Our Thin Obsession

Rekha was in her 40s and she was gaining weight without being able to control it. For several years, she has been exercising and eating healthy and was at a healthy weight. But as perimenopause set in, she started putting on weight. She consulted several doctors, all of who told her that she was healthy and her weight gain was hormonal. However when she went to her parent’s house for a holiday, she was bombarded by friends and relatives all of whom commented on her weight, to the extent that she began to dread going home. 

Rahul was in his late 20s and he was meeting prospective life partners. None of the proposals were working out and there was a lot of pressure on him to lose weight. When the marriage was fixed, there was more pressure to exercise and lose weight to look good on the day. He loved food but skipped two meals a day, started walking every day and joined a gym. He was not consistent but lost weight and got compliments and he felt happy. A few months after his marriage, he gradually gained weight again and the comments  started again. He now feels dejected and is conscious of what he wears, remains silent and does not tell people to stop making hurtful comments.

For decades, the cultural narrative surrounding weight has focused on achieving a thin physique. Good health as an objective was side lined while being thin with a toned stomach took on prominence. This relentless pursuit of thinness can have a significant negative impact on individuals and society as a whole.

  • Body Image Issues: The constant bombardment of photoshopped images showcasing "ideal" body types creates unrealistic expectations and fuels body dissatisfaction, which is particularly disastrous for children. This can lead to a constant feeling of not being good enough, which leads to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression among all age groups. 
  • Disordered Eating: The pressure to be thin can trigger unhealthy eating habits like restrictive dieting, binge eating, and purging. These behaviours can have serious physical and psychological consequences.
  • Focus on Appearance over Health: The emphasis on thinness often overshadows the importance of overall health and well-being. People often prioritize weight loss over healthy eating habits and regular exercise. 

This is not a personal issue any more. It affects the society as well as the individual. 

  • Diet Industry Boom: The focus on thinness fuels a multi-billion dollar diet industry that profits from people's insecurities. These industries often promote quick fixes and unrealistic weight-loss goals often using movie stars and social media influencers which sway the public and make the average person want to try anything and at any cost to get those ‘perfect’ bodies. 
  • Fat Shaming: Negative attitudes towards larger bodies can lead to social stigma and discrimination. People with larger bodies face judgement and discrimination when meeting friends and family and even at the workplace. There could be offhand comments about weight or appearance disguised as compliments or jokes. Research suggests unconscious bias against larger candidates, leading to fewer interview opportunities despite qualifications. These subtle discrimination can affect family life, social interaction and work place success of a large percentage of the population  
  • Diversity Ignored: The "ideal" body type is often portrayed as narrow and Eurocentric, excluding a large portion of the population. This lack of diversity can be alienating and contribute to feelings of inadequacy.

What do we do about this? How do we change this? Change has to happen from the grassroots. Individual attitudes have to change for the societal attitudes to change. Large corporates will change their marketing strategies only if they feel that they are not succeeding with their current marketing strategies. Change has to happen from person to person. 

  • Accepting Differences: There is a lot of reasons why a person could have put on weight. Hormonal imbalances (thyroid, stress, sex hormones during perimenopause among others), depression, anxiety, medical conditions that has weight gain as a symptom, medications that has weight gain as a side effect, grief and bereavement, age and genetics are some of the causes of weight gain. There could be many other reasons and maturity is realising that, that is personal to them and no body else’s concern.   
  • Moving Towards Body Positivity: A growing movement emphasizes body acceptance and self-love at any size. Embrace your body, with its fat folds and bulges. It is what it is. Everybody has bulges and as you grow older, they will only become more. This movement encourages people to focus on health and well-being rather than weight loss.  Accept and love your body the way it is while working hard to keep it healthy. Follow people on social media who espouse such attitudes and unfollow fat shamers. Fill your screens and life with body positivity. 
  • Health at Every Size: Emphasize on healthy lifestyle choices like balanced nutrition and regular exercise, regardless of body size. The goal is on overall well-being and disease prevention. Balanced food is important and exercise you must,  to be healthy and not achieve impossible standards. 
  • Celebrating Diversity: Promoting the beauty of all body types is crucial. Media representation and social media should showcase a wider range of body shapes and sizes. Be careful about your words and your actions and make sure that you are not inadvertently shaming someone else.

Our current obsession with thinness has detrimental effects on individuals and society. It's time to move beyond the scale and embrace a culture that celebrates health, diversity, and body positivity at every size. By focusing on well-being and healthy habits, we can create a world where everyone feels comfortable and confident in their own skin.

Add comment