“She has a pretty face” said Sheela aunty, “but she should lose some weight, no?” I was all of fifteen and too embarrassed to even look up. My mom, thinking she was jumping to my defence, said, “Ya, it’s baby fat. She’ll get rid of it as she grows up.”
I grew up, but I didn’t quite lose my “baby fat”. It wasn’t as though I wasn’t active, or didn’t play sport or wasn’t conscious about my diet. I was. But this was just the way I was. And no doubt I was fond of food too. I never understood how people could just so openly call me names. “Fatty”, “moti”, “baby elephant”. Whether it was boys at school, my siblings or even other family members, each one had a name of their own for me. I was constantly being told that I needed to lose weight. And although I pretended that it didn’t make me a difference, little by little and day by day, it was breaking my confidence.
I stopped wanting to go to school. I didn’t want to eat. And even if I did, I was too shy to eat in front of anyone else. Lest they tell me I ate too much.
I tried ever so hard to lose weight, just as I had been told. I tried all sorts of diets and even got myself a personal trainer. You see, I wanted to look pretty. And I had been told it wasn’t possible until and unless I lost weight. So instead of working hard towards achieving my goals and living my life, I dedicated my prime years - and what should have perhaps been the best years - to losing weight. And I succeeded. I was now what they call “skinny”. I began to think that now everyone who had ever mocked me would think I’m beautiful. I was happy and couldn’t wait to show off the new me to the world.
But of course, I was once again met with ridicule and criticism. This time Sheela aunty told my mom that I looked “sick”. “Oh my god, what has she done to herself. She has just lost her charm. She looks ill. You must take her to the doctor.” I was of course absolutely bewildered and confused. I thought everyone was supposed to think I’m gorgeous now that I fit into a small size. Wasn’t that the point?
It took many years of gaining and losing weight for me to finally understand that my weight wasn’t going to make me beautiful. Fitting into a small size wasn’t going to ensure that I found a “suitable husband”. Being skinny wasn’t going to stop Sheela aunty and others from telling me that I wasn’t pretty enough. Because I was and I am. They just chose not to see it.
I am not a size small and I love food. There, I said it. My strengths and my beauty cannot be defined by the size I fit into or how much cellulite you can see when I wear a swimsuit. I am comfortable being just who I am. I am much more than my body. My body is simply a part of me. It is not my life and it cannot define me. What defines me is my talents, my patience, my ability to comfort those I love. My character. My genuine and kind nature that many missed out on because they could not look past my weight.
I am no longer that shy teenager who needs to look away and feel embarrassed because someone commented on her weight. I embrace it and I love myself.
Don’t tell me I’m not beautiful because I weigh more or less than someone else. They are beautiful in their own way and so am I. I did not look “sick” when I chose to lose weight and I wasn’t ugly when I was heavier. Who is anyone to tell me what I should look like? I give that right to no one.
Don’t tell me I shouldn’t wear tight clothes because you don’t think it looks good on me. Don’t tell me I can’t wear loose clothes because you think they seem to be put on a hanger. I can choose to put whatever I want on my body. Whatever makes me happy.
Today, I choose my happiness over everything else. I don’t want to look beautiful for anyone else. My confidence was taken away from me when I was a teenager. Today I take it back. I will be exactly the size I wish to be. I will eat exactly how much I want. I will wear the kind of makeup and clothes that appeal to me. What you say or think does not matter, because it is not your life I am living. It is my life, my body, my choice. Please keep your opinions to yourself.