Slim Indian woman speaking on a cell phoneI saw this woman at a conference in Delhi last weekend. I was pretty sure I knew her, but I couldn’t be positive. She looked so familiar, yet something was different.

I took her photo (I was photographing everyone, so it wasn’t that weird) and studied it until finally it dawned on me: It was Shamin!

The last time I had seen her, Shamin had weighed about 10 kg more. She had always been beautiful, but now the bones in her face were sharper, more defined; her body had become willowy and graceful. I couldn’t stop staring at her. I couldn’t get used to this new look.

It reminded me of my own journey from thin to fat and back to thin and it made me think more deeply about the way both states are viewed in our culture, especially for women.

I was a thin little girl. Throughout my early life I was gawky, skinny, all bones and angles. Then suddenly, in 9th grade, my weight caught up with my height. Suddenly, I was 5’8″ and 135 pounds.  (173 cm; 61 kg).

Perfect! Right?

Um. No. Wrong.

Too fat.

My English teacher, whom I adored, took it upon herself for reasons still unclear, to tease me mercilessly. “Big Fella!” she used to call me. Big Fella. What is a high school freshman supposed to do with that?

I decided to go on a diet. I gave up eating. I existed on Diet Coke and salads. I went down to 116 pounds (52 kg). Bones.

It couldn’t last. By the time I went off to college, burdened with a now strange and ridiculous body image, I weighed 170 pounds. I was miserable and unhappy in my own skin. Then I stopped stepping on scales. I didn’t want to know. I may have gone up to 180. I did not want to know.

This went on for a few years. Then I met Ravi, found love, and moved to India – a country which actually likes women with curves and a few “extra” pounds. I realized I was fine just as I was. I had my babies and I gained and lost weight just as one should during such momentous activities. Just like that, I was cured. I stopped thinking about how my body stacked up against some meaningless, impossible standard and I started thinking about what was for dinner. I put my energy into cooking wonderful meals. I remembered how great it was to eat.

Thin woman in front of a Christmas treeToday, I weigh between 116 and 118 pounds, depending on how much bread and butter I’ve enjoyed. I don’t think about it much any more. I walk a lot. I eat what I want to.

Not bragging. Just saying.

It takes a lot to get to this point. It requires courage and conviction to move to a place where one can stop thinking about weight and height and calories; to a place where one is actually happy as one is; where one is comfortable in one’s own body and free from the crazy (crazy!) rules our society has established to judge women for their appearance and form.

I don’t care any more. I literally do not care.

I want to be healthy because I want to stay alive as long as I can. I’m not here to live up to any insane norm. I’m here to enjoy my life with my husband and our children and our friends.

I’m here to live, to be alive.

So is Shamin. “It was my back,” she explained. “I couldn’t carry all that weight any more. I just needed to be a little lighter for my back.”

Oh my dears! Let’s kick the fashion industry in the ass! Let’s enjoy our lives, our bodies as they are. We’re worth it.





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