Monday, March 31, 2008

Walks Into The Room, Feels Like She Owns It

I’m not going to argue with this. Although I said at dinner in Chinatown on this very wet and windy Friday night that I would. But I’ve decided not to, because having had a whole weekend to think about it I really and truly believe that people's point of views are in the context of their lives and that sitting where I sit I don’t know where they are coming from and how their mind works. And that one shoe does not ever fit all. If it did we’d all have these bright pink sketchers and where would that get us, hunh?

Instead I’m going to encourage my gorgeous friend to rethink her position by telling my own story of weightloss yo-yo-ing. It was not until the summer that I turned 13 that my hormones and the rice I had suddenly began eating met, started dating and in that first flash of love decided to live together in my midriff. I spent all of my teen years watching my weight increase, the togetherness of the rice and hormones multiply over and over till they were all bred out like a pair of rabbits by the time I hit my twenties. It seemed like forever love, that no matter how hard I rebelled against was here to stay. All those years I was never really concerned about the weight because I could still walk, jump rope, enjoy games of volleyball, baseball and badminton, swim like a fish, dance like crazy. My parents often cautioned against the weight gain sighting medical reasons but all those attempts were half hearted compared to how much they told me how beautiful my face was and how being a good, kind, honest person far outweighed how I looked. And I know that because they believed what they said when they said it, that I too grew up in that knowledge, secure I was loved no matter what I weighed.

It was mainly because I managed everything my classmates managed that I never really ever found my weight a stumbling block enough to tackle with a punch in the tum. Although I was always conscious of my weight being greater than other people’s I usually chose to focus my attention on things that brought my interests to the fore, like reading, painting, writing, listening to music – all things that fuelled my holier than thou teen image. It was also incredibly easy to eat copious amounts of food that my mother slaved over: lasagna, kofta curry, shepards pie, goulash and fresh soups just a smattering of a diverse range adorning our dinner table nightly.

In my twenties I was all curves, the politer term for rolls of fat. I still rarely thought of myself as fat even though the scales and visual inspection of old photographs would confirm that I was. I felt the curves gave me weight (not only literally) in my pursuits and had not in any way hampered the life I sought for myself. I took what I had and worked with it instead of letting it work against me. It was not a small molehill, this keeping up my spirits while everyone around me dieted and primped themselves into model-like thin-ness. But I made peace with my weight quite young and enjoyed the liberating feeling not having to watch every morsel I put in my mouth. I had managed to make and keep friends over the years, each of whom saw beyond the fuller figure and loved me for who I was. I tried to lose a few kilos to look lovely at my wedding but that was all I lost, very few kilos. And in my wedding pictures, that day stored on film forever more, there is no svelte me, but there is certainly a happy me.

It’s after I came to London, more than 6 years ago now, that the weight really began to pile on. A combination of various things led to bigger heavier meals that no amount of walking to the tube was enough to suppress or undo. For the first time ever I felt unattractive and like a lump of lard. Slower and uneasy with my body – something that took me completely by surprise. My years of being in a good mental place were gone in what felt like an instant. It was with a heavy heart, and the realization that it would be tougher to lose it and get fitter now that I was in my 30’s, that I began to cloak myself in darker looser clothes. It took all V’s motivational power to get me to the gym but it was always with the idea of getting fit again. I joined knowing full well that I would never be thin but knowing that at my weight being unhealthy was a deadly downward spiral. I spent the first few months working on my stamina and then as I began to lose the weight I began to obsess. There were a few months in between last year where I was fretting about the actual kilos I lost on a daily basis, weighing myself to the point to obsession, eating ridiculously to change my weight by grams before my next self-imposed weigh in. A few months into this unhealthy obsession I just stopped. Like an a-ha moment, one morning as I climbed the locker room scales it hit me: it’s not the weight I wanted to lose, gram by slow gram. It’s the feeling I wanted to gain, of good health and robust-ness. Of feeling beautiful no matter what I weighed. My efforts at the gym in the past year and a half have not resulted in any major weight loss. I nearly weigh what I did when I got married but I am a hundredfold healthier. I can do the elliptical machine for 45 minutes, swim 45 laps, do an hour and half long indoor cycle class. Each without dropping dead in a faint. Or having a heart attack.

I won’t lie – I am thrilled that I did manage to lose some small iota of weight. I am more thrilled that I managed to stay motivated enough to see it through. I am thrilled that I have changed my life to be more conscious of what I eat and how much exercise I get. I am more thrilled that I have found will power that nobody imagined I had. But most of all I am thrilled that my body image is connected not only to what I weigh but to what I think of myself. I no longer cloak myself in black. I wear more make-up, bother with my hair, stand-up taller, walk with a confidence not built on how much I weigh but how I feel about myself as a person in this world. I know that even at this weight (which is by the way still much more than a normal person my height ways) I am a happy person and that being thinner would not make me happier. It would make me healthier but not happier.

