Thirty years ago.
Like a clown at a funeral. A smile painted on the face. I’m a study in contrast to the Lilliputian world around me .
People around me are short and emaciated. I am tall and healthy. Not fat, but well built, an athlete.
The lesser mortals look up to me. My teachers commend me on my good posture. My father says he’s proud of the way I hold myself, tall.Never slouched- all my life.
But oh, the contrast. Towering over the insignificant.
Let’s go watch a movie. I said. Oh, no. My parents won’t allow me to go. Why not? Loafers and ruffians have nothing better to do than emulate the stalker heroes onscreen. Remember the persistent heroes who would sing songs and subjugate the docile heroines into submission in the nineties? Pathetic, psycho behavior, not ‘psychic’ please! Get your vocab right, ok? Rolling my eyes, 360 degrees, teen style. Anyway, fond fathers foolishly felt their awkward, gangly teenagers were heroines. Ha. Ha.
Jhuma told me her parents would send her to a movie only if I was going. I looked so formidable, nobody would dare harass us if I were around. Being an average teenager, I found that statement weird. Actually downright offensive. Didn’t want to think of myself as scary. Actually, come to think of it, I was, rather. I still am. (Ask my students. Hee. Hee.)
Yeah right, so where were we? Oh yeah, Jhuma- Miss Hot Pants- wanted protection from her raging hormones alright. That’s another story altogether.
Now back to me. When I wore heels, I towered over the lot. The boy next door, a self-professed stud, called me an Amazon. Well, he felt intimidated. Poor thing!
I smiled, but I wanted to wrench his teeth out. Without anaesthesia. Slowly.
And watch in glee, while he ran to Momma for solace.
Beware of Xena, the warrior princess.
I have always looked older than my age. Somebody sniggered when I said I was eighteen. Padma told me I was being called ‘Fatso’ behind my back. Another plump girl, in our class was being called ‘Fatty’. Which name was worse? As if I had a choice. As if it mattered. Unfortunately, it did. I pretended I didn’t care but it hurt like hell. I pretended to laugh, in fact I laughed the loudest when I was the butt of all fat jokes. I cracked a few of my own, hoping to seek acceptance, but the malice surfaced into the open and it was ugly. How they leapt up to bring me down! Sharks turning on a bleeding one of their own kind.
Somebody said I was eating too much.
I wasn’t. Honest.
I went on a diet that day.
I played basketball. So good at it. My coach had plans for me. Worked up an appetite. But remembered that dratted diet!
I did not eat anything till lunch. I looked at food all around me. I was hungry. I didn’t care anymore. Basketball gave me a voracious appetite. I played, for school and college. I continued to scale great heights. Forget about the weight!
Twenty-five years ago.
Height and weight didn’t matter. I soared. Married a man an inch shorter than I. Didn’t make a difference to either of us. Made a huge difference to the family.
Who would put such a shallow issue into consideration when the relationship flourished?
Believe me there are people foolish enough to give up for such non issues.
My hussy bun has a voracious appetite. I unconsciously eat as much as he does. We are not supposed to waste food. No left overs allowed. No throwing away scraps. So I am the ‘dustbin’. Unfortunately, I don’t play basketball anymore. Don’t go to the gym either. So I balloon.
My mother-in-law is here. I feel so stressed. She is too critical of me. Nothing I do pleases her. Forget about pleasing, apparently I’m not good enough for her son. What’s her business anyway? Well, she did beget him. How quaint!
I ate a couple of samosas and gulaab jamoons and felt so good. Food has become my instant ‘pick me up’!
We bought a new fridge. I stocked it up with bars of chocolate and pastries. They look so pretty.
This chocolate cake is gooey. I cannot stop.
There is no full length mirror at home. I cannot look at myself. My clothes are getting tighter. The cloth must be shrinking.
I fought with the hussy bun today. I am so upset. I devoured a pack of butter. I love butter. Butter makes everything better.
Sudathi tells me to start walking. She tells me I am fat. So, I avoid her.
I get breathless climbing up steps.
I love dosas. Masala dosas. Onion dosas. And vadas.
My stomach bulges and rolls into folds when I sit. When I walk everything shakes like blubber.
Hussy bun got a mirror home.
I took one look and began to howl.
In my head I was this pretty sixty-two kilo girl and now I have bloated into an eighty-four kilo swollen wonder.
Twenty-two years ago.
I cannot conceive. I went to the doctor. Turns out I have PCOD- Polycystic Ovarian Disorder. Or is it disease?
