Today for the first time, I spoke up against someone who shamed my body.
It was this aunty who came home to meet my mother and I was sitting calmly on the sofa. She made a comment out of the blue – “Look at your legs! What will people say if they see your legs.” Then she said, “How did you become so fat?”
I heard her. Kept a straight face for a long time. Thought she might keep quiet after a while, but she had to go on to explain about my body and how my face is good, but my body is not. Then she picked an example of a 500kg heavy woman who came to India for her surgery. IDK why she even mentioned that.
The disgust in her looks and the unkind language she used was extremely hard for me. And finally I said, “I’m taking care of my health and I don’t appreciate such comments made about my body. If it is about your concern for my health, I understand, but you need not have commented on my body parts”
This is not the first time someone has said this to me. As a heavy kid, I’ve forever heard people comment on my body – women and men alike. I’ve been called names such as ‘gundu’ as if they are an expression of endearment. And I used to smile and accept those comments too.
I had a school-mate make faces at a stretch mark of mine and a cousin of mine say that I was a “pothumkutti” (buffalo’s kid) and my sister looked like Miss India.
While people think such remarks will serve as impetus for anyone to take action on their health, I highly doubt it. Their concern is fine. I appreciate it. But calling people names and commending on specific body parts is cruel and harms a person’s self-confidence and self-image in ways extremely hard to repair.
If you look at the professional side of things, my own colleagues have commented on my looks and one person I worked with to develop a partnership would use my body size as a conversation starter – “Hello Arya, you’ve grown fatter”
I don’t understand how it makes them feel great to say that and it sure doesn’t make me feel any good about myself.
I was always plump as a kid. It has to do with my eating patterns, lack of a fit lifestyle, or whatever other reason there is. I fancied dressing up as a teenager, wanting to look good, wear nice clothes. But my Mother always censored my fashion choices because “It was not neat or my legs were too thick”. Every time I went shopping, I had my mom’s voice tell me, “This will not look neat on you. Pick something loose.” If I clicked a nice picture, I would hesitate to post my full body picture because I wouldn’t know what comment was going to come my way.
Now, 25 years later, I view myself through these lenses and I hate it. Today, I’m 13kg lower than what I was 3 months back and have been actively working on my health. This is not because anyone said anything, but because I wanted to do it for myself. Because I’m not defined by thick legs or short hair or dark-skinned.
If you have ever been body shamed, know that you’re not alone. Despite my hesitation to talk about this, I did so you know there are others going through such experiences too and that you can do something about it.
If you have ever said anything rude to someone about their body, please know that it only hampers their confidence and in no way boosts it. If encouragement is the objective, you can find better words to express your concern/support.
goodbyegundu is a very very personal project of mine. It is my fitness journey and an effort to regain my confidence after years of obesity. I’m on a journey to not just physically transform, but also mentally and emotionally transform. I want to change the way I perceive myself and I want to think/feel healthy and beautiful, no matter what the world has to say.
If you wish to follow along my journey, I’m at @goodbyegundu on instagram.