“Oh you are so thin, you look beautiful!”
“Wow! How much weight have you lost?”
Aren’t these compliments most of us crave when we decide to embark on that healthy diet or start a new fitness regime?
But what happens when these compliments become the only validations you seek to feel beautiful? When you regularly try to throw up your dinner after looking at yourself in the mirror and obsessing about the extra kilos you think you may have gained.
While it may be difficult to admit it at first, bulimia is real and can be life-threatening if not tackled at the right time.
This story is about a young Mumbaikar’s struggles with her body image and her triumph against bulimia.
Speaking to the Humans of Bombay, she shares
“I lost a lot of weight when I was 19 because I got typhoid––I was down to 41 kgs. Everyone used to ask me, ‘Wow, how have you lost so much weight?’ And when I told them it was because I was sick, some people actually said, ‘Oh you’re so lucky.’ These compliments kept playing on my mind, and before I knew it, I would shove my fingers down my throat and make myself puke after every meal. It went on for 2 years––I did it discreetly, so no one knew.
I lost almost 11 kgs during that time, and I liked the compliments that I got. I felt more confident….I felt prettier. But I was brought back to reality when someone told me that I may have bulimia. When I researched this mental disorder, I realised that I did have it––and I needed to pull myself out of it. I told my family about it, and they took me a doctor––with his help we made a game plan to get my health back on track.
I became conscious of my habits––I ate in small portions to build my appetite back again. I made it a point to not go to the bathroom after eating, so there was no way I could throw up. And my family became more vigilant.
Slowly, I got over my disorder. I put on the weight that I had lost…but I began to accept my body. Everywhere we look whether it’s on social media or the cover of magazines––we see perfect bodies which makes us believe that we aren’t beautiful. We are, and that’s something I want to showcase through my photography.
I’m currently working on a series of body-image issues or issues of depression. According to people ‘patli chokri’ means ‘pretty girl.’ But, you can be beautiful in your own way, fat or thin, fair or dark… it’s just a matter of how you see yourself. I’ve been through a lot to love myself, and I want to share that power with the world. Self-love is a super power, and we all have it…it’s just a matter of realizing we do.”
It’s alarming that over 25% of teenagers in India suffer from various eating disorders. It isn’t something you can see with the naked eye. But if you think beyond a pained smile, a realise that a loved one is struggling, extend a helping hand. Don’t patronise them. Just tell them that they are beautiful and that it is okay to seek help. Make sure to hold their hand and say, “Feeling beautiful has nothing to do with how you look. Beauty is about being comfortable in your skin. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are.”
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Feature image credit – Humans of Bombay