- these insults- and try as much as you do to fight against their power- they are the hammers to the walls of your self esteem.
I have, over the years, won the battle of the bulge, several times on and off.
But let me tell you the battles with your fat mind don’t end when you lose the weight even though, I admit, the relief is monumental. You live in mortal fear of regaining the weight and feeling a failure again. You stop weighing yourself for a while and then you get comfortable. And pretty soon old habits kick in and you start worrying again and the more you worry the more you stress eat.People look at you differently when you are fat- they think you have no self control or you are just lazy. They think you don’t care for yourself otherwise you would not let yourself get fat. They think you eat bucketfuls of food and that you scarf it down without chewing or thinking. They think you sit down on your behind all day doing nothing.
The Weightloss Paradigm
Don’t they realise that weight gain is a result of many factors? That some people overeat to drown out their pain? Or eat out of boredom or out of stress? That hormones can throw your metabolism out of whack?
Or we eat because it is “time” to eat whether we are hungry or not? (FYI- people make skipping a meal an unforgivable sin when really your inner machine could use the rest but that’s something for another day)At the same time, people gain weight because we are not acquainted with good nutrition. We are unaware what foods are in harmony with our individual bodies. We have not learned to listen to our bodies’ cues and signals. We fall prey to good looking food that is nothing but bad news for our health.
A Lifelong Struggle
I was a bigger girl for all but two years of my life. I am thinner now than I was in high school. I did not lose it overnight just as I know I didn’t gain it overnight. It took me all my life to finally understand me and my needs. It took a lot of tears and support from my loved ones to finally accept that my worth is not attached to my weight. I read and read and asked and was advised about nutriton.
The weight came off in two years and it came off almost without any effort. These past two years when I finally figured out how to eat right and loved myself enough to follow through. I learnt to accept myself before the weight fell off, after decades of self hate.
Why All the Hate?People don’t make it easy on fat people. They constantly remind you that you have no right to a handsome loving husband, or a right to be happy at all.
Society dictates that if you are fat you must remain unhappy until you are reasonably thin. Even now in times of self doubt or challenges I find that I want to reach for the ice cream and the chocolate – which is very easy to turn down when you are feeling all centred and every thing is going well. But a stressful day brings on decision fatigue and then you just can’t say no. And then the guilt starts- “I should not have eaten that.”
The Male of the Species
I don’t know if men go through quite the same anxiety and over thinking that women go through with their looks and weight. I don’t see them being overly concerned if their wives find them attractive or not whatever their size. I haven’t noticed society judging them worthy or not of a wife. I know that men in general don’t base their worth on their looks; it’s all about the dollars with them. I also know that for the most part men worry about their weight only when they find themselves with the lifestyle diseases such as diabetes that force them to rethink their dietary habits.
Sure, overweight men also get called names- why, why would you call anyone cruel hurtful names? I just can’t understand it. Sadly, more and more young men are being roped in these days to believe that they must also starve themselves and over exercise to fit in.
Starving for Compliments
People believe the biggest compliment that they can give to someone struggling with their weight is: “have you lost weight? You look good!”
To a person with self esteem issues, this translates to her/him being only worthy of complimenting when (s)he has shed a few pounds. To someone struggling with self love this becomes the only thing she is obsessed with. This is when dangerous fad diets and diet pills come into the picture. I know of, or maybe I should say I knew of, someone who overdosed on diet pills and her short young life was snuffed out.
Well-Meaning or Just Plain Mean?
You get a lot of unsolicited advice from people who don’t really care about you but just pretend they do because otherwise why would they humiliate you if they really did care?You will get something like: “are you eating rice at night?!” Head shake and tut tut.” You should drink warm water first thing in the morning with cucumber and lemon slices.” “There is a gym, an exercise group near so and so’s house.” My niece’s sister in law’s neighbour tried drinking moringa and now she has lost weight.” After fajr prayers we walk to Light House and back with a group of people from our neighbourhood.”As if you haven’t tried all of the above or didn’t want to. Surprisingly, people only target young women; no one dares or expects an elderly woman to be slim. I am not advocating that being grossly overweight is fine but we should all know that good clean healthy eating and regular exercise benefits EVERYONE- young old, thin fat, man woman, fit or fat.
I Am a Person Not An Object.
At the end of the day, we are not and should not be defined by our looks or our appearance. We are more than pretty faces or hour glass figures. We are people not objects. We have feelings and we hurt and we get offended just like everyone else. We are worthy of trendy clothes, good looking spouses and respect. Our size should not dictate how others treat us.
I Am Worthy
I still see a bigger girl when I look in the mirror inspite of having released all those kilos. I still identify with her but now instead of being ashamed and wanting her to shrink and get smaller, I smile at her and look at her with love and compassion.
There was never anything wrong with her to begin with. And there is nothing wrong with you- the one who is reading this- whatever your size.