Looking at myself in the mirror; looking at the representation of the ideal body type; looking at our shameful, historical tryst with (not just) our own bodies, and what we’ve grown to accept as normal, if not celebrated. We might have to continue with our everyday struggles, but maybe… just maybe… our bodies, in all their physicality, won’t have to be one of them.
“I used to be skinny.”
“I used to be skinny”, I remind myself, looking at my body in the mirror. A failed attempt to convince myself that my physical appearance, as it is, is not at its peak, but at least it used to be.
As humans, every day we’re faced with insecurities that we’d wish didn’t exist. Our physical appearance, our thoughts and even our words. While our thoughts and words are something we have a lot more control over, our bodies don’t always keep up with the idea of how they should be.
From a very young age, we’re subjected to numerous body-type ideals. Barbie dolls, GI Joe action figures, our favorite actors on the telly, with perfectly chiseled faces and even more so with their bodies. We grow up, with this idea having firmly cemented itself in our conscience. We enjoy the earlier days, with our metabolisms at their peak, flaunting this ‘ideal’ body type for the world to see.
The thing is, we didn’t stop to think about the source of this information. Cosmetic companies, clothing brands, fitness models – just off the top of my head – were some of the major driving forces towards the insecurities I burdened myself with everyday. Now, I roll my eyes just at the thought of this, followed by a wave of empathy for the people that endorse these ideals.
The human body needs to be healthy on the inside. Looking at our ancestors, there was never once a mention of ‘Queen Cleopatra – The Skinny’ or ‘Jhansi Ki Rani – The Ripped’. Cosmetic and clothing brands weren’t around back then, there was no ‘authoritative’ power that rolled out these unhealthy ideas. A little tummy bulge, the lack of a thigh gap, a double chin, are not things we remember being taught to us during history classes, simply because these weren’t even factored in – they did not matter.
Forward to the 21st century, and we’re obsessed. ‘Flat Tummy Tea’ (a fancy term for a laxative) still tries to convince people the world over that the way they are, is not good enough. When really, the concepts of ‘attractive’ have been dictated by brands that will stop at nothing to sell their products.
“Your clothes don’t fit? Well, have you tried our Plus Size Range?” (Barf). If these ideals weren’t around, you could have a garbage bag on and still look beautiful as ever, as long as you feel beautiful. Which brings me to the clincher.
We’re letting mega-corporations feed into our insecurities and inadvertently feeding them straight into their pockets. Now really, I used to be painfully skinny. If I stood up for too long, my bones hurt, my knees bucked. If I tried to run, I’d be a hyperventilating mess within the first 100 meters. I wasn’t eating much either, scared that if I did, the weight would come rushing back. Looking back, that was probably the epitome of my stupidity being fueled by insecurities placed in my head by a number of people and products.
There’s a clear difference between being healthy and being skinny. And although it’s taken me more time than I’d like to admit and come to terms with this, it’s nothing but the truth. Instead of staying up late watching runway models drag themselves on the ramp, actors with bulging muscles (injecting themselves with steroids off-camera), our favorite sitcom characters boasting that perfect thigh gap, I visited my doctor. And therein came the turning point I still fight myself about, but am so very proud of. You gotta eat, you have to sleep well, you have to consciously not overdo the eating, and you have to avoid (as hard as that seems) the unrealistic expectations you have about yourself.
“I used to be skinny”, I say as I look at my naked body in the mirror.
“I used to be malnourished”, I corrected myself, this time, knowing the weight that sentence carries.
We have to stop looking at ourselves as products on display. I’m not saying this is an instantaneous process. It takes time, for men and women alike. But it’s our responsibility, not just for ourselves but for the future generations to come, to have a healthier outlook on physical appearances. And if you’re ever in doubt, go get a check-up done. Some blood work will immediately highlight what part of you is unhealthy, and how you can work towards being healthier.
We are more than what we look like, and as life keeps getting faster and our time on earth keeps getting shorter, we owe it to ourselves to be kinder. Kinder towards ourselves and those around us. There is no such thing as ‘the ideal body type’. There is simply – healthy, and unhealthy. And that, above all, needs to be our priority; everything else is just (to quote my favorite show) …