“Your mausi is on a crash diet these days. She wants to give you a ‘solid complex’ when you come home next month.” That was my mother on the phone, trying to not-so-subtly prod me to go on a diet myself. (We are planning to go home to India next month, which is when the aforementioned mausi plans to give me the aforementioned ‘solid complex’!)
“But aai, why should I ‘get a complex’ looking at someone else? For every skinny person on earth, there must be half a dozen folks around who are skinnier. Does that mean all of us should stop eating out of shame? If my mausi is losing weight and is happy about it, good for her! I am happy too. But why should you compare the two of us? Why do you imagine I should feel lesser to her in any way?” That was me trying to point out my newfound philosophy to my mom. Bang, the phone went dead!
Now what do I say to her? Should I call her back and make her see reason? That doesn’t work, my mom just gets more and more emotional till I give up in despair. Should I let go of my stand and simply listen to what she says? But that’s not fair to me since it results in a huge setback to my self-esteem. Isn’t it better to give her time to ruminate on what I’ve said and maybe she’ll see my point of view at last. If I call her back now, she might never realize how strongly I feel about this and how badly her words affect me. Right?
I have been on the pleasantly plump side all my life, but never was fat before. Just a few extra pounds here and there which made folks call me sweet and chubby and ensured I was never counted among the skinny category. But I fit well into all my jeans and smart tops, and never looked incongruous in any of them. In a saree I looked positively slender, I am proud to say.
Then I crash-dieted a few months prior to my wedding, wanting to look my best for the grand day. The wedding snaps came out really well, showcasing the slim and sexy me, and everybody complimented me on my new look. But the weight piled up faster than I could count it, post-marriage. It was probably my over-confidence, I had lost such a lot of weight already, surely a cookie or a muffin here and there wouldn’t cause much harm?
The net result, however, is that I’m forced to admit I now look (and probably am) overweight for the first time in my life. I do know I need to do something about it. And I have nothing against my mausi (the two of us are very good friends, actually) but I don’t like to be compared to her and I know for a fact now that crash diets do not work for me. That is, they work very well in the short run, but fail miserably otherwise.
I have recently started on a more balanced weightloss program, trying to eat sensibly and going to the gym four or five days a week. It’s a slow and painful process, but it fits well into my lifestyle and I know it’s something I can live with for an extended period of time. I am seeing some results too, I lost two pounds in the past one month. More importantly, I feel good about myself and am seeing a marked improvement in my normally meager stamina already.
At this stage, comparing me to my mausi and expecting me to ‘derive inspiration’ from her does little good to me. I have tried to lose weight for a variety of reasons, to fit into my peer group, for my wedding, because someday brainwashed me to, so that I look good standing next to petite my sisters-in-law, to escape from the snide comments about my weight and what not.
None of it works, believe me. All I got out of that experience was a constant habit of comparing myself (negatively of course) to others and a completely shattered self-esteem. And it takes a lot of will-power to resist the temptation to do just what my mom is suggesting. I don’t want to go back on that road again. This time I am doing it for myself and my whole perspective has changed.
So, dearest mama,
I love you very much and I know you love me so much more and want just the best for me. But please try and understand my point of view too. If looking at my mausi and wanting to be like her works for you, great! But please don’t force me to go that way too. I am a very different person from my mausi, you know. There are probably some dimensions to me that she’ll never have and vice versa. So why compare?
With lots of love, your very loving daughter, me.
Update: When I re-read my post, I realized I have raised two important issues in it. Crash diets do not help in the long run, and wanting to lost weight because of unfavorable comparisons with others is a surefire recipe for disaster. I later thought about it some more and realized the two issues are closely interconnected. Most people do know that crash diets are harmful in the long run. Why do so many of us indulge in them nevertheless?
Isn’t the reason always wanting to look good ‘for somebody’ or ‘in comparison to somebody’? Perhaps there’s a wedding in the family or a college re-union coming up? Because if you were doing it for yourself, you would always think of the long term wouldn’t you? The wedding guests leave at night, the college friends won’t meet you for the next ten years, but you have to live with yourself all your life, don’t you?