Health Care Love Life Stories Wellness

I’m brown, fat and fabulous – deal with it, Desi aunties

Growing up as the chubby kid isn’t always easy.

Growing up as a chubby kid with the word ‘fat’ in your name doesn’t really make it any easier.

However, despite the fact that my name itself was sufficient ammunition for playground bullies, the biggest name caller in my life has been one of the people who gave me that very name – my dear mother.

I have been overweight from the age of two and it has been the bane of my mother’s existence. I understand her frustrations because I have my fair share of them too.

But for some reason, my mom thinks that if she constantly reminds me of my size I will one day hate myself enough to actually lose the weight. This theory hasn’t worked for the past twenty years so my guess is that it’s probably not going to work now.

She affectionately calls me “moti billi” or “fat cat.”

Every time I tell her that I don’t like it when she calls me fat, she says, “then why don’t you lose weight?” I have been listening to this stuff ever since I was a kid so I thought it didn’t faze me, but I recently realized that it has massively influenced my insecurities.

I’m a relatively confident person.

Sometimes I stand in front of the mirror in my underwear and I like what I see, but there are other times when I do feel insecure.  Moments when I wish the ground would form a crater sufficiently large for my obese body to fall into.

Pakistani society is also not the most forgiving when it comes to weight – or any “abnormality” really. I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard people describe me as “healthy,” which is another way of saying”‘put down the samosas or you will never find a husband.”

So many aunties have told me to hurry up and become “smart” (thin) before it is “too late.”

Aunties have also told my mother that it is her fault for making me this way, which makes her even more adamant to make me hate my body.

Despite my mother’s best efforts, I have to admit that sometimes, I find her comments genuinely funny. I know she says these things to make me feel bad, but her delivery is fantastic and I actually find them hilarious.

Once she was taking my measurements so that we could get custom-made clothes from Pakistan, and as she wrapped the tape measure around my waist she said with a sly smirk, “Oh look, there isn’t enough tape measure to record your size,” and I collapsed into a fit of giggles.

Another time she told me that she would give me a framed picture of one of my particularly “healthy” aunts to put at my bedside table so that it discourages me from eating too much.

Things are made more complicated by the fact that Pakistani culture revolves around food. The role of the woman in the traditional household is to make and provide food, and this is the main way that my mom knows how to take care of me and my siblings, especially now that we are grown-ups who don’t need her help as much anymore.

So with one hand, she slaps the cake out of my fingers, and with the other, she spoons lamb pilau into my mouth. I don’t know what she wants.

But that is mothers for you, I guess.

At the moment I am trying to control what I eat for health reasons – diabetes runs in my family and I have been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, which means that I need to keep my weight down for the physical well-being of both myself and any potential future spawn. But I almost don’t want to lose weight because that’s what my mom and society wants me to do.

I almost want to stay in this body as a “fuck you” to anyone who has a problem with it.

But ultimately your health is the most important thing, if not for yourself, then for the people you love. So I am attempting to love the body I have while working for the body I want, which is much easier said than done.

I would love to lose weight.

I would love to look hot just throwing on jeans and a jumper. I would love to not worry about my protruding belly or my jeans wearing away due to the friction of my thighs rubbing together.

I would love to be able to sit on the floor for longer than fifteen minutes without getting pins and needles in my legs. I would love to find it easy to find clothes that fit me in a high street shop.

I would love to talk about my love of food without feeling self-conscious. I would love to be able to walk down a subway car without worrying about knocking over someone’s drink or armrest.

I generally hate talking to people about my weight because I don’t want sympathy or awkwardness, I just want someone to listen and to laugh at my mom’s jokes, even when my awful translation skills render them no longer funny.

But I am learning to accept my body, to talk about it and to make decisions that are better for it. At the end of the day, we are all striving to become better versions of ourselves.

Why not choose to love the journey as well as the destination?

By Fathma Khalid

Fathma Khalid is currently pursuing an MSc in Security Studies at University College London. Her primary interests include international conflict, culture and identity. When she isn't tearing it up on the dance floor she enjoys cooking, discussing ethics over lengthy dinners and attempting to play team sports.

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