At my heaviest I was 175 pounds. It was embarrassing. When I looked in the mirror, I no longer saw the girl, known for being athletic, who played competitive tennis all throughout high school. However, the feeling of shame as I scrutinized my thighs and face wasn’t new — it had always been there.
Throughout my childhood, I had always been a “healthy” (it’s an Indian thing) girl. I wasn’t skinny, but I also wasn’t fat. When I would complain or comment about my weight or my body size, my friends and parents would say “Jai, it’s all muscle — you aren’t fat.” I would nod, feeling temporarily assured by their comments, but the feeling would always return minutes later, probably because I was never as skinny as my friends or family.
This feeling of self-consciousness has been with me my entire life. It’s there when my doctor gives me the same lecture about controlling my diet for the fifth time while looking at the chart of my above-average BMI. It’s there when I go shopping with my friends who wear size 2’s and 3’s. It’s there when I hear my skinny friends calling each other fat and “thicc” as a joke.
my junior year. The only rigorous form of exercise that my body was receiving was gone. This was when I gained the most weight and didn’t even realize it because I was so busy with school. I had even deleted my Instagram account because every time I opened it, I compared my body to everyone else’s, creating more internal resentment.
My relationship with my body worsened when I stopped playing tennis competitively in junior year. The only rigorous form of exercise that my body was receiving was gone. This was when I gained the most weight and didn’t even realize it because I was so busy with school. I had even deleted my Instagram account because every time I opened it, I compared my body to everyone else’s, creating more internal resentment.
For the past 10 years, I was so used to being called “heavy,” that I myself had accepted it. My dad’s comments of calling me “Rebel Wilson,” “an elephant” and “obese” no longer affected me and instead enforced the idea that my body was not enough. My dad, in an effort to make me lose weight, would make me run the dreaded three-mile loop around the neighborhood. Instead, I found a shortcut and would rest there for a convincing 25 minutes, pinch my cheeks, and splash water on my face to make it seem that I had been running. However, he caught me one day and yelled at me, “You don’t even feel bad about your weight. It’s shameful.” Those words couldn’t have been more untrue; I had been living with myself — my body — while being told repeatedly that it was too big for so long. Of course I’m ashamed. Why wouldn’t I be — my body had never been enough for others, so how could it be for me?
The summer before my senior year, my dad threw a Hail Mary. A last-ditch of desperation to make me lose weight. “Lose 25 pounds,’’ he said, “you’ll get a dog.” I guess something clicked because I woke up at 7 a.m. every day to go to Crunch. It didn’t help that I would obsessively check the scale every day, but it gave me some sort of mental progress. There were many times when I wanted to quit. So many times I was too tired and stressed from school and college applications to go to the gym, but I persisted. Endless times when I questioned if that dog was worth it, worth the energy or my “valuable” time. I hated running, so why suffer just for a dog? I don’t know how, but I willed myself to keep running, keep going, and to prove my dad wrong.
Soon enough, I got my dog. Life was good. For some reason, when I look in the mirror I still see that overweight girl six months ago, insecure and uncomfortable in her own skin. I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve had a pretty revolutionary breakthrough: I’m stuck with my body and you are too (shocker).
We’re only given one body, one mind. We’re born in it and we’ll die in it too: it’s permanent. It’s not some piece of clothing we can return if we don’t like it — the truth is, we are stuck with our body but we can control it through caring for it, physically and mentally. So treat it well. Don’t berate it for not being enough, don’t abuse it with your harsh mentality — take the time to nurture for it, to care for it. Whether that may be through eating healthier, running a mile or meditating for a couple of minutes, just remember to care of your body. It’s so easy to forget about our body amidst the pressure of school and succumb to our insecurities, but just remember to listen to and respect your body because it’s an amazing vessel — and it’s the only one you have.