Have you ever been tempted by the VLCC’s “before” and “after” photos? Or by Sugar Free’s promise that you will acquire a Bipasha-like figure if you stopped eating natural sugars and started loading your system with aspartame? Have you ever wondered having a healthy appetite or being larger than normal is considered bad? If you identify with any of the above, or have even felt bad for a second ever in your life, you are not alone. You probably belong to the vast majority of middle-class Indian women who do not fulfill the traditional criteria for beauty. Me too!
It has taken me very long to get the feeling of guilt and even inferiority out of my system. Even today, I sometimes wish I were shorter and slimmer. I know who I am and what I deserve. But, I am still intimidated by seemingly perfect women with petite and perfect figures. I do not show it. I ignore, or even pretend all is well, but there are times I cannot shake off this feeling of imperfectness and inferiority. There are times when I truly wish I had a different body. While I am happy to be me in the overall scheme of things, beauty and brain inclusive, I do feel threatened by the constant harping on acquiring a better (read slimmer) figure, losing 20 pounds in one month and generally tending to Size Zero. The latest trend of writing books on weight loss that everyone talks of (like Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha) really don’t help my cause.
Frankly, it upsets me when people offer unsolicited advice about how to lose weight and how to watch the food I eat. In such instances, people generally approach on a rather apologetic note saying, “You are fine as you are. For your height, your weight is ok. But you would be truly gorgeous if you managed to reduce your waistline by one size.” To such people, I usually say I don’t care. But unfortunately, I do. I care about how I look. I care about being called fat. I have fought all my life against this perception of being “fatty” and it rankles to be called fat or plump even today.
Beyond these personal issues of body image, there is a larger issue at hand. There can be no argument that being obese is unhealthy. But the trend of perfectly normal women obsessing with exercise and weight loss and diet is disturbing. If I must be perfectly honest with myself, I love food. And most of the time, I really don’t care how many calories I am consuming. Like everyone else, I like some foods better than others. And I very rarely say no to food that I like simply because it is fattening. I enjoy my chocolates and ice-creams as much as any other woman, sans the guilt.
I suppose we have come a long way from the time heroines needed to be buxom and well-endowed to be successful. Today, size zero is hip. Is this really here to stay? I sure hope not! I don’t think I can take too many more years of listening to size zero bullshit!