‘Your chest looks so flat. What have you done to yourself?’: Young woman battles with weight, self-esteem after abuse, now uses her voice to protect women

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“As the year and decade comes to an end, I would like to share something heartfelt but difficult. I decided to share after careful consideration, at the risk of being shamed even further, because I want to remove the shame and guilt associated with weight.

These images are from years back, 2011 or 2012.

Courtesy of Snigdha Priyadarshini

I was always a fairly chubby and lazy kid, always lost in books. During 5th grade, at my father’s office party in some big hotel, I, along with the kids my age, stepped out of the party hall and went upstairs to the reception to play hide and seek. A completely drunk stranger came and started following us. At one point when the rest of the group hid behind the sofa, the man pinned me down and groped me so hard I was shrieking with pain. After he was done, I ran downstairs to my parents, along with the other kids. We were all crying and pointing upstairs.

All the adults searched for the man but he had left the premises. My mother did her best trying to help me to open up but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t because although this instance hurt so bad physically, it made me realize I had gone through something similar several times in the past but in a way that did not ‘hurt’ physically. It had been happening for years by someone who knew me and I never realized it was wrong. So I stayed quiet.

Courtesy of Snigdha Priyadarshini

I started gradually hating my body and hating myself. I had an unhealthy relationship with food; a binge and restrict cycle, and emotional eating. In a span of two years I had packed more than 33 pounds. At my heaviest, I must have touched 175 pounds. Relatives would pass the most horrendous remarks on my weight and looks, constantly comparing me with my sister and other cousins. They would warn their kids, in front of me, ‘Stop eating. Do you want to look like her?’ I would go into my room and cry my heart out.

My food habits, low activity level and weight started catching up with me. As a teen, I started suffering from hyperacidity, ulcers, joint and posture issues. Gradually I lost a lot of weight, rescued by healthy eating and increased activity. This was probably my biggest achievement, because I was discouraged and bullied the entire time. But I continued to progress.

One would think that the body shaming ended there. But it increased even further.

‘You don’t look good this way, you look so weak and sick.’

‘Your chest looks so flat.’

‘Your body doesn’t look like a ‘regular’ woman’s.’

‘What have you done to yourself?’

‘Did you have surgery?’

“Your skin is so LOOSE!’

‘All those stretch marks…aren’t you disgusted?’

‘Your stretch marks are visible..cover them up!’

Even appreciation had a tinge of backhanded remarks. I was made to feel ashamed for the fitness journey I put my heart and soul into. It was crushing.

Courtesy of Snigdha Priyadarshini

I thought at my leanest, around 119 pounds, I would be brimming with self confidence. But I still hated myself and my body. Because of the constant body shaming and sexual abuse over the growing years, I had developed deep issues with self image, intimacy and vulnerability. This hampered each and every relationship I had. I would end up in a toxic relationship and tolerate every bit of nonsense as long as it came with the adage of somebody loving and accepting me.

2019 was a year of immense growth. I am still learning to love myself. Over time, I have started attaching less importance to people’s opinions and have drastically reduced my inner circle, which has worked wonders for me. I stick with people who support me. I am still learning to love my body and care for it the way I deem fit. I set fitness goals based on what I want instead of what a ‘standard ‘ woman should look like.

My relationship with food has improved from the clutches of binging, guilt trips and restrictions. I eat what nurtures my body and my soul, whether it be salad or ice cream. I decide, for myself, without being influenced by incessant coercions. I have started wearing crop-tops, shorts and Bodycon dresses even when my body rolls, stretch marks or loose skin show.

I have started to address my anxiety and taken whatever steps needed, instead of letting my emotions go all over the place. I have been dealing with this for years, but what works for me is removing myself from the situation or the presence of people who trigger me. This works for me even better than journaling. To each his own, there can’t be just one way to tackle it. Do what works for you.

My resolutions for 2020 are as follows:

1. If there is a conversation or situation which is demeaning to another woman’s character based on clothes or promiscuity, I will either educate the men/women (participants of the convention) on freedom and consent or remove myself from the conversation. While I always maintain a woman-friendly stance, I have been too silent when my own circle has demarcated the lines of sexism. Silent participation is taken as validation. This is how rape culture propagates. I vow to not be quiet even if the woman concerned is someone I thoroughly dislike.

2. Calling out ignorance on mental health. Sometimes well-intentioned friends say the wrong things which trigger a whole spiral of self despair. Things like, ‘You are mentally weak, What do you have to cry about?’ and ‘Everybody has anxiety!’ And then we wonder why people take their own lives.

3. Calling out body shaming, whether the subject of shaming is me or somebody else. I am no longer going to smile as you shame us and then cry myself to sleep.

Here’s hoping we all come out of toxic relationships, unhealthy friendships and habits. Here’s hoping we take special care of our mental health.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Snigdha Priyadarshini of India. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear about your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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‘Gah, you are so skinny! I hate you! Don’t you eat? Just go get a hamburger!’: Woman describes how much ‘hate’ she felt for her body after being ‘skinny shamed’

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