I Was All for Body Positivity… Until I Gained Weight and Couldn’t Fit In My Clothes

Meghalee Mitra

Yan class="dropcap">You start noticing things when you go up a body size overnight. The bar stools seem alarmingly narrow – clearly not designed for all bodies to look sexy while climbing them. The gaps amid crowded gatherings begin to look more like death traps instead of shortcuts. Bellies start serving as unintentional arm rests. And, closets look more like memory holders of a bygone era, housing clothes that stare back as evidence of the person your body can no longer be.

Growing up, I was always skinny, bordering on sickly. Toward the end of 2019, I jumped from 49 to 63 kilos in the blink of an eye. Dressing up in the morning now takes way longer because half my clothes, even ones I bought two months ago, don’t fit me anymore. One day, the kurti gets stuck while I am trying to squeeze my hand in, and for the rest of the day I stare at my massive, stretch mark-encrusted arms, hating myself for eating that bag of chips at work. On another day, it is my belly – what used to be a muffin top has grown into a visible pot that protrudes out of my high-waist jeans. On most days, I resent the way I feel bloated.

Self-love, the mantra of our Rumi-dependent generation, is a tough pill to swallow when you are not in the top-tier of the beauty and fashion industry.

Self-love, the mantra of our Rumi-dependent generation, is a tough pill to swallow when you are not in the top-tier of the beauty and fashion industry; when your body refuses to be photoshopped, Instagram-filtered in real life, when there is no way to hide that double chin when you are taking a selfie. There are days when I can’t stop thinking of my back fat even as everyone around seems to have become the literal embodiment of every other Dove campaign, encouraging you to “love your body” without actually telling anybody that there are more days when you just cannot.

I used to be one of those “body-positivity-propagating” people too. From the vantage point of my flat stomach, I could never understand why feeling beautiful irrespective of the peculiarities of your physical appearance would be a tough concept to internalise for anyone. I would readily prescribe self-love as the only potent solution to patriarchy. In fact, I was encouraged to believe that it was my duty as a progressive 21st century feminist to never put myself down. But what I was never taught was that just because an ideology is seemingly beneficial, it may not be easy to imbibe it.

It is only after I’ve put on the kilos did I realise the complexity of body positivity.

At weddings, when relatives I haven’t seen in ages, exclaim “Oh, how big you’ve grown,” I am never sure if they are referring to my age, my height, or, more obviously, my weight. I’ve become so conscious that my regular greetings have been replaced by “How much weight do you think I should lose?” When my friends call me delusional, I chalk it away as a polite confirmation of them not wanting to hurt my feelings. When they agree, it hurts even more, because it means they see me the same way I do. I’m perpetually angry that these conflicted feelings prove that I cannot be as comfortable in my skin as my ideologies would like me to be. After all, what kind of a feminist regularly fat-shames herself? We’ve been trained to believe that hating the way our body looks, feels, and weighs is another way of subscribing to societal demands of female beauty. It’s dangerous and self-destructive. But if I’m being honest, maintaining a veneer of body positivity feels much the same to me at this point.

In an article for The Guardian titled, “Body Positivity Has Had Its Day,” Eva Wiseman argues about the futility of an one-size-fits-all definition of body positivity. “The impact of enforcing body positivity on people who under their skin know there are rational reasons they have sex with the lights off, or fear exercising in public, or click on Instagram links to cosmetic surgeons in Turkey, or have been on diets since they were 12, can feel like two trucks crashing in their throat,” she writes. Instead, she posits moving on to the idea of body neutrality or “proud ambivalence” in which we have both the choice of marvelling at our bodies while also ensuring that we don’t look away from the harsh truths. No one can be perpetually satisfied with a larger body – if anything, it’s a myth propagated by misleading advertisements that exploit plus-sized models for self-serving means.

I needed to know that my weight gain was temporary; that there was some way within my means to make it stop.

When I first noticed myself growing bigger, I would regularly rack my brain to look for the cause. Was it the medicine I was on? Was it the food I was eating? Was it some holiday weight? I needed to know that it was temporary; that there was some way within my means to make it stop. Nothing I have ever watched, read, or heard, prepared me for how my brain would handle the rapid increase in weight. As much as I hate staring at the closet full of clothes that I can no longer wear, I’ve found that buying new clothes – accepting reality – really helps.

Even though I still can’t stand in front of a mirror naked and constantly obsess over the size of my thighs in photographs, I am trying to not look for ways to climb out of my body. I’m coming around to accepting that it might just take years before I can call off the war with my body. And that is okay, because I’m not achieving anything by feeling good about myself on somebody else’s deadline.