perspective germinates at the age of 8-10 when girls begin to
put on ‘puppy fat’ and get admonished for eating junk food.
Unfortunately, more than the health aspect it is the ‘get thin’
aspect that gets promoted. It is hard for mothers to keep kids
off junk food by simply telling them it is not good for their
health. It’s probably far easier to pander to their vanity and
portray an image of a fat child to get them to change their
dietary course,” says Gupta.
“Why target only Indian turf?” retorts Sonali Dheer,
entrepreneur. “I think most people of all age categories, in all
the countries I have been to, invest considerable time, effort
and money into their well-being and appearance. On the
contrary, I feel older women in India tend to neglect their
appearance either because they do not want to break the
habit, or simply because they lack motivation. However, Gen
X and Y are far more aware of their health and appearance
and make an effort to look and therefore, feel better.” Vrushali
Tclang, author of
Can’t Die for Size Zero,
makes a succinct
observation, “If there is one thing that can unite women from
all over the world, it is the obsession with a good figure. You
can be from Paris, Male, Nairobi, Shanghai or USA—ears
always perk up on the latest way to lose cellulite.”
Exactly when does this focus on physical appearances
begin? “Sometimes it is the family and the upbringing that
emphasizes good looks, making the woman focus on her
looks. For example, once a five-year-old mentioned ‘no carbs
after 7 o’clock’ to me,” shares Dr Chhabria. “Else, the
obsession could stem from peer pressure or a need to impress
the opposite sex. Sometimes women who have experienced
cheating in a relationship also become obsessed about their
looks to win their husbands back. Women indulging in an
extramarital relationship may also become obsessive. Ageing
may also lead to the gestation of this thought.”
There is the other side too. To many women, obsessing about
weight and physical appearance is a waste of time because
you only look as good as you feel. So all the weight loss in the
world can’t rescue a face that looks tired, stressed, and
unhappy. At the same time, if you have a charming
personality' and are well groomed, you will have high self-
esteem and will carry off anything with elan. “There is a fine
line of demarcation between being fat and being well
groomed. You can be plump, but be overall presentable, smart
and articulate. Your personality certainly counts,” believes
homemaker Sarita Madhavan. “I fail to understand the manic,
punishing diets people inflict on themselves by staving off
foods. All for a few inches? Get a life.” Think about it. We are
an independent thinking, educated lot with healthy bank
accounts. There is no reason for us to feel low at the
appearance of a few love handles. “I place ‘looking good’ at 4
on a scale of 1-10,” admits Anjali Mchra, a senior personnel at
a leading five-star hotel. “How is it relevant? I need to feel
good, and therefore I will instantly look good. I know my
work and I am presentable without obsessing over the colour
of the saree I choose to wear every day'. WTien I hire team
members, I do not form opinions based on waistlines. I focus
on confidence, personality, and performance.”
The problem is, the fascination for slender figures is
layered as an inseparable part of self-esteem at a young age. I
remember my wizened grandmother commenting on the
near-invisible neck of my heavily double-chinned, three-
month-old daughter. “Get her on a no-potatoes, no-bananas,
diet once you start her on semi-solids. How on
earth will she wear the diamond chokers?”
Says Telang, “I do form my first opinion of people I meet
based on their appearance. That makes being well kempt
important, especially if you are a professional. After all we are
visual beings.” However, for Telang, an investment in Estee
Lauder’s perfume
takes you further than a Louis
Vuitton tote. “Indian men arc not as crazy' about a good figure
as women are. We women can be very harsh on ourselves.
This good figure (read skinny) is a concept that started at the
turn of the century. Look at our film heroines till the 90s.
They all had full, decent figures and great character.
Nowadays heroines have perfect bodies, great makeup, and
practised poise but something seems amiss.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about what matters to you.
You can choose to nourish your identity, develop a flair for
dressing up, and enjoy the way y'ou look, while disregarding
the exacting race for clobbering kilos. Though the seeds of
‘good looks’ are sown deep in our psy'che, you can carve y'our
own niche and enjoy the beauty of life, wi
Maintain a
You don’t have to tilt one way or
another. A middle ground is ideal
for healthy self-esteem.
• Take care of yourself both physically and emotionally.
Remember, an obsession with too many facials or excessive
exercising and random dieting can wield ill-effects on your health.
• Understand that physical beauty is skin deep. Don’t make it your
sole focus. Instead, identify and focus on your real strengths.
• Build upon your self worth. Strengthen your own personal
identity, independent of your spouse and family.
• Balance your life between family, friends, work, and
relationships. Have a goal, and do the small things that matter.
Being a beautiful person will bring real happiness.
• It is human to experience mood swings. Go with the flow.
• Be positive. No one can make you feel inferior without your
own consent, said Eleanor Roosevelt. Count your blessings.
(with inputs from Dr Anjali Chhabria,
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