Just the weigh you are

Rishima Ganguly

I remember right at the start of eighth grade I decided I wanted to lose weight so I could look as skinny as the girls I saw around me. I didn’t have any real target or objective in mind - just that I knew my parents would never let me diet, so I had to seize every opportunity to eat less. Perhaps I’d skip breakfast in the morning, buy a salad at school in the afternoon. At home, I’d tell my parents that I wasn’t hungry for dinner, even if I was, because I’d eaten so much at school. One of the more drastic changes I made was measuring exactly four tablespoons of rice onto my plate to reduce carb intake, as unavoidable as rice is in the Indian diet. I think the worst part was how unreasonable the lifestyle I had envisioned was. Some days I’d give up hope and completely gorge on high-sugar foods so I’d get sick of them and find it easier to go cold turkey again. I’d also check my weight several times a day, to the point that minute changes would upset me, despite knowing that it’s normal for weight to fluctuate in that time. On the days I’d binge, all I could think over and over again as I checked my weight was, “You’re so fat, you have no self control.” 

According to the U.S department of Health and Services, “A healthy body image means you feel comfortable in your body and you feel good about the way you look”. This involves your thoughts and feelings on your physical appearance and the extent to which you base your self worth upon it. It’s also important to note that we are all unique and that an individual may have a positive or negative correlation with weight gain or loss respectively. That is to say, what is perceived as good for one person may not be the same for another. 

I shared this anecdote to bring to attention the fact that although I never had an eating disorder, and neither was I at any point during this period overweight or underweight, my negative body image and the way I related my appearance to my self worth absolutely drained me and had a harmful impact on my happiness. In spite of the knowledge that I was completely physically healthy, my negative perception of my body had affected me deeply. Body image doesn’t necessarily have to be related to your weight or size. 

Furthermore, throughout my teenage years I’ve definitely felt the pressure from high school to look or weigh a certain way and I’ve also seen the extent to which body image can affect the self confidence of those around me as well. Negative body image can lead to low self-esteem, which in turn can affect behaviour in several detrimental ways, like not wanting to be around other people, or constantly obsessing over how much you eat or exercise. I’ve watched some of my own friends constantly make self-deprecating comments about themselves and brood over their insecurities without realising the magnitude of the impact it was having on them. 

In the end, it simply came down to letting go. I became exhausted by the constant feelings of discomfort, guilt and self-hatred. I was so tired of the space it was occupying in my life and the perpetual dread every time I checked my weight, that the situation reached a point when I decided it wasn’t worth it. I reduced checking my weight from several times a day, to once a day, to a few times a week, to a few times a month - until it gradually stopped being the centre of my life. Moreover, I accept the things I don’t like about myself more -  if not completely - and try to shift my focus to the aspects I do love about myself. 

For anyone who’s ever struggled with body image, it’s unreasonable to ask you to only ever have positive thoughts about yourself and to love every aspect of your body. Insecurities are an integral part of being human and it’s not possible to completely eradicate them. The path to better body image is an uphill climb; positive thoughts won't always come easily but the effort goes a long way towards viewing yourself in a more positive light. The key lies in repetition - make it a point to start your day by looking in the mirror every morning and to try thinking one positive thought about yourself. Working on acceptance is a healthier and more rewarding alternative to persistently trying to change the way you look. After all, your appearance is only a small part of who you are and what your friends and family love about you.

Bibliography 

Body image. (2019, March 27). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/body-image-and-mental-health/body-image#:~:text=A negative body image may develop a healthier body image.