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'You've put on weight' is just not a great conversation starter

Samah, author of Encounters of a Fat Bride, talks about body shaming in our society.

It was the end of a long and tiring week. Friday night brought with it an exciting vibe. I was looking forward to drinks and dinner with family and family friends at a party hosted by an aunt(y). Comfortably dressed and quite eager I reached her house, ready to start the weekend with a bang.

The very second after saying hello she said to me ‘You’ve put on weight, it seems’.

Now begins my rant.

Let me put it out there. ‘You’ve put on weight,’ is just not a great conversation-starter. No matter whom you’re talking to, no matter how close you are, no matter how open-minded or carefree or confident the person you’re addressing is, no matter what! It’s just not something you should say. Period.

But I didn’t mean it that way.

It doesn’t matter how you meant it, it matters what you said.

I’m the straight-forward type. I’d rather say something to your face than behind your back.

Do you have to do one out of the two? Can you live without doing either?

I said it for your own benefit. So you do something about it.

How about you concentrate on your own paunch? Maybe you don’t know, but I’m already doing something about it.

I just said something that I happened to notice.

I saw you notice my Gucci. Don’t have anything to say about that?

I care about you.

Care to think how I may feel when you say it? Honestly, what did you expect me to say in return? How is this not awkward for you?

Someone has to say it!

Someone does. It’s called a mirror.

But I want to help.

Okay this one needs to be addressed in detail.

Let’s get one matter clear. Being fat and unfit is undesirable, it is unhealthy, it leads to several physical and of late, mental problems. No one in their right mind wants to become fat. It’s definitely something we should work on.

Wanting someone to lose weight and get fit is a good intention, it’s a noble cause. It shows you care about their health, their lifespan, their living standard. But the nobility of your intention is not enough, especially if you want to see a change. I’ve thought a lot about this issue and here are a few points I personally feel one can keep in mind when one wants to help someone who is overweight.

1. If you’re not a fit person yourself, don’t give gyaan. Practice what you preach. Preach only what you practice.

2. Never make any comment about someone putting on weight in public. (Ideally not even in private). Doing so will embarrass the person you’re addressing.

3. If you don’t have a close relationship with the person, your suggestions, remarks could hurt him or her even if your intention is to help. Maybe reach out to someone who is close to the person and can help handle such a delicate matter.

4. Talk about your own fitness journey. That may motivate the person, and encourage them to seek help from you.

5. Please remember that in order to take your help, the person must like you, must not be offended by you, and must consider you a true well-wisher.

6. Something that has helped you, worked for you may not be ideal for someone else. Don’t give tips if you are not a professional. Help someone get professional help. Refer them to someone who directed you. Don’t direct them yourself.

7. If you want to direct them, become a professional, get training, get certified. Only then train them and not before.

8. Learn to mind your own business once you have offered help.

Body-shaming and fat-shaming are serious issues and we may not even realise when we practice them. It isn’t just confined to calling someone ‘fat’ or ‘overweight’. It’s about commenting on any body type in a negative way. For example, if you say ‘Curvy is sexy, skinny is not’ you may think that you have championed the cause by accepting curves but you’re still shaming thin people. ‘Meat is for men, bones are for dogs’, ‘Real girls are curvy’, ‘Real women have breasts’, are some examples of how people continue to body-shame even when they intend the opposite. Accepting one form of body by attacking another is just as bad as fat-shaming. And it helps no one.

We all need to get fitter. If we can’t encourage someone to lead a healthier life let’s not discourage and ridicule them either.

Rant ends.

A marketing professional by qualification, Samah is working towards a career in storytelling. A keen enthusiast of films, fashion, food and fitness, her ultimate goal is to travel the world. She lives in Mumbai with her best friend who also happens to be her husband. You can buy her book, Encounters of a Fat Bride here: https://goo.gl/DwJcfx 


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