Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

**TRIGGER WARNINGS: Eating disorders, body image**

My last blog post was about my unhealthy relationship with chocolate and how it affects my body image. In this post, I’m going to go deeper into my struggles with the latter.

I’m not exactly sure where to start. One of the things I was afraid of at the start of Quarantine (aside from the actual Coronavirus, of course, and the threat that it poses to people’s lives) was how my body would change. This was change I was worried about was specifically regarding weight gain. I know, it’s trivial considering everything else and all other issues of the world. But that doesn’t take away from the pain that my body image insecurities cause me. I’m still prioritizing those other issues before I regard my personal issues regarding my body image.

I was still running regularly at the time, so I at least had that to keep me grounded. It was a comfort knowing that I could still hold onto exercise to keep my body healthy.

But now, that’s not the case. I love running, I miss it dearly. But I haven’t been able to run the same. My relationship with it has changed, especially over the past year– and because of the way that my body seems to be deteriorating as I run, I know that something has to change about how I go about doing it. For now, I’m mostly taking a break– but that hasn’t been faring greatly for my self-esteem regarding my physical appearances. I’ve even been avoiding the camera, because when I don’t, I get upset by what I see– changes in my face and body that weren’t there just a few months ago. I can’t help but want to cry as this shame creeps up on me throughout my day.

I want to clarify something– I know it’s wrong to be fatphobic, and I strive to actively fight it. I shouldn’t be beating myself up for putting on a few pounds, and I shouldn’t be disgusted at the way my body changed from its “ideal” version. But I’m struggling– really struggle to feel good, to feel sexy. I’m conscious about not being fatphobic toward others, but I still have a long way to go regarding fighting the societal ideals and standards that have been ingrained into me from both my desi and American cultures– especially when it comes toward being internally fatphobic toward myself.

The focus that I’ve been trying to adopt lately is the focus on being healthy and fit, rather than being “skinny” or “skinny enough.” I’ve definitely come a long way toward being more accepting of my body and its changes, especially after trying to help some close girlfriends of mine of the same thing. I’ve compared body diversity and body changes to the beauty and diversity of various places of the earth. Bodies are similar and different, as are the lands of the earth. I wrote the following poems to reflect on this:

Click here to see more of my poetry **type, should be “exude” not “elude”
Click here to see more of my poetry

But these words are not enough to qualm my insecurities and struggles.

I finally visited one of my best friends on Saturday, and it had been a while since we had seen each other. And it had been a long time since I had been out, period, to spend time with a friend with me trying to take precausitions because of the pandemic.

I didn’t realize the extent of how horrible I would feel going out and being in front of people constantly. I felt amazing, too, in the sense of being able to spend quality time with my friend and see society out and about again (adhering to social distancing rules, of course); it was so refreshing to get even just a small taste of pre-Corona again. But the unease of how I had changed physically kept itching away at me– and how these physical changes affected the way I presented myself in front of others.

I can’t remember the last time I wore jeans. Typically before going out, I would imagine running first thing in the morning, taking a shower, and putting on an outfit that made me feel good in my skin and my body. This isn’t to take away from how I also felt confident and comfortable in wearing sweats. The difference between then and now is that I felt like I could choose between wearing sweats and something else, because I would look and feel good in either category. Now, I only feel “valid” enough to wear sweatpants– as much as I love them for their comfort, they’re not just pieces of clothing that I feel cute and comfy in. They’re also a means for me to hide the parts of my body that have changed– a means for me to hide by shame.

That day, as I saw my beautiful, gorgeous friend inside and out (masha Allah), looking amazing as always (masha Allah), I couldn’t help but miss feeling like I was allowed to dress in a way that I felt beautiful, too. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t deserve it. Again, how horrible would it be for me to have that same attitude toward others just because they didn’t fit certain body ideals? I don’t hold these same attitudes toward my friends who don’t fit these socially constructed ideals, nor do I hold it against my icon Nabela Noor who has helped me tremendously with accepting myself. Yet, my instinct is to chastise myself and deprive myself. Do I find beauty in others in ways that I’m not able to find in myself? Even if I do, the social constructs ingrained in me are still parasites biting away at my brain as I consciously strive to fight them.

I just really wish I could run 10k’s everyday again. I really wish I could shake my strong affinity toward chocolate. I’ve been working on it and have been improving, alhamdulillah, and I realize that I actually should give myself some credit. My nutritionist even mentioned how progress isn’t perfectly linear– and that’s okay. Even with not having a perfect relationship with food when it comes to chocolate, I have made great improvements– I’ve been able to at least delay giving into my urges to eat chocolate, and I’ve definitely been incorporating vegetables and other healthy food options into my diet that weren’t there before.

I’ve also just realized another sign of improvement– like I had mentioned earlier, I shifted my focus from wanting to be “skinny” to aiming to be more fit and healthy. The thing that I just realized regarding this is that the shame I feel upon eating unhealthy amounts of chocolate is not as much of a product of me hindering weight loss than it is me treating my body in a lesser way than it deserves.

This is something that I know I would not have been able to say just a month ago– when I shifted my focus. from being skinny to being fit.

I’m not disturbed by the fact that I’m “fatter”– I’m disturbed by the feeling that my weight gain is a product of my unhealthy habits– rather than my rounder face being a reminder that I use to have more protruding cheekbones, my changed face shape is a reminder that I had too many chocolates the night before, and many nights before that.

It’s a reminder that I haven’t been treating my body the way it deserves– the way I deserve.

It’s a product of the frustration of not being able to reach my goals of being and eating healthier immediately, which I’m trying to develop patience and self-grace and self-compassion for.

And I am in no means saying that if someone gains weight or has more fat on their face than another person, that they are this way in appearance because of being unhealthy. But that’s the case for me, specifically. Nabela Noor, my icon and my role model, beautiful inside and out (masha Allah) who has a bigger body shape than mine, probably eats healthier and has a healthier lifestyle than I do.

Maybe I’ve made more progress than I’ve been giving myself credit for. Here’s to even more progress, insha Allah.

One Comment

  1. Ita

    Until about a year ago, I ate about as much chocolate as you do (including getting through huge jars of Nutella about every three days – I ate that at a rate of knots!). But I developed an allergy to chocolate (or rather, to cocoa from which it’s made) and it was making me so ill I had to force myself to stop. There’s now none in the house. Now I have to try to stop eating so much cheese and dairy! Either I eat too much food of the wrong sort or I don’t eat enough of the right food (or just very little of any food), I hate to think what it’s done to my health over the years, it was always bad anyway.

    My own attitude to my body changes depending on my mood. When I’m happy (rare in recent times), I don’t care what it looks like. When I’m depressed or anxious, I care too much. What I try to do – but don’t always succeed – is to imagine that I am living in a world in which I am the only person who can see me, so… like everyone else is (literally) physically blind. If it’s only me seeing myself, it really doesn’t matter. A lot of these fears we have about ourselves are due to living in a visual world. That probably won’t help you but maybe it’s just a different way to think about it? Go and find someone visually-challenged and sit with them, find out if you feel any different about your body while with them. They won’t know what you look like.

    And, not all of your chocolate addiction is to do with lack of self-control, it’s due to an ingredient in the food that is actually a drug, a physically addictive drug. As soon as you try to stop eating it, you get withdrawal effects. So…. if you possibly can, try to cut down slowly to minimise them.


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