My Complicated Relationship with Body Image

Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash

I have always had a complicated relationship with my weighing scale. I was a chubby child and teenager, and have struggled with body image and my weight, for as long as I can remember. 

In school, I was bullied and called a fat and hairy bitch. In university, for a few years I worked out regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and then I discovered the curse that is relationship weight gain, especially when you’re with someone who eats a lot of Nutella, like my college boyfriend.

When I moved to New York, I got better – but then I went to Italy, for 9 months, I ended up becoming an exercise fanatic, eating sparingly (but still a lot of red wine and chocolate things) and lost weight to the point of unhealthy.

Before you all start pouncing on me with eating disorders, yes, what I went through was about thinness, but it was more about control than being skinny. I was terrified of losing control and undoing all that I have done.

To this day, I don’t completely understand the triggers that caused it, but needless to say, I was not in a good place mentally or physically. I stopped menstruating altogether. But something telling was that when I visited new York for a week for my (non-Nutella eating new) boyfriend’s birthday, I put on five pounds almost instantly. 

When I came back to India after Italy, I gained weight again – much to the dismay of a well – intentioned but misguided trainer at a small gym in a community marketplace near my house. It was like a switch flicked, though I did get a few lectures from a very concerned mother. 

I had since then, tried to avoid owning a weighing scale. I have done my best to stay fit –  I started doing yoga – which taught my to love my body – and acroyoga – an activity so fun that I hardly noticed I was exercising. 

To me that is the ideal – exercise that doesn’t feel like working out. I think I hit my best weight around 2017 and looked and felt great.

Fast forward to 2018 – a B12 deficiency hampered how much energy I could devote to physical activity. Then, in August, I fell on my left side while cycling on a Finnish island (as one does!).

I didn’t realize it then, but I suffered a shoulder injury that ended in calcification, which made my shoulder unbearably weak for better part of two years. I had to stop doing the majority of the yoga I was practicing, and I struggled with pain and limited mobility which seemed to ebb and flow with the seasons.

Sometime early this year, I decided I needed to start making myself accountable for my weight again, and I bought a weighing scale. I lost a few kilos and then sometime around the start of lockdown, I stopped weighing myself.

I think it was just too much – between work, studies, writing and the new puppy my partner and I had adopted. It was easier to live in denial. 

My clothes did fit more snugly, and I found myself feeling more sluggish. Until I stepped on the scale the other week and realized that I had gained 5 kilos. 

Since then I have been dogged by a mixture of emotions – shame, at letting it get this far (I’m not sure why but I always feel ashamed when I gain weight), guilt, apprehension (“is everyone looking at how fat I’ve become and judging me?”), and then somewhere, though often I have to dig deep, the zeal to overcome it glimmers through all that darkness.

Another ray of hope was a very good physiotherapist I found, who has helped me recover 95% of my mobility and much of my strength. 

My relationship with my body image is complicated for many reasons. Yes, to a certain extent when I am heavier than I would like to be, I feel uglier and ashamed. But on the flip side, it is because it is incredibly important to me to be healthy.

Diabetes runs on both sides of my family and I have had high cholesterol (genetic, not life-style related) since my twenties. I like the way I feel when I eat healthier and dislike oily foods and junk. 

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

I lost my sweet tooth towards my late twenties, making an exception only for chocolate – preferably dark. 

So while the negative feelings that cloud me when I remember the weighing scale are not ideal, this is something that is not just important to me because of societal norms. One could argue that I like myself better that way because of societal norms, but my body actually feels better. 

I do not write this to make any arguments about body positivity or fat-shaming. How we keep and maintain our bodies must always remain a personal choice. It’s just that my personal preference is not what I see when I step on the scale today. 

And so, I start work on this area of my life again, one kilo at a time. I don’t know how long it will take me this time, but I am hopeful that I can find my happy place again – body and weight-wise.  

Would love to hear some lockdown weight loss / weight gain stories!

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