What I learned about society when I lost weight
I’ve been lucky enough to have spent the majority of my life being skinny. The reason I call myself ‘lucky’ in this regard is because I’ve also had the misfortune to witness first-hand how Pakistani society slaughters you when you don’t come under that category.
I spent my childhood and adolescence being a skinny girl, but that changed when I started my undergraduate in my early twenties. The novel workload that came with a college degree as well as other issues I was facing at the time caused me to stress eat, meaning I went from 55kg to 65kg over the course of four years. For a 5’3 girl, this is a lot of weight to put on.
Upon graduation, I gradually managed to lose all the weight over the course of a year. Having been on both sides of the spectrum and witnessing a variety of reactions has been interesting to say the least. With the rise of the body positivity movement, there has been extensive discourse on what it’s like to gain weight but little has been said about the varying reactions you get when you lose that weight.
People’s reactions are not what you expect
Because we are conditioned to associate weight gain with disgust, it’s natural to assume that once you lose the extra pounds everything will fall neatly into place. Interestingly enough, that turned out to be far from the truth.
The first thing I found discouraging were the backhanded compliments. People from my family or social circle telling me how good I looked NOW, being so quick to point out (in a room full of people no less) that I’d lost SO much weight and how much did I lose and how did I do it?
Although I understand that these comments weren’t intended to be malicious, it still felt a little strange hearing people tell me I had NOW become beautiful. Gaining weight doesn’t make you ugly. I still had an interest in fashion and make-up when I was fat and indulged in it just as much. Moreover, it made me develop a strange sense of mistrust from those around me. None of these people gently tried to point out when I was gaining weight, save for my older family members who were far from gentle about it and far less concerned about my health than they were about how my weight gain would reflect on them. Regardless, I realised that I wasn’t comfortable with people commenting on my body for whatever reason.
Not everyone is happy for you
Additionally, another disturbing trend I noticed was how some people, (mostly women within my age bracket) were not particularly pleased about my weight loss. They were quick to make sweeping statements about me with contempt, saying I primarily wear tight clothing now (I didn’t) and how I was posting SO many photos on Instagram now (I wasn’t).
The underlying assumption that I had some new found sense of arrogance was a particularly annoying one as it couldn’t have been far from the truth. Regaining confidence in oneself is not equivalent to being pretentious and I resented that accusation. I wholeheartedly believe that one should value self-confidence over self-pity any day and I found it sad that when I stopped looking pitiful, it angered people.
I’m glad this didn’t happen to me while I was growing up
I’ve spent a great deal of my life being highly under-confident and the short years of being overweight took a major mental toll on me, one that still persists today. As strange of a takeaway as this may be, I’m glad I went through this ordeal in my early twenties rather than while I was growing up. Even today, I live in constant fear of my waistline increasing and the insecurities I developed from that time haven’t entirely dissipated.
Looking back at that time, the only silver lining is the fact that I was older and could therefore rationalise the fat-shaming. I can only imagine the issues I would be facing today had I gone through this while I was growing up because I have no doubt that society would have been equally cruel to me if I was a child.
I still wasn’t happy
When you’re unhappy in your own body, it inflames your mind. You watch tv shows and movies, look at people around you, and all you can see is how great everyone else looks and how awful you look in comparison.
Towards the end of my weight loss journey, I remember thinking that if I could make it to a weight less than 55kg, then I had made it. Then I’d be done and I’d look as fantastic, get to wear all the clothes I wanted to wear and finally be happy. One day I flippantly stepped on the scale and saw that I weighed 53kg. Looking in the mirror, the image I saw was far from what I had imagined this moment would produce. It almost made me want to cry. I remember thinking, I don’t want it like this.
Perhaps the biggest and most important takeaway is that you need to love yourself more than the idea of being skinny. It’s important to strive to being the best version of yourself and acknowledging that that may look differently on you than on other people. Sadly, we live in a world where there is intense scrutiny and criticism about your physical appearance, but it’s important to remember that what lies within will always take precedence. You’re intelligence, self-worth, charisma and potential will not be hindered by an increase or decrease of a few pounds.
The human body is such that regardless of what we do with it, it will naturally deteriorate overtime. Investment in your health is important, but your self-worth must always lie within. That’s what forms true inner strength.
Keep up to date with more news at ProperGaanda: What it’s like having friends who are much older than you