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Am I pretty?

By Karishma Shah

I’m 26 years old. I weigh 60 kilograms. And I’m 5’3. Now any kind of fitness calculator will tell you I fall within a healthy weight range for my height. But still, I have suffered from the idea that I am obese ever since I was 16. In the past decade I have probably tried every single diet and joined every new gym that opened up in my neighborhood.

And yet, despite serious attempts of working out, eating better and telling myself I feel great and look good, I have fallen back into the ‘I am obese and look ugly’ trap from time to time, without truly understanding the definition of obesity.

When I turned 19, I left for America to do my bachelors and like many others, I gained the ‘freshman 15’ and began my ‘sweatshirt phase’, which lasted throughout college. I resisted going to parties, felt very uncomfortable in my skin and wore only loose sweatshirts—every single day. I also started hiding behind the notion that I was a homebody and would much rather watch a movie and order pizza than go out and get drunk.

It took immense convincing from my non-desi boyfriend at the time who tried to explain to me what desi women should look like. He once told me, ‘Baby, where we come from…’ (in my head I thought, ‘ you and I don’t come from the same place…but please, do go on’) ‘where we come from women are meant to be curvy and voluptuous and most guys prefer it that way.’ I still didn’t believe him. I refused to attend his sister’s birthday party because I thought I looked fat.

Today the most generic South Asian greeting has become, “How are you beta? Thodi moti ho gai, kyu? Ekdum healthy.” I moved back to India from London exactly a week ago, and almost every single person I have met has mentioned something about my weight. Let me tell you one thing: it is absolutely NOT OK for the first sentence you say to someone to be about his or her weight. I have accomplished a lot more than just gaining three kilos, trust me!

If someone were to ask me how I faired in my exams, I would say I got a distinction in all of them. If someone were to ask me what I’d been up to, I would tell them I traveled to three different continents in the last six months. If someone were to ask me what I planned on doing, or what my dreams for the future are, I would tell them I hope to run a successful restaurant someday.

A lot of conversations at recent gatherings I have attended revolved around peoples appearances and how much money they make rather than who they are or what they have accomplished. There is much more to someone than just their appearance and their weight, and body image issues arise because people have stopped recognizing this fact. It is estimated that 80% of 10-year-old children are afraid of being fat¹.

These issues should be treated exactly how bulimia or anorexia are. They are equally serious, if not more. They should be eradicated from the core. People go through many physical changes in their lifetime, especially women. Be it puberty or delivering children, a woman’s body goes through continuous transformations.

A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem found that 7 out of 10 girls think they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way in regards to their looks, performance in school and relationships. Emphasis should switch from having a perfect celebrity-type body to developing better eating habits and a healthy lifestyle at a young age. The best way children will accept and adapt this is by example.

Parents, don’t just enroll your child in a swimming class; go for a swim with them. Don’t just tell your child to avoid junk food, eat a healthy diet yourself. Don’t take it lightly when a child is self-conscious, spend time to make them understand they are beautiful no matter how much they weigh or look.

And self-conscious people like me understand that it takes a lot of pep talk to tell yourself you have to be happy at any weight or feel good about how you look. Don’t hide behind loose clothes; dress up everyday as if you were about to walk the catwalk. Don’t use humor as a defense mechanism; accept you have a problem and try to find a solution.

Don’t blame others for not having taught you better; teach yourselves that it’s never too late to live the life you want.


¹Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford,P., & Obarzanek, E. (1991). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27­37.


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6 Responses to Am I pretty?

  1. Alisha August 7, 2012 at 4:35 am #

    Well said..there is much more to life than just being fat or thin. Well spoken to help one and all realize this fact and how a girl ur age actually feels. Its too shallow to make a statement regarding another’s weight….thats not the ultimate. Life is much more and each individual of all ages should understand this and b proud of who n the way u r. God has made only 1 u and u r special. Well said too that parents need to b a part of the program while enrolling their child. ‘To b beautiful means to b urself. U don’t need to b accepted by others. u need to b accepted by yourself.”

  2. Sahiba August 7, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Very well-written! I think almost any girl can relate to everything here. It constantly amazes me how many beautiful women I know have insecurities about their weight.
    Love the advice for parents to lead by example, and love even more your advice to everyone to stop blaming others & live the life we want…dressing every day like it’s a catwalk :)
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jay August 8, 2012 at 2:45 am #

    Firstly a lovely article which is nicely written and greatly expressed.

    Here is my thought on this and do not take my thoughts very seriously as I a man whos 6′ 2″ and over 220 pounds 😛

    About Me…

    Ever since I was growing up my weight gradually has been increasing with my height and I have a belly which is considered big but not huge. As a man i have the liberty of stripping of and moving around in my house or on the beach or place of my choice.

    I have lived in Dorms, Rental House with Family, with friends etc and I hate having a shirt on when I am home that being said, I have had lot of my friends tell me how I am fat and say how I have an ugly belly. As mentioned growing up I have always had a big belly and lot of my friends or family would say kya bhai aur mota ho gaya tu toh, kya kar raha hai aaj kal?

    That being said, its up to a person on how they usually take what other people say. I have been told right from my child hood that I am fat and I have an ugly belly but

    Did It effect me? NO.
    Did I work out? Twice in my life. Even though I wish I could be working out more but I dont.
    Did I diet? NO. I wouldnt diet for anyone or anything or any time 😛
    Did I loose my self esteem? NO

    The questions is how am I like this? I do not believe that your self esteem would go low only because several people around you say that you are fat? I think its more than that, it has to be related to quite a few other aspects of your life. Lets say a BF who complains about your body, your work life, your family etc etc..

    But all said heres a few things that worked for me and may be could work for other as well.

    I have been very satisfied with what I have done with my life and not even for a second I think I have been not successful and I am very thank ful to God for that – This helps me boost my self esteem a lot

    I have a lot of friends, when I say lot I mean a lotttttt. I always have people around me and I try to make new friends which in it self is an esteem booster

    Love your body and your self
    You need to look at your self every day and love your self. You need to love your body, Masterbaute if you need to 😛

    The biggest self esteem booster is to get a GF or a BF who obviously dont complain about how you look :P. Its a huge esteem booster to get your self hooked.

    Hope this helps… :) Good to see your post here, would like to follow your blog or posts I wish I could be updated everytime you had a post jnm3@njit.edu

    PS – You look very pretty in the picture :) people who say you are fat – You need to say back to them, why dont you get your eyes checked.

    Good Bye for now pretty girl :)


  4. Nadia August 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    Thanks for sharing! It definitely is frustrating when (usually) Desi Aunties feel they have the responsibility to tell someone he/she gained or lost weight. I often hold back in my response but I’m tempted to say the same thing back, LOL.

  5. Mother August 16, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    Very well expressed. You are absolutely correct in today’s society even a child is greeted with the dialogues you have mentioned. We as a society are hurting these young generation. You have managed to say it very well in this article.
    Keep up the good work

  6. Akarsha August 31, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    Well said Jay :) ..

    There`s lot more than others comments/critics..

    Most of the time People comment on how you look is just to connect with you.

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