When eating was my cardinal sin.
“I stand in front of the mirror,
not liking what I see,
I could be thinner,
so I starve yet another night,
surviving on a red apple that does not match
the colour of my cheeks,
I wake up in the middle of the night to a growling stomach and satiate my hunger with water,
I coax myself into believing — just one more day and I’m closer to being thin, again.”
I grew up in a household where food was the cornerstone of every celebration. For failure too. Waking up to the aroma of spices wafting through the home was an everyday ritual and I, for many excellent reasons, grew up loving food. I don’t remember a single day when my grandmother cooked something simple — there were no run-of-the-mill days. On Sundays when she got a break from cooking, my grandfather would spoil us with singadas and jalebis. Most of my outings revolved around planning my street food indulgence. I’ve come a long way from devouring delicacies to deviously calculating calories of every meal. Over the past few years, I’ve turned into a person who hoped her body could look different with less fat in some areas, and at some point, I got obsessed with it. I wanted to be a lean machine and guess how I wanted to achieve that? By starving. Unfortunately, I did that to myself for weeks without understanding the nature of my body.
To begin with, I was always a bit healthy; my body frame was never made for skinny. In fact, I was skinny during my teenage only because I was malnourished and fed myself on the belief that being skinny was beautiful. For the most obvious reasons, all of this led to anemia, lack of hemoglobin, low self-esteem, and an unhealthy relationship with my body. Of course, how can I forget my ability to faint at the most mundane places because I had no energy! I was unfathomably ruthless with myself. I skipped meals whenever I could and it was visible on my face. After all, if you are what you eat and you eat nothing, what will your skin look like?
I often stumble upon a quote on the Internet that women must not measure their worth by a thigh gap, but then each time we upload a picture on Instagram or Facebook, people usually comment “Have you lost weight?” or “Have you gained weight?” Alas, the unholy words! Why is that we notice the weight of a person before anything else? Why is it that we’re so critical of ourselves and the people around us? It’s deep-rooted, but I’m glad people have started talking about this more than before. That eating healthy is great, but starving isn’t. That cheat meals are okay but unnecessary diets aren’t.
Last night I watched Lily Collins ‘To the Bone’ on Netflix, which was a flashback of my apparent misery I endured months ago. Maybe I still am frantic about not eating everything I want, but that’s okay as long as I don’t wake up in the middle of the night with a terrible stomach ache. Nights when I reassured myself that I was hours away from breakfast time. See the pattern with refusing to eat is that it becomes an addictive habit when the desire to eat slowly dies. You cannot stomach most of the items on your plate and you find certain food items disgusting too. To the Bone broaches the sensitive topic of anorexia piercingly while depicting the phantom fixation of an ‘incorrigible thin’ image. Even when it’s killing us. I admit it was painful to watch it but it was a reminder that forming an unrealistic opinion of an ideal body and do utterly bizarre things to own it is more than ludicrous.
I remember the times when my mother would urge me to eat, and my friends would yell at me to finish everything on my plate. I refused to eat. I was beyond logic and sanity. And one fine day after fretting and spending many sleepless nights, I tried to understand what eating right was. I stopped glorifying starvation but I’ve also reduced eating out. Exponentially, if I must add. I prefer simple home-cooked meals and more importantly, I stand in front of the mirror and love what I see. After embracing more physical activity into my routine, I also see how my body and skin are transforming. Right from the time I was a teenager, I gluttonously consumed fashion magazines like a devil but now, I kicked them out of my life entirely. What’s the point of reading something that barely makes you feel good about yourself?
Now if you ask me what my greatest learning is? It’s this: biryani > thigh gap.