#BODYSHAMING

Why can’t a fat lady wear a bikini? Or a woman want a mus­cu­lar physique? Some of In­dia’s most beau­ti­ful show how un­usual body shapes are to be car­ried with pride

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Front Page - By Kavita Dev­gan

"Peo­ple's per­cep­tions change every day. Body sham­ing is not worth los­ing sleep over." ZA­REEN KHAN, AC­TOR

"So what if I am a woman and have muscles!" VJ BANI

For most of her teenage years, ac­tress Za­reen Khan was fat. She weighed about a hun­dred ki­los, was very com­fort­able with it, and never al­lowed any­one to bully her about her size and shape.

So she found it hi­lar­i­ous when, iron­i­cally, she ex­pe­ri­enced her first-ever in­ci­dent of body sham­ing af­ter she lost weight.

“I put up a pic­ture of the ‘thin’ me on In­sta­gram, and got rude com­ments,” says Khan. “Peo­ple said things like: ‘not pos­si­ble with­out surgery’. But I’ve al­ways been thick-skinned. I just shrug, laugh and move on. Peo­ple’s per­cep­tions change every day. Body sham­ing is not worth los­ing sleep over.”

The world would be an eas­ier place if ev­ery­one were as con­fi­dent as Za­reen Khan, but un­for­tu­nately, for many peo­ple, body sham­ing can be a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence. Few peo­ple like be­ing told they’re some­how dif­fer­ent in the first place. Even fewer can deal with be­ing bul­lied and in­sulted about it – even ex­tremely suc­cess­ful peo­ple.

Suc­cess­ful peo­ple are highly vul­ner­a­ble to taunts, sim­ply be­cause they are al­ready un­der so much pres­sure, says Dr Kersi Chavda, con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist at Mum­bai’s Hin­duja Hospi­tal.

“Models, ac­tors, athletes – peo­ple whose work val­ues a cer­tain size and shape – are more vul­ner­a­ble to body sham­ing than oth­ers,” says Chavda. “I once worked with an ath­lete rep­re­sent­ing her state, who also hap­pened to be aca­dem­i­cally ex­cel­lent. When she was in

the lat­ter’s be­liefs that the search for a suit­able spouse can only be­gin if you look a cer­tain way.

As ac­tor Taapsee Pannu says, this is ridicu­lous. “How can you let oth­ers de­cide whether you are thin or fat, pretty or ugly? These are sub­jec­tive terms and hardly im­por­tant,” she says.

But the real se­cret, the real shame of body sham­ing doesn’t come from the neg­a­tiv­ity of other peo­ple. It comes from within our­selves. You feel the most trau­ma­tised when you look in the mir­ror and see a per­son you’re ashamed of.

“Stud­ies have found that body sham­ing can cause a pro­found psy­cho­log­i­cal harm,” says Dr Ashima Puri, con­sul­tant psy­chol­o­gist, Aashlok Hospi­tal, Delhi. “Weight dis­crim­i­na­tion can cause de­pres­sion, eat­ing dis­or­ders, re­duced self-es­teem and all kinds of men­tal and phys­i­o­log­i­cal prob­lems.”

Many peo­ple be­lieve the only class 12, the pres­sure of stay­ing fit for her sport and deal­ing with her stud­ies got to her, and she be­gan a cy­cle of not eat­ing, then binge eat­ing, then not eat­ing again. It took months of ther­apy to get her self-es­teem up, ease her stress and get her back on track.”

Body sham­ing tends to hap­pen the most to peo­ple de­fined as over­weight, but ac­tu­ally, any­one who does not look like she or he came off a fash­ion model assem­bly line is vic­timised.

The sham­ing can be of two types. One that is di­rect and in­cludes harsh and per­sonal crit­i­cism. The sec­ond type is more sub­tle, such as the mes­sages sent out by so­ci­ety via the me­dia where the em­pha­sis is on ‘per­fectly shaped’ peo­ple, for ex­am­ple.

The fit­ness in­dus­try and ‘kind’ rel­a­tives body-shame us as well, with the former’s em­pha­sis on size and shape rather than health, and

Body sham­ing should stop since we all come in dif­fer­ent sizes and are all beau­ti­ful

The process of weight cor­rec­tion should not be stress­ful. When it is fun and doable, you’ll fol­low it through. When you try and shame your­self into stay­ing fit, you are set­ting your­self up for fail­ure.

Ev­ery­one is born with a cer­tain body type. You just can’t change that. For in­stance, Ri­tika does not want to be a size zero. “We can’t change our bod­ies dras­ti­cally, all we can do is to make sure that we keep fit by work­ing out, eat­ing the right foods, and be­com­ing fit­ter and stronger,” she says.

Taapsee agrees. “I am a Sar­darni with a broad body struc­ture. Hop­ing for a model-like waist­line is silly. I amp up my fit­ness in­stead.” Though Taapsee has lost just a cou­ple of ki­los, she has a beau­ti­fully toned body, and says she feels fit enough to take on the world. Her se­crets: She did not dras­ti­cally cut down on food, stuck to play­ing squash in­stead of reg­u­lar gym­ming, and stayed as stress-free about her body as pos­si­ble. “Stay­ing happy is most im­por­tant, it helps re­flect health from in­side out,” she says. way to mo­ti­vate them­selves to ex­er­cise and eat well is by body sham­ing them­selves. They look at them­selves with crit­i­cal eyes and tell them­selves they’ll be lov­able if they’re a cer­tain shape and size. This de­pen­dence on other peo­ple for a sense of con­fi­dence can worsen cases of de­pres­sion.

Kick­boxer and ac­tor Ri­tika Singh, who won a spe­cial men­tion at the Na­tional Awards for her role as a boxer in Saala Khadoos felt dread­ful when one of her favourite ac­tors, Went­worth Miller, be­came a tar­get of body sham­ing af­ter he gained weight, and said his de­pen­dence on food was a way to deal with the de­pres­sion he suf­fered since he was a child.

“No one is safe from body sham­ing and it needs to stop, be­cause we all come in dif­fer­ent sizes and we all are beau­ti­ful!” as­serts Singh.

Some­times par­ents use body sham­ing to con­trol their chil­dren. For 25-year-old Ankita (name changed), the best thing about be­ing an in­de­pen­dent adult is telling her fa­ther “I don’t care” when he tells her to watch her weight.

“‘Eat less and ex­er­cise more’ – this phrase would be part of all our con­ver­sa­tions,” says Ankita. “The more he nagged, the more I ate.”

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