In a world that’s Size-Zero obsessed, three women turn the spotlight on why it’s important to look beyond our bodies

Women encounter ‘body police’ everywhere, who rate them over their weight rather than who they are. Growing up as a woman in today’s society often means being teased or scanned for every extra kilo that makes itself visible, thus leading to a tenuous relationship with her body.

Society’s obsession with the likes of Size Zero makes it hard for a woman to measure her worth on anything other than how her body looks. In such a scenario, it is heartening to see people come out and revolutionise the idea of an ideal body-image. Meet three women who have done just that!

Fat is just an adjective!

Golda Poretsky, founder of Body Love Wellness Programme (body image coach), shares, “I think we live in a really media-saturated world, where the images we see are mostly of very thin, young women. So women see these images and see themselves as having abnormal or problematic bodies. And there are multibillion dollar industries (fitness and diets) reinforcing this idea further.” ‘Fat’ is merely an adjective and not a scary insult we make it be, she says.

Ragini Nag Rao, writer and blogger, shares, “All I can say to women who obsesses over what they perceive as bodily flaws is this — you are more than your body, you are more than what you look like. We don’t owe beauty to anyone. We are more than what we look like — we have magnificent brains that can lead us to do so much. You have to break boundaries and shatter myths, claim what’s yours and what should always have been yours — the right to live a life free of self-loathing. When you give in to itemising that list of bodily flaws, you are giving into the patriarchy that wants you to obsess over your looks so single-mindedly that you remain trapped, unable to move forwards or make anything of your life. You have to recognise body- / self-hatred as a controlling tool that has been implanted in us from an early age to prevent us from being anything other than window dressing.”

Famous plus-size model Tess Munster says, “It’s stressful and frustrating, but so rewarding. That’s what I try and focus on. I found it hard (and still do occasionally) to not compare my body to other successful working models, but I remind myself that my body looks like a majority of women who aren’t represented accurately and that’s why I am doing this. My boyfriend always reminds me: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ and he is right.”

Societal obsession with the perfect body can have negative effects on unsuspecting victims. Research at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, suggests that women who obsess over their body and diet have chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol (even when their life is not otherwise stressed) — and, as a result, may suffer from elevated blood pressure, lower bone density, higher amounts of unhealthy belly fat and even menstrual problems.

Driven by perfection

Golda opines, “I think our society has created this notion that health is about doing everything perfectly, and if someone looks like they’re doing everything perfectly from the way they look, we should praise them. And if someone looks like they’re not doing everything perfectly, we should shame them. The truth is that healthy habits are good for everyone, fat, thin, or in between. But that’s just one part of the equation. A lot of health is really just luck — genetics, environment, stress-levels. One of the worst things we can do as a society is shame people because we think they’re unhealthy.” This paradigm shift is not easy but it’s important. Tess sums it up best. “You deserve to be happy and enjoy life regardless of your size. Life is too short to beat yourself up over one piece of pizza or not wearing the dress you want because you are worried about other’s opinions. If you are in the process of dropping a few pounds because that’s what you want, the first step is to love the vessel you have now, in its current form. If you don’t want to lose weight and you are happy at your size, that’s fine too. Everyone is at different stages in their journey to inner health and peace, and they should all be respected.”

Beauty is everywhere, and the more abundant we understand it to be, the less we need to claw and fight for just a piece of it.