And I guess what I am trying to say is this. No matter how hard you try and motivate yourself to lose that last 13 kilos, it’s not the 13 kilos you are trying to lose. It’s the perfect image of yourself that you are trying to seek. Unless you make peace with how you look for yourself no matter what the weight, it’ll be something else about yourself that you’ll want to change once those 13 kilos are off. If its inspiration you feel you need, the power to stay on the path then yes I do hope that your readers keep you motivated. But I hope you don’t obsess about every ounce on the scales. I hope you see what we all see. That beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and that really, the most important beholder is you.

22 comments:

  1. Green Window11:14 PM

    What makes this post so beautiful and moving is that it comes from a very personal place. I think almost every human being on earth has some kind of relational struggle with appearance and in many cases, aspects of our appearance over which we have no control. My whole family struggles with weight issues and it is a frustrating and deeply personal battle. And truthfully, we probably assign much more importance to our appearance than anyone else. I love what you wrote here and I'm so glad you feel confident with your appearance. When I see you, I don't see someone who has weight issues. I see a beautiful, witty, intelligent, spirited woman who I am proud to have as a friend.

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  2. So enjoyed reading this post. I battle with my appearance and I've noticed it has little to do with the way I look, but far more to do with my mood. On certain days - those extra kilos weight me down, and on other days - they keep me buoyant. I don't think I have the maturity to make peace with it just yet - and sometimes when some random person makes a heartless remark about my weight or my stoop, my heart sinks. And it affects me for days. (We've had this conversation before - and I can't tell you how much it helped talking to you about the issue.. )

    Right now - my biggest concern is to be fit. And in my definition, it would be to run three miles in one go. And then walk the distance back without sitting down in between. :)

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  3. Wonderful heartfelt piece! I can identify so strongly with what you say, as I'm sure many others will.
    Thanks for writing this.

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  4. well, since you started off by addressing me as your "gorgeous" friend, I'm going to agree with everything you say. :)
    Seriously, though, I do believe that more than being thin, I need to be fit. I cannot climb a single flight of stairs without being out of breath. That is obviously not a good thing. And if I said that it was not vanity, but some sense of wanting to be fit, that promoted that post, I'd be totally lying. Vanity plays a big part. I had always been skinny. So skinny that people commented on how thin I was. I was called "Skeletor" (from He-Man) and it never bothered me really. I never thought I'd be anything but skinny, but oh! how wrong I was. When I did begin to put on weight I was about 23 and I had been so used to being thin (and fit) that it came as a shock when suddenly I was so bloated. This happened while I was out of India, so the moment I went back for a visit, everyone was shocked and told me how fat I had become and how I needed to lose weight. Since then I've tried on and off, but I have crap will power and I just never have managed to shed those extra (13!) kilos.
    Wanting to lose weight and get into shape has a lot to do with me wanting to prove a point to myself as much as wanting to silence the "beholders" that make nasty remarks about my weight all the time.


    Sorry for this post-length comment. You did say I wasn't allowed to chat with you about this or email you.

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  5. I was just thinking about this.
    Because after reading Broom's post about how she was 68 kilos, I had a 'omygoodlord' moment.
    Because I weigh a heck of a lot (and some) more than her.
    And then, one of my bridesmaids called to tell me how she's desperate because the dress I picked might make her look fatter than she is and she's not in any way overweight looking (not as compared to me).
    And I was thinking about all of this and I kind of came to the conclusion that you came to in the beginning of the post - i think everybody's perception of fit is different. I mean one gravitates toward the image that is that 'fit' or 'perfect' or 'skinny' image.
    Its not a comparative scale.

    PS: i also think this post is hilarious. The dating of the hormones and rice. *Snigger*

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  6. Hi,
    I'm a regular reader but haven't commented before. But the hormones-rice love story got me to de-lurk! You write beautifully!

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  7. One helluva thought provoking post.

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  8. I hope the original poster reads this response (I wouldn't call it a rebuttal). Heart felt and measured, this should serve as inspiration for those who get carried away in their quest for perfection, as defined by them, mostly in unrealistic terms.

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  9. Being fit is much more important.. Agree to the fact that we need to find ourselves beautiful before we can expect from anyone else. Also its important to feel beautiful from within.

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  10. Hiya. You're a fantastic writer. The "weighty" post made me de-lurk. It is something I've struggled with for years. I am a usually confident, self-assured curvy woman, and yet one tiny mention about my weight makes my world come crashing down. I know it's something I can try to fix and God knows I try, but I am so tempted to let it all go. Especially when I see very skinny women around me stuffing their faces, especially when all the slogging at the gym only results in a gram or so here and there. I'm glad to know I'm not alone. And though I agree with you for the most part, I do think it is the "13 kilos" I am trying (dreaming of) to lose (losing). Who knows, when I do lose them, I may think differently. Great post though and I apologise if I've been rambling!

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  11. Hey there,

    Also made me de-lurk, after years of reading each of your posts since you started blogging.

    Don't have these weight issues, and even if I did, am not sure I would have your immense will-power and dogged perseverance towards remaining fit, and keeping it up even when u felt obsessed with the 'not enough weight-loss'.
    Kudos to u for your determination, keep it up, girl!

    All these years of admiring and cherishing u as a friend, its amazing, I never gave your weight any thought - it just never occurred to me - the only thing I seem to notice is that you are such an interesting, spirited, considerate, intelligent, and well-rounded personality!!!

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  12. Great post as usual! You manage to lace in wit and humour even while writing about a sensitive issue.

    I completely agree with your POV. I have always struggled with weight issues. But it's something i became more conscious of as i grew older and became aware of what society considered beautiful. When i was a kid, my mom and dad used to tell me that i was the most beautiful kid in town and i believed them and felt safe and secure in my identity. But once i started college and saw all the thin, tall women around me, suddenly i lost all my confidence. I am now reasonably grown-up to know that all that matters is that i am healthy and fit. But of course, like fortyfiveminutes says, there are days when i can't stand the fact that i weight more than 'normal'.

    Sorry for the very long comment; it touched a chord.

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  13. Anonymous4:52 AM

    nice well written post...the only rooms that i feel like i own when i enter are the ones in my own house...and hell the bank actually owns those too!!!40in2006

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  14. What a lovely post! Totally agree with: "it’s not the 13 kilos you are trying to lose. It’s the perfect image of yourself that you are trying to seek".

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  15. Babe, you've got me crying into my chocolate bar. Havent felt this inspired since haagen das was rumoured to come to india! Seriously, a beautiful post.

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  16. How true! After all, maturity is accepting what you have and making the most of it. I still weight obsess - but I kind of have to given the amount of food cooked in my kitchen! Weight or no weight, you'd give a teenager a run for their money on the fitness stakes for sure...

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  17. A sensitivly written post with a dash of humour.
    Hi am Nancy. was randomly blog hopping when i came across urs:-).

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  18. Very well written post, one which most of us will empathise with. I know I do! (But I really DO need to lose at least 13 kg).

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  19. GW: yes, I thought if I used my own story the young lady in question would be somehow inspired to make peace rather than fight it. Thank you for the last sentance. It means a lot.

    Neha: I hope you achieve fitness and that you begin to make peace with how you look. Learn to control how you feel rather than giving in to other people's opinions and let your view always be positive.

    Dipali: Thank you for reading it!

    Broom-ji: If even for one minute this post (and I) can make you see that you are indeed gorgeous and how you look, how much you weigh have nothing to do with it, my baring my history of weight will hve been worth it. Don't worry about any other beholders - you should matter most in your own eyes!!!

    Me: Glad you liked it. I weight sh*tloads more than her and I still think I'm perfection. More power to you girl - dont think of yourself as overweight - think of yourself as perfect weight!! you will look fab at your shaadi!!!

    cw: delurk more often please. Glad you approve of the tru story of hormones and rice co-habiting!

    S: Good thoughts or bad?

    Parth: She did. It's Broom who left a comment and whom I have left a rebuttle comment for. Glad you agree.

    Soulmate: People usually see themselves through other people's eyes and that is the key problem. Beside being fit.

    45minutes: Why thank you! De-lurk more often please. Think of yourself as being the best person now and trying to get fit - will make you feel far better than a daily struggle to lose grams till you lose the 13kgs and then that won't seem enough or something else will be wrong. Yes, watch your weight is what I believe in (to stay fit) but do not obsess about how losing x kilos will make you a better more beautiful person.

    Interesting Times: Who are you? E-mail me at 30in2005@coolgoose.com. This is all latent will power discovered rather late in life...And aw, you think I am a well-rounded (?) personality - who are you dude...its killing me!!!

    Chakli: Your mom and dad had the right idea (like mine). I hope you find the way to make peace with your body weight. It's like a weight (?) off your shoulders.

    40in2006: hahaha!

    Unmana: Thanks!

    Iz: Share that chocolate woman! Is haagen daas in India or is it still a rumour?

    Mallika: Yeah, the aim is to be fit as possible! And not to ever again obsess about my weight.

    Nancy: Yay for random blog hopping. Will return the favour asap and non-randomly stop by your blog!

    Shyam: Don't we all need to lose some? Obsessing about it is no way to go. And if it weren't for fatty's like me how the hell would thin people know what to compare themselves with?! We each serve a perfectly good purpose no matter what our weight!

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  20. lovely writeup, as a ponderous person, i would say, being comfortable AND healthy is what matters. not looking like 'x' actress or 'y' model.

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  21. Brilliant! I couldn't agree with you more. Especially the last para - about finding this or that to be unhappy about. Don't you think there's an entire industry that has been built on making us feeling bad about our looks? The other day I saw an ad for a cream that promised smoother underarm skin! What am I supposed worry about next? That bit of a folded, creased skin behind my ears?
    I wish more of us can find the peace that so eludes us.
    More power to you! *hugs*

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  22. you sing my song...I guess we are not alone,that makes me feel a wee bit better. Thanks for sharing.

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