“You’ve put on like anything ya!”
Chances are that even without the terms “weight” or “fat” being mentioned, you know exactly what this statement means. Everybody and their brother has an opinion about weight – their weight, your weight, the neighbour’s weight, Vidya Balan’s weight – and they insist on being heard, whether you want to hear them or not. That we’ve turned into a weight-obsessed society that doesn’t mind being obnoxious and in-your-face with our (usually unsolicited) opinions, is no secret.
Social gatherings, reunions, bumping into someone at the mall or on the road - the first thing we notice, comment on or feel free to give advice on, seems to be weight. “Oh you’ve put on weight since we last met!”, “Have you lost weight?”, and so on it goes. It’s now come to a point that however uncomfortable or unappetising it may feel for at least one person in the equation, we’ve come to treat this as acceptable social behaviour.
This noise looks unlikely to be quashed any time soon. But what it does is shame us into greater misery, into drowning out the only voice which counts – our own voice. So we let the din in, we sink into deeper desperation in greater haste, we try out every fad diet that offers us the tiniest bit of hope, we build up impossible expectations of ourselves and of our bodies (who can wait?!) and with every disappointment or failure, we hate ourselves a little bit more.
It took me 30-odd years, and as many diets, to figure out how insidious and harmful this outside noise is. Name a diet and I’ve probably tried it. For instance, the eat-20-small-meals-a-day diet – unless you’re blessed (and rich enough) to have a personal assistant, plan and carry those meals around for you a la Kareena Kapoor, the only thing you’re likely to lose in the long run is your mind. Then there was the Cabbage Soup diet. The General Motors. The Atkins. The South Beach. These aren't diets. They’re simply different versions of hell.
All I can say with conviction is that the only diet that has ever worked for me is when I felt I wasn’t “going on a diet”. When I haven’t started on something new, simply to look forward to when I could go off it and get back to “normal”. When I’ve made changes which I could sustain, without crying into my soup every night.
Think about it. When was the last time you accomplished anything because someone humiliated, hurt or shamed you into it? It was only after I consciously shut out this outside noise, that I could finally listen to my own inner voice – and realise how destructive and negative we are capable of being to ourselves. And how rarely, we acknowledge the mental self-sabotage.
You know the drill. That moment of utter self-loathing and hatred we see in ourselves. Gross, fat, disgusting, undesirable – these are not what other people tell us – it’s what we tell ourselves. Would you ever allow anyone else to talk to you that way? Yet we don’t berate ourselves for being so unkind, so terribly harsh. Abuse comes in various forms. So does self-abuse. We feel guilty when we binge or keep eating and living unhealthily - and going on a diet or getting onto the exercise bandwagon is our way of appeasing that guilt.
Cruel and unfair though it is, it takes more than one day of healthy eating or exercising, to get a handle on a healthy life. So for all the mere mortals like me out there, who have not exactly treated their bodies like a temple, it’s not just about winning the Battle of the Bulge. It’s about having to stick it out till you win the War of Weight. Which can never be won, if you’re at war with yourself.
Illness and heartbreak are possibly, two of the biggest reasons for involuntary weight loss. You know, the blessed kind of weight loss that you don’t even have to work hard at. But given the choice, would you inflict sickness or a divorce/breakup upon yourself simply to keep losing weight without any effort? It’s simple, really. If weight-loss is the positive that you want to achieve, it cannot be built on anything negative. And self-hate, is the worst kind of negativity that you can inflict on yourself.
Another thing common to most weight-challenged people is how we are constantly in a state of waiting. Waiting to look and feel better, waiting to buy more attractive clothes, waiting to go out and socialise more - waiting, waiting and waiting some more till we reach this mythical state of physical perfection. Then only will my life deserve to start, we tell ourselves.
Hell, no. Your life deserves to be as happy, fulfilling and exhilarating as you can make it, at any point in time. Don’t lose out on celebrating today, simply because you think your celebration will take on a happier hue if you’re 10 kgs lighter. If skinniness was a barometer for happiness, there would be no tragedies like Nafisa Joseph or Jiah Khan.
Take baby steps. And do what makes you comfortable. Through trial and hopefully lesser error, you will find the path best suited for you – to eat right and live right. But if it makes you angry or sad, pull out of the diet. No 23-inch waistline is worth weeping into your pillow every night. But most importantly, turn a deaf ear to the busybodies. In fact, as you see them approaching, break into a quick trot in the opposite direction. You’ll lose weight and not lose your mind as a result.