Body Beautiful

Find your ‘perfect image’ in any shape, size, or colour

By Deepa Pillay

The year was 2015. The location: the city of Bangalore in India. The time: my wedding! A whole multitude of emotions ran through my veins. From“Oh my god, what have I done?!” to “I have to live with a man now!” And it was at this exact moment, when I was all decked up in wedding attire and walking onto a stage in front of 1,500 guests, that my uncle decided to say – although he meant no harm – that my wedding outfit ‘highlighted’ my tummy! The result? I spent the rest of my wedding sucking in my tummy and hoping that the photographs would still turn out great.

A classic example of unintentional body shaming! From corsets to make our waists look slimmer, to shape-training shorts that ‘slim down’ our thighs now; women have forever been body shamed to fit some sort of societal perception of how we ‘should’ look. “You’re much too fat/thin to wear that outfit” is something we’ve just gotten used to hearing. And though the words usually come from a well-meaning place, the damage that it does is often irreversible.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), up to 40% of overweight girls are bullied about their weight by peers or family members. This teasing and bullying often leads to extreme weight control measures that result in severely unhealthy outcomes. NEDA also reported that weight stigmatization poses a significant threat to psychological health. Studies confirmed that weight shaming contributes significantly to depression and low self-esteem.

If more people knew about the severity of outcomes that come out of body shaming and ‘harmless’ remarks about someone’s weight, perhaps we could collectively curb the number of women who suffer deeply from this. A study conducted by the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded that negative body image was a predictor of suicidal thoughts among college students, especially among young girls! This study alone is proof that action needs to be taken as soon as possible to rectify the situation.

To tackle body shaming, body positivity is a much-needed concept that has been growing over the past couple of years. From brands celebrating different body sizes and skin tones through advertising to celebrities taking it upon themselves to spread the message of body positivity, the concept of ‘the perfect image’ is slowly shifting towards something much healthier. Though there’s still a lot of ground left to be covered, the steps taken thus far offer a glimmer of hope. Perhaps the message of body positivity will prevent other unfortunate brides from having to suck in their tummies on their wedding day. Perhaps we’ll stop stressing about how we look and start focusing on how we feel. The glimmer of hope exists; it’s up to the rest of us to turn it into a full-fledged flame.