Most of the teenagers I’ve met have had some form of insecurity issues manifesting themselves in an obsessive concern over their shape and/or size. I’ve been meeting a few of my friends, whom I haven’t seen for over a year, and almost undoubtedly the first thing they notice is my shape. “Oh you’re so slim!” or something equivalent. I don’t really understand why this obsession with physical dimensions. After all, it seems to be a rather shallow way of evaluating a person. To be fair, I haven’t ever been on the other side of the spectrum. As in, I’ve never known what it’s like to be not “slim”, so I perhaps cannot claim that the discrimination they feel is imaginary. Most people would say that being called slim is something to be accepted as a compliment. Yet calling someone anything else is supposed to be an implied insult. If I am to be biased against a particular shape, then why should I not extend that bias to other shapes? Isn’t it also offensive, at some level, to call people slim? Personally, I find myself getting a little judgmental of people who compliment me on being skinny. The very fact that they notice my shape, and notice it enough to remark about it, makes me lose some respect for them. I am more than just the organic tissue that binds me. Which brings me back to wonder why people are perpetually obsessed with it, anyway.
The media, which heavily influences our lives in several insidious ways, has always been featuring their perception of the common people to a certain standard of what they should look like. I won’t deny it, I used to be one of those people too, marveling at the awe of their apparently flawless physical appearance. As someone who was tired of being an awkward wallflower, I couldn’t help but childishly envy them for being the center of such attention and supposed adoration. For a while, I even (stupidly) tried to become like that. Once again, the trustworthy network of friends and the deluge on information available via the media provided me with several alternatives on how to look a more socially acceptable version of aesthetically pleasing.
I used to stay a near constant shape as I would eat little and exercise little, my metabolism at some equilibrium. Because I expended so little physical energy, I rarely felt hungry. Until I realized that by not exploring the full culinary diversity at my availability I was going to be depriving my growing body of some very important nutrients. Even then, this realization could not promote me to eat better. That was when I started to exercise. It started with walks and then with runs and so on. My stamina was unsurprisingly poor, and after the first few times I physically exerted myself I found that I grew ravenously hungry. I started to feel more energized and I realized that I had expanded my tummy’s capacity for food. Although I knew that exercise was good for the health and all of that, somehow I had never really bothered to get into it. Strangely enough, I even discovered that exercise made me happy. While exercising, I would come across people who would say, “Oh, you’re so slim already. Why do you need to exercise?” It struck me that most people turned to physical activity only to try to shrink their current frames, which did not necessarily imply better health. People had just come to equate being slim with being healthy, and I couldn’t see how the two connected at all.
What struck me as even more puzzling was that people would hit the gym as a part of their efforts to get into a relationship. It just seemed illogical how a change in waistline would affect how endearing you were. And if it did, then that person was too shallow to deserve affection anyway. But there were people who testified to it’s marvelous effects, and there were several others who made the object of their affection the sole motivation to expand their own life-spans. I can only admire their determination and hope that the person whose appreciation they crave is worth it.
Then came the wave in the opposite direction. The media had, in an effort to garner more credible support, now begun to glorify the feminine shapes that were not size zero. Being curvy was the new in thing. Personally, I felt that this would reduce the social pressure on people to become thinner. I could not have been more wrong. It really annoyed me that even to this shape there was a maximum upper bound you could not cross. If anything, this new public favorite shape seemed to be more restrictive, as it came with a lower limit as well. Once again, a different section of society was under public scrutiny, fueling everyone’s inadequacy. When people aspired to be thin, they weren’t thin enough and now that everyone wanted curvy, you couldn’t be curvy enough.Several people, mostly my peers, now expressed concern at my previously hailed “slim” shape, and (with their best intentions at heart, I assume) advised me to “eat whatever/ eat more”. My parents still maintained that a growing girl needed her nutrients, and they didn’t really care whether that would affect my physical dimensions or not.
We can continue to blame the media for influencing the young “wrongly”, but since we are incapable of effecting rapid changes on a system that’s so all-pervasive, I think the change has to start within oneself. If you feel that you are influenced, then only you have the power to learn to be indifferent. This is not just about shape, but about any of the existing stereotypes that society holds us up to. When we start to feel scrutinized for every minute thing we do/say/appear as, we invite criticism. More often than not, at that age bracket, criticism can be misinterpreted in many different ways, some that are quite damaging and lasting.
That was when I realized one of the most fundamental things about myself. No matter what I did, due to some constancy of my metabolism, I was unable to affect a very large change in my shape. My metabolism kept my shape constant while regulating my dietary needs. It took me a while to conclude that my body is the functional tool with which I am expected to manage this world. If I unnecessarily tried to morph it into something that wasn’t part of the default design, I would lose some property that nature had eventually crafted into me for my benefit. I realized that this acceptance is usually easier said than done, and I have several friends who have overcome their personal demons and managed to deal with their food disorders. But to make these mental changes possible, the human body needs enough fuel to go on, and by reducing that, I figured I was reducing my capacity to make that mental transformation.