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Body image

Do not exert the body to the breaking point.

Do not exert the body to the breaking point. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

These days, many people aspire to look younger than they actually. And with adages like 50 is the new 40 or 40 is the new 30, everyone wants to look younger than the actual age. This thought process has brought about a paradigm shift in the way any 50-year-old individual naturally looked around two or three decades ago and how a 50-year-old looks now with all the efforts taken to look and feel younger.

And most of the people are not doing it for themselves, but on assumptions of “What will people think / say about me?” Today, having a pot belly is considered to be unfashionable and a sin. Being dark is considered to be a sin. Not having six packs or a ‘gym body’ is considered to be uncool. And to satisfy individuals with such mindsets who are all over the place, people start stressing themselves into getting into that “look good, feel good” mode.

Till the 1990s, parents raised their children on good normal home-cooked food. Eating out was rare. The vegetables that were cooked at home may have been a little pesticide laced, but nothing really happened to that generation (both parents and children) due to this. Our bodies had quite a magical immune system which generally kept people healthy. If a meal seemed somewhat heavy, a little ajwain (carom) or jeera (cumin) and a short walk were enough to bring back normalcy. People who ate a little more and walked or exercised less developed paunches. Many laughed and made fun of them for being oversized, but never coaxed them into believing that being overweight could lead to several diseases, delays in finding a good match and even early death. Apart from well-meaning reprimands here and there from family members, they were not under any societal pressure to become slim. They lived happily and also long. When they died, it was mainly due to old-age illnesses and not what we call “lifestyle diseases”.

So the present generation needs to learn to ‘feel good’ on the basis of their own body rather than feeling good based on parameters set by others. Just to give an example. One may undertake an extensive exterior painting exercise to make her or his house look good from outside. But if there’s any leakage or interior wall dampness, it’ll cause damage to the outer walls (and the entire building) sooner than later. Our bodies are similar. The exterior is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’; the mechanisms inside are what make us tick. And only we know and get the signals as to what is happening to us and within us. Looking at our bodies, others may advise taking a gym membership and / or following a strict diet specified by them. But we need to understand that the body on which these suggestions are being made is ours. It’s the body which only we can feel and understand. It’s these kind of societal pressures that lead to instances like youngsters (without any known medical history) suddenly collapsing on treadmills, playgrounds and even boardrooms. And all of us have witnessed such sudden deaths within our acquaintance circles sometime or the other.

The best way out of such societal pressures is something called ‘social distancing’, a term which has become a fad ever since the pandemic struck. In this case, the distancing doesn’t need to be from a physical perspective. It has to be more from the negative thought process that others try to enforce upon us.

In a nutshell, it is imperative for us to understand that as long as we and our bodies feel good, it’s fine to have a paunch. And it’s fine to look 40 at 40 and 50 at 50. We need to learn to lead healthy lives by not exerting ourselves beyond the extent that our bodies can take. And last but not the least, we need to learn to be happy by ourselves and not let the reasons for our happiness be defined by others.

vijayshekhar1974@gmail.com


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Printable version | Aug 14, 2022 1:25:41 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/body-image/article65755793.ece