I was 10-years-old when it first struck me that I didn’t look like my best friend. We were exactly the same height but while she was lean and athletic, I was chubby and uncoordinated. The first taunt that I can remember was when one of my classmates asked me if I got fatter every time she met me. I was 12-years-old at the time and it felt like she had thrown freezing cold water on my face. It only got worse after that, and given the shockingly infantile mental capacity of 12-year-old boys (and 25-year-old boys, for that matter), I was compared to certain barnyard animals roughly thrice a week. Fortunately, I was thick skinned (pun intended) and I moved on very quickly.
Around the time we were 16-years-old, it dawned on me that my best friend had transformed into one of the hottest girls in school and I was still struggling to lose the 20 pounds that seemed to have made a home for themselves on my arms. I started skipping meals and made myself throw up more times than I would ever admit. I would obsessively read about anorexia and envy girls who managed to survive on 300 calories a day. I’m amazed that I didn’t stop eating altogether, but because I was smack dab in the middle of a million controversies at school, the fact that I wore size 34 jeans took a back seat and for that, I’m grateful every single day.
Over the next two years, I noticed that my best friend was treated much differently than I was – she was given more attention at salons, attended to first at clothing stores, smiled at more often – the list is endless. It didn’t bother me because I told myself that I hated the limelight and attention of any kind. I accepted it as the norm and shook it off. There were worse things in the world, right?
During my first year of college, I got worryingly obsessed with food and started eating everything in sight. I remember taking an entire bag of cashews to my room and going through half of it in minutes and sitting with a box of chocolates and shoving it in my mouth like the apocalypse was upon us. I stopped fitting into anything remotely pretty and I was uncomfortable even in a size XL. What’s amusing is that I still didn’t want to do anything about it, because I was more concerned with earning my own money and rebelling against my parents, who were understandably worried about me. They tricked me into getting a full body check up and the tests revealed that I had high cholesterol and my insulin levels were through the roof – the culmination of which resulted in hormonal issues. I was 19-years-old and weighed 152 pounds at 5’2. My parents paid a nutritionist to help me drop the weight and normalize my levels but I was still not bothered. In fact, I gained an additional 15 pounds and started looking like a baby whale.
But I remember the exact moment at 22 when I decided to lose all the weight once and for all. This was when Miley Cyrus was making her transition from Hannah Montana to Wild Naked Girl and I came across a photo of her in yoga pants and a tiny crop top. I looked at her body and realized that I only had about 8 years to look like that, because apparently, a woman’s body changes after she turns 30. I will be so annoyed if that’s not true.
I started working out 6 days a week and learnt everything there is to learn about nutrition. I was a pain to be around and drove my family crazy by going on about calories and crunches and planks. I’m surprised they didn’t squeeze my throat.
The problem was that I was still obsessed with food (maybe more so) and I would go to the kitchen multiple times, bite into a chocolate biscuit, only to spit it out. I ran to my room when my family ordered ice cream and clenched my fists under the table at Big Chill when there was a Mississippi Mud Pie sitting in front of me. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but when I bought a new pair of jeans and realized that I could fit into a size 6, it’s embarrassing but I burst out crying. It was over. It was finally over.
This may be hard to believe but a week after that, I had a minor identity crisis, because it felt like I had been kicked off of Fat Person Island. All my life, I’d been the heavy one, the girl who could only fit into a size L, the one who was constantly told to lose weight by fat relatives, the one who could only look at dresses. I suddenly didn’t belong to any of those categories and I was lost. My exterior changed before my interior could catch up and it took me a while to come to terms with all of it. I would pass by a mirror and do a double take because I’d have forgotten that I’d lost weight. It was bizarre.
The indifference that I was used to, when it came to my appearance, turned into appreciation soon after. It came as a huge shock because I wasn’t expecting it – I didn’t realize how shallow people really were up until that point. Even now, it takes me by surprise when a heavier girl is ignored and I’m given more attention, no matter what the setting, because it’s far from fair and it doesn’t make any sense. It’s like I’m more relevant or that my existence is justified now that I’m not fat. I’m the same person that I was at 167 pounds and I can still eat an entire plate of fried momos and KFC at the same time. I choose not to, but that doesn’t make me better than anybody else. My heart goes out to every overweight girl out there who feels like she’s not good enough just because she can’t fit into a size XS. It’s not true, it’s never true.
I still struggle with my weight and sadly, I’m not 130 pounds anymore. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable in my own skin and gaining weight is one of my biggest fears. I push myself to work out every day and there have been days when all I’ve eaten is junk food. I joke about how Fat Aanchal is locked up in the closet, asking for pizza. I have a secret stash of what I call ‘crap’ in my room. I still look away from the mirror when I’m changing and stretch out my skin till the shiny white marks disappear. It’s a constant, exhausting battle and I give up sometimes.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not invisible anymore and the amount of attention I get sometimes is overwhelming, but it would be extremely altruistic to declare that I still despise it. I don’t, of course not. Who doesn’t want to be told they’re pretty and who doesn’t want white, blue-eyed boys to chase them all over California?
For what it’s worth, Fat Aanchal will always hold a special place in my heart, even though I try my best to not feed her. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be half the person that I am today. Except I actually am half the person she was. Get it? Pause for laughter.
My best friend is still hotter than me but now, we’re treated the same way. Except she can roll out of bed and look like a super model in less than 5 minutes and I need to straighten my hair, pluck my eyebrows, get multiple laser hair removal sessions, wear 4 inch high heels and get plastic surgery before I can step out of the house.
Another lifetime, yes?