She tells me I am fat because I have PCOD. I have PCOD because I am fat.
Classic case of chicken and egg syndrome eh?
Taking hormonal treatment. Growing a moustache and a beard. Sick!
Conceived. I have complications. Advised bed rest.
Hussy bun stuffing me with food. Mom telling me to eat for two. Now at a staggering ninety-six kilos. Feet swelling up. Bloating. I waddle. I drape a sheet over the mirror.
Twenty-one years ago.
Had the baby. Still at ninety-six with all the ghee and pampering.
Walking makes me breathless. I get catches in my back. I am so down.
Somebody told me my hussy bun looks younger than I do. I want to yell; even my father looks younger. Now my mother looks svelte and somebody asked her if we were sisters. I am the older one, obviously! In comparison to me, my mother-in-law, a dumpling, looks terrific.
Fifteen to twenty years ago.
At work people stand next to me while photographs are being taken. They want to look slim and gorgeous in comparison. Yeah, the theory of relativity at work!
So depressed I can’t stop eating. My daughter goes to playschool and I lumber behind. All the other moms look fabulous. One asked me, ‘Why aren’t you doing anything about your weight?’ I was upset. I roll away.
Another told me, ‘How can such an ugly woman like you have a pretty daughter?’ I wanted to gouge her eyes out.
At work, jokes invariably continued to end up being about me. I pretended not to care. In fact I poked fun at myself to escape but it backfired. People still jumped at the chance to pull my leg and the fun ceased to be informal. I realized they were deliberately hurting me cruelly, and I was allowing them to do so. Legitimate ‘Fat-shaming’. I soon shut up.
At the mall a skanky female looked at me and sniggered. She nudged her friend and they looked over in my direction and giggled. I glared at them pointedly and they looked away.
At the bakery I stopped to buy pastries and those salesgirls looked at me and sniggered.
My colleague advised me to hide my flab in sarees.
My boss who was old enough to be my mother added me to her category. According to our age… she said.
Waiting to turn forty. I’ll look my age then.
Hussy bun keeps telling me I look good. Loser!
Ten to fifteen years ago.
My head aches. It pounds. Went to the doctor. Have high BP.
Was sent for an echocardiogram. Lay exposed. Vulnerable. The doctor tested me with cold instruments. The smell of the clinic made me sick.
Never again. Never.
Decided I would hit the gym the next day.
The man and the desk took one look at me and said, ‘Only workout clothes allowed Madam. No salwars.’
Isn’t it ironical that you are made to feel ugly when you are trying to get into shape? How rock hard bodies legitimately belong at fitness centers and people who need to get fit are treated like dirt?
People gaped at me everywhere. The thin ones are so good at eating, God knows where they pack it all away. The way they stuff themselves is unbelievable. They don’t bother to work out. They are susceptible to heart disease too, but nobody teases them. Even if they are teased for being too thin, the fun is not malicious. Me, I only have to look at food and I put on weight.
Gym is killing me. I enjoy the aerobics though. There is a huge mirror. Hate to look at myself wobbling away.
Ten years ago.
Lost five kilos. Down to ninety. Yay!
Five years ago.
Lost ten kilos. Down to eighty-five. Yaay!
Stopped working out, just like that. The pounds came back with a vengeance.
I wanted to kill myself. What did I do to deserve this?
And then I got my life back. My sanity as well. Going for one hour walks in the morning and evening. Eating small portions. Eating only when hungry. I changed my life with a little mantra.
I must eat a little less and move a little more.
My students, whom I taught fifteen years ago, tell me I look younger. I bask in their appreciation, motivated to keep a careful watch on myself.
Others try to sabotage my diet by offering me high calorie food but I refuse bluntly. Sarita looked offended that I did not try her chocolate cake. I know I have to work out hours for that. She told me it didn’t matter but I did not pay heed.
I keep a food diary now. I record everything I eat. I have learnt to be honest with myself. I do not eat to satisfy my emotional needs. I work out regularly. I accept my little momentary lapses and don’t dwell on them too much.
Yesterday I ate a slice of Pizza. I’m human, you know. It’s OK. I’m making a change to my lifestyle. This is like, forever.
I have brought my weight down to eighty kilos over two years and my blood pressure is now normal. I look younger, feel fitter and better about myself than I have ever felt.
The mirror loves me again. It shows me what I want to see.
However, I need to knock off another ten kilos.
So tell you what, I shall do all I have to keep fit – walk ten thousand steps a day and all that jazz… and
Losing weight and keeping it off should be just…
The side effect.