No one has ever asked me why I’m overweight, only told me I’m Fat. I was made aware of my genetic metabolic failures at the ripe age of six as my full, rosy cheeks crept from cute to excessive. And despite the ups and downs of the scales over the years, I always saw my body as a grotesque thing — hanging, swinging laboriously from my neck.
I’ve found that there are two types of people who talk about obesity. The kind that want to sell you something to instantly cure your ugly; and the kind that want to condemn you for being irresponsible, lazy, and gluttonous. While Type A and B may argue about the answer (magic pills versus eating less sticks of butter), they never fail to emphasize the simplicity of it, when there is no simplicity to it at all.
In my teenage years, I met a girl named Alex. She was chubby, wrapped up in clothing too tight and phrases too generic, “Why do I always fall for the jerks,” “All I want to do is shop,” “Why can’t I have your thighs.” Yes, she always wanted new limbs, for she cried often about the inferiority of her own body. That was, until she starved it into submission. She never achieved stick thinness but she got to a point of relative attractiveness nonetheless. So, I asked her, did she finally feel good? Her answer was simple: “Well, I’m not Angelina Jolie.” And it was true. She wasn’t. The guys still f-cked her and left and the girls still laughed at her.
From that I learned to look at weight loss the way most people do, as a never-ending chain towards the Angelina Jolie ideal — tiny, tiny, tiny — And I could never be that tiny! I knew quite rightly that it would never be enough, there would always be someone skinnier, more air-brushed, more mythical. Because no matter how slim-lined Alex came to be, it took one minor rejection from a boy or a back-handed compliment from a girl to shatter it instantly and entirely. One rejection and her body was again, a grotesque thing — hanging, swinging laboriously from her neck. So I stopped believing I could change my grotesque thing.
In the time after Alex, I became what I was always identified as: Fat. I was well-versed on how Fat people behave so I became gluttonous, I became lazy, I became irresponsible. I also took up smoking, drinking, cutting, and all with the odd illegal substance thrown in here and there. My relationship with my body was well and truly severed. I stubbornly began to visualize myself as just a floating head and I took to the bodiless endeavour of writing. I let my mind define me. But, it wasn’t enough.
I was on the verge of emphysema when I quit smoking for the eighth and the very last time. I took up swimming to clear and strengthen my lungs. Suddenly I remembered how good it felt to swim as a kid, before my bathing suit embarrassed me. I loved the feeling of water filling my ears, I savoured the strength in each stroke I took and the relief in each breath. It became a positive bodily experience, one built on trust and respect. For the first time in my whole life, I realized what a remarkable gift good health was, how it enriches one’s life so undetectably but ever so significantly! So I decided I would try to incorporate a few healthier changes to my diet. It felt so good that I began to build my own generous but responsible, calorie-controlled diet.
I don’t think about Beauty so much anymore. I like to think I’ve politely withdrawn myself from the rat race poor Alex was in, chasing after an illusion, an ideal, an advertising pitch. I’ve lost 11 kilos so far. If such a thing as Beauty does exist, it exists only in the luminous moments between a healthy body and a healthy mind.