I was 16 when my mother called me fat. My father’s Punjabi family had a tendency to be on the larger side, my mother’s Gujarati family were all small and thin. Flitting between the two cultures I heard all the jokes of the fat Punjabis and the thin Gujaratis that each family seemed to revel in. In one household I was known as the “jaadi Punjabri” (fat Punjabi girl) and in one household the “patli Gujaratan” (thin Gujarati girl).
As recently as 6 months ago my mother said I was looking fat in my face, and my cousin would make jokes about how much I ate, even pretending to test the dining chair I was sitting on to see if it would take my weight.
Fat jokes, thin jokes, weight comments may seem harmless to you – but they are not. Body shaming is not a joke. Today I turn 45. And yet, nearly 30 years later I still carry that comment that my mother made when I was a teenager.
Every time my weight fluctuates, I hear her voice, I hear the voices of my family commenting on my weight whether that be fat or thin. Being in the public eye, as a dancer and dance teacher, and in the media, does not help the insecurities – instead the constant attention exacerbates them.
And now, in my mid-40s as I find my body changing even more because of peri-menopause, my insecurities are at an all-time high.
Outwardly I am a confident, strong woman – yet internally my insecurities about my weight haunt me.
But for how long? How long do I let other people’s opinions affect me? For me the most important thing is that I am healthy. Because I have high blood pressure (hereditary), I know that I have to look after myself – so I exercise and eat well (admittedly not always – I love my food ) but I know what works for me.
The photos I show here in this blogpost were taken at a photoshoot last year – and I hesitated to share them for fear of judgement. Am I showing too much flesh? Are my thighs too big? Does my arse look too big? Are my breasts too small? What will people think?
But today, on my birthday, as I start this next chapter of my life I have decided that it is time to own my body – whether fat, thin, acceptable, unacceptable – this is my body and how I choose to show it, look after it, feed it, clothe it, use it, abuse it – well it’s my choice.
Time to show myself some compassion and self-love, and to say:
I AM WHO I AM
And if you don’t like what you see – look away – because this body, my body, is not yours to comment on.
Photographs: © 2019, Sian Tyrrell @siantphoto for The Powdered Lens @thepowderedlens
Make-up: Declan Scammell @declanscammell for The Powdered Lens
Hair: Charlotte Silvester @charlie.silvester.hair for The Powdered Lens
Photograph Model: Shalini Bhalla-Lucas