I was a picky eater from the time I was a child. I probably began eating well only by the time I was eight years old. Gradually (perhaps by the time I was 10) I gained weight - and people began pointing it out.
My dream then was to be a model and win the Miss Universe contest. But I was told that I had to be slim and beautiful to win the crown. That's when I realized that I didn't measure up to the the conventional 'standards' of beauty.
If I think about it, I wasn't a bad looking child but - my family and my friends - made me feel bad by constantly commenting on my weight. I remember feeling extremely conscious in their presence. I began disliking my body.
When I was 12, my parents were going through a detox regimen which included yoga and dieting. I was made to join in. In the next three months, I lost 12-13 kilos, and I began losing a lot of hair I had been called moti throughout my school days, and this name still stayed with me out of sheer habit. Though I had lost enough weight to be considered thin, I was unhappy with how I looked. I was still dissatisfied. My friends made fun of the way I walked. So I became overly conscious of that too.
I joined college and put on a lot of weight again. The constant weight loss and weight gain along with my body dissastisfaction caused depression and anxiety issues. I got to know later that I also suffer from PCOD. This was when I experienced some symptoms of depression and anxiety.
My mother is a perfectionist. My mom's attempts to be perfect have made me want to excel for her instead of for myself. I am often in a panic attack or downward spiral because I think I am not good enough, forgetting that growth is a process and not an upward graph. Due to this, I suffered from severe anxiety issues. I see a counselor for my mental health issues. I remember my doctor asking me if I tended to stress eat - and I did.
What helped me? Apart from seeking professional help, I saw my best friend going through body image issues herself. She is a gorgeous looking woman on the outside, but she feels that she's a fat person. Throughout her life, she was told to lose weight and look a certain way. This made me realize that it is because of the people around you and what they think is the reason we start to perceive ourselves in a certain way, negative or positive. A positive body image, according to me, is the realization that you don't need to modify parts of your body to look perfect and an acceptance that this is the body you were born with.
As told to White Swan Foundation. Names have been hidden to protect identity.