Have you been bullied on social media for your post-delivery weight gain? Has a stranger made a rude comment about your body? We tell you how to deal with body shamers
By Ashika Kumar
It was a day I was focusing on the legs. I had conquered squats, lunges, leg presses and hamstring curls; my T-shirt was soaked with sweat, my muscles were singing, and my self-esteem was sky-high. From a paltry single squat, a couple of months ago, I could now easily do a hundred. Basking in the radiance of my workout, I went into the locker room and found a fellow gym member there. “That was some workout,” she exclaimed and immediately added, “I used to be as huge as you, look at me now.”
All I remember after that conversation is a shrivelling of my spirit. For over a week, her words haunted me – is that how people saw me? Huge? The gym mirror, that had reflected the image of a toned, confident mother of twin daughters, now showed someone who was fighting hard to keep her confidence.
What makes people indulge in shaming someone’s body? Is it vigilantism against those who do not conform to societal standards of size and shape? Often, it could be their upbringing or their own inadequacies.
According to a study done by researchers at Duke University, adults learn to body shame because of childhood experiences, and their negative behaviour towards people who are overweight is most often influenced by their parents.
Once you bring a little one into this world, it is time to say goodbye to a proper night of sleep. It leaves you weak, exhausted and snappy. As if that weren’t enough, ghrelin (the hormone that makes you hungrier) grows by leaps and bounds, while leptin (the hormone that suppresses appetite) takes a back seat.
Irregular sleep schedules, underactive thyroid glands, missed meals, the incredible stress of parenting and most importantly, a body that’s still recuperating from the magnificent experience of bringing another life into this world, makes losing weight extremely difficult.
Whether it’s teasing someone about skinny legs or comparing someone to a sack of rice, body shaming anyone -- mothers in particular - is bullying and one needs solid tactics to deal with such shamers.
Here are six ways you could deal with body shaming:
1. Show some self-love
Appreciate your journey this far. You have an important role in the circle of life, by bringing a new person into this world. Let that sink in. Savour that feeling. Let the stretch marks and the loose skin remind you of one of the most incredible experiences you have had -- motherhood. Remember, it’s about them, not you.
2. Boycott unrealistic media
The next time you’re lounging, refuse to flip through generic entertainment channels or fashion magazines. Most of them carry heavily photo-shopped pictures of women and even the innocent act of surfing or flipping through them will load your subconscious with unattainable body goals. Instead, opt to carry your own reading material and be mindful of what you watch.
3. Be body positive with yourself and others
Have you unknowingly teased your friend about her big breasts? Have you handed out friendly, yet unsolicited ‘tips’ to someone about narrowing their waist? Or maybe you have ridiculed your own calf muscles? Ban all negative talk. Let your rule be to uplift and be positive. Pamper yourself without feeling guilty about it.
4. Choose your battles
It takes time and energy to respond appropriately to body shamers – whether you do it peacefully or with anger. Sometimes, it’s just better to shake your head and walk away.
For example, if your co-worker has been passive-aggressively commenting on your post-baby tummy – you need address that. A passing comment from a stranger can be treated like water off a duck’s back.
5. Keep some responses ready
Sometimes it’s not possible to think straight when someone you barely know or even someone you love finds something negative to say about your body. Be prepared. Ready responses like “I don’t appreciate what you said,” or “I don’t think my weight is any of your concern,” or “I’ll take care of my body when I’m ready not when you want me to,” can help you when you’re in the heat of the moment.
6. Make the cut
Motherhood sometimes seems like a lesson in savouring every moment. As your baby repeats your words, mimics your tone and replays your body language, you realise how important it is to model positive behaviour. So, if someone you know is constantly making you doubt your body image and causing cracks in your confidence, it’s time to get rid of the toxicity. Focus on more important things in life like your home, your work and your loved ones.
“I don’t owe you perfection; my body, my rules” - Huma Qureshi, actress
“What’s the connection between women-centric roles and weight loss? It would be good if you all changed the way you think” - Vidya Balan, actress
“Bodies change. Bodies grow. Bodies shrink. It’s all love.” - Anne Hathaway, Oscar winning actress
Remember that just as you are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul, you are also the owner of your body. Take care of it, respect it, love it; above all, guard it fervently against those who attack.
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