As I entered my twenties, my mother and my aunties heeded warnings that I may have inherited the 'fat' gene from their side of the family that would inevitability make me gain weight as I approached my thirties. Having been healthy and happy with my body weight back then, I decided to brush it off by pointing out that I eat healthy and exercise regularly.
Then I got married. And moved to a new country. Began exploring the new city (read: ate out often to explore the food scene in my new hometown). And settled in to domestic bliss. My husband and I pride ourselves in being active, despite the occasional food binges and cheat days. We hit the gym at least 3-4 times a week and avoid encounters with our frenemy: carbs.
As we dove headfirst in to a busy year that involved changing jobs, selling a home, buying a new home, starting graduate school and adjusting to life in a new country, the unwanted pounds started creeping up on me. At first there was denial, and then came the irritation as I found it difficult to fit in to my cute summer dresses. With that being the wake-up call, I started my mission to shed the pounds before heading home for a family wedding.
By no means was I overweight. I was well within the right weight range for my height and perfectly healthy. But those who were seeing me after a whole year were able to notice that I had gained some weight. It was not a whole lot, but it was enough to notice a change. I mentally prepared myself for the comment or two that may come my way regarding my weight gain as I met all my relatives. However, no amount of pep talk and self-confidence would have prepared me for what followed.
'We saw your wedding pictures from last year. Wow, you have gained weight!'
'Yes, I have gained a bit.'
I was prepared for this. Or so I thought.
'You have put on a lot of weight. Do you have diabetes?'
'No... I am healthy.'
I wondered how many of these comments I would have to endure during the two week stay.
'Are you pregnant?'
'Not yet? You have gained so much weight!'
I wasn't sure what was worse, the fact that I was being judged for not having had a baby yet or being criticized for my slight weight gain. Over the next two weeks, the comments poured in and I gave up on the list of local dishes that I had been excited to indulge in during my stay.
As my tolerance levels were tested and I was pushed to the breaking point, I slowly started to realize that most of the comments were coming from a place of curiosity and sometimes, insecurity. Trying to reason with myself as to why people would be so insensitive when it comes to commenting about another person's body, I realized that every single person who felt the need to state the obvious was in fact, highly flawed in some way. Often, when looking inwards at our flaws, we tend to look out at others as a means of comparison to see where we stand. Are they slimmer than us? Are they better looking? Do they have better jobs?
I don't visit my home country often. And when I do, most of the relatives are waiting to see how I have changed. Has she gotten a new job? Has she become successful? Has she stayed humble? Has she gained weight? Although most of the comments were not ill intended, what the commenters did not realize was the damaging effect that their remarks may have on a person who may be sensitive to body image issues. My weight gain did not bother me till I tried to fit in to the dress that I had set my heart on as the outfit of choice for the wedding. Naturally upset by this, I opted for a less flattering dress that hid my imperfections. The situation was not ideal, but adapting was essential.Having my weight gain brought up in every conversation fed my insecurities, till I started to perceive my body image as worse than it actually was.
As I fussed over how inconsiderate people can be, I thought about those who are in the limelight and are constantly being scrutinized for a variety of things ranging from their personal lives to weight changes. The reason that tabloids are so successful in selling such stories is due to our underlying curiosity about how others live their lives.
Sometimes, life happens. Sometimes, you don't have time to hit the gym on a regular basis as you work ten hours a day at your new job. Sometimes you fall sick or get pregnant. Sometimes a quick, unhealthy meal has to do when you are juggling the house chores and kids. So let's all extend some kindness and empathy towards others when we see their flaws. We all have them.