“You are so chubby and cute! No wonder your sister and you have dimples!”
“You have such slim arms for your body”
“You carry of sleeveless really well for “your kind”"
“You have good child-bearing hips”
Some of the few back-handed compliments that I’ve received all my life. Till about my mid-teens, it never bothered me. I had a pretty good childhood, barring being child molested by a family member and I had a boyfriend really early on, which did amazing things for my self-confidence.
Then, I started college. I went to a pretty fancy college in Bangalore where pretty much everyone is either rich, a model or a rich model J. It was made very obvious to me then, that my size 30 jeans were actually considered FAT! That wearing a salwar for comfort meant that I could not fit into pants anymore. That wearing full sleeve shirts, or a jacket in winter meant you were hideous and you needed layers to cover. Instead of being a smart, young woman I was your everyday-stereotypical-stupid girl who allowed someone else to dictate what my self-worth was and that someone’s opinion of me was the absolute truth.
So, I moved into a shell. Anil (my boyfriend back then, and my husband now) moved out of town to pursue his engineering degree and I lost my biggest champion. I lost the only person, who constantly told me that he loved me, and pretty much the only person who showed his love to me physically. So, I sat at home and became a couch potato, ate my hearty, not-so-healthy south indian meals and started becoming FAT. Fast forward to a couple of years, I got a desk job, and I continued getting fat, but by then, Anil was back, we were back in comfortable, loved up relationship. We were getting married, we were having such a good time, that the creeping weight just did not matter.
Then, came the first blow. We decided to have a baby, 5 years into our marriage. We thought we were good to go since we hadn’t heard of infertility in our immediate family, we don’t smoke, I don’t drink (Anil drinks socially) etc. We got pregnant within our first try, and were over the moon! But 8 weeks in, I started bleeding and then I had a miscarriage. That like any first-time mother, I started reading everything on the Internet regarding miscarriages and every single one talked about being OBESE. At that time, guys, I was bordering on being MORBIDLY OBESE. Then, the second blow. My father started bleeding every time he passed stools. We did a lot of test and he was diagnosed with Stage-2 colon cancer. The PET scan also indicated some spots on his liver and his lungs. This was the worst news for me. Because while I was not naïve enough to think that my parents would live forever, the fact that it was drawing closer was scary. The combination of the miscarriage and my father’s cancer diagnosis pushed me to the edge… and I tipped over. I continued to turn to food for comfort, didn’t exercise and was holed up at home, in my sanctuary.
But then, I actually got pregnant and spent my entire pregnancy with Arjun throwing up, having gestation diabetes, attending surgeries for Appa, driving him to his chemo sessions, watching him waste away, watching my mother slowly acknowledging what was happening, was horrible. I excused all this weight related issues with the “stress” I was going through and convinced myself that it’ll become ok once the baby comes/ when appa becomes better/ when I start breastfeeding/ I’ll exercise when the baby is 3 months old/ let me deal with PPD first.
A year later, and still as MORBIDLY OBESE my father died. And I started having panic attacks were I literally could not breathe. But slowly, I just realized I was breathless either way. It just wasn’t the attacks. Chasing a toddler was making me breathless, walking up 2 flights of stairs was making me breathless, just generally taking Atom for a walk was making me breathless. I was always breathless. And the final nail in the coffin was Anil telling me with love, and pretty firmly that I needed to do something about my weight, just to be healthy. No other reason. I also was really scared about dying and leaving my child behind and making life miserable for my loved ones.
So, back in 2015, I started doing little things like changing small stuff in my daily eating habits. For example, I cleared out the kitchen and started packing lunch from home. I started going out a lot more with Arjun. Some days it was just chasing him in a mall, or a playground or just playing toddler football on my in-law’s terrace. It took 2+ years for that 50 kgs to go.
But, all this background to say I look good now. Definitely not Deepika Padukone good (Is it even possible to mere mortals like us?) but good enough not to be stared. Good enough to be able to fit into a size L. But still when I look in that mirror in a dressing room, for a split second, I wonder if I’ll rip this t-shirt while I try it on. Will this pair of jeans even go over my (still) abundant hips? I still feel like I am not worthy enough to shop in certain places which is RIDICULOUS! It’s taken me a lot of therapy to realize that weight is a number, that people come in different shapes, that happiness is so fleeting that you grab on and hold on as tight as possible. I also realize with a lot of people who ask me how I lost this weight, and ask me tips, I cannot.. I SHOULD NOT because I am not a licensed professional. I can tell you what worked for me, but I urge you to reach out to a “health professional”. Please for heaven’s sake, do not go a to a gym where they will tell you that by the end of X days, you’ll have 6-pack. It doesn’t work like that.
And I know I’ll sound like a hippie when I say this, but it all starts with loving yourself. It has taken me years to figure that out. That I cannot rely on others to love me, I cannot wait for others to tell me I good/attractive/sexy/ that I am doing a good job. You need to tell yourself that you are trying, and that is step number 1. Losing weight is probably step number 10 or something. Being truly happy is such a rare thing, that if you wake up smiling, you are already doing something good and please embrace it immediately.